“The Test Of Metal is one of my favourite
races. It’s great, ya know — a
true test of a rider’s skills. But the Cheakamus Challenge, well, I’d
have to say that’s the final exam…”
– Grant Lamont
By Michel Beaudry
It all started with an event called the See Colours and Puke race. Or at least that’s how Grant Lamont tells it. And considering how much this offbeat race director loves spinning a good mountain bike tale, I’ve decided to go with him on this one. It’s a fun ride. Come along, it won’t hurt a bit, it’s mostly downhill.
“It was a wonderful race,” Lamont says with a barely suppressed grin. We’re sitting on a south-facing veranda at Creekside in late afternoon, enjoying the warmish September sun. For the last two hours Grant has been reminiscing on his 20+ years in Whistler. And it’s been highly entertaining. But now we’re down to the Ur-story. The source of it all…
And Grant is in full and glorious story mode. “Well anyways, it was held in the mid 1980s, and the start was down at the Black Bear Restaurant. Dores Burma, who owned Summit Cycles, put it on.” He pauses for a beat. “It was a really simple concept. Everyone would alter their state in the restaurant’s parking lot and then they’d all jump on their bikes and pedal like mad to Whistler.” He pauses. Looks at me again. “You sure you weren’t on one of those rides?”
Can’t say that I was…
He goes on: “The terrain was killer. Aggregate, rec road, gravel, single track, mud: there was a little bit of everything.” He stops. Barks out one of those great Lamont guffaws. “I got sucked in to racing it one year. It wasn’t as long as what we do now — maybe 50k — but the tempo was wicked from start to finish. And I can tell ya — it really lived up to its name. It was awesome…”
For those who don’t follow mountain biking, or don’t pay attention to iconic events, or don’t understand what the local biking community has done for the economy of Sea to Sky Country in recent years, let me remind you that next weekend marks the 19 th running of the near-mythical Cheakamus Challenge. Arguably the most technical — and maybe even the most difficult — point-to-point mountain bike race in the world, the event attracts athletes from around the globe. Indeed, for many it’s an annual ritual — which is why its start list reads like a who’s-who of off-road biking royalty.