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Always a Challenge

New section of Sea to Sky Trail included on Cheakamus Challenge course

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The Cheakamus Challenge is rarely the same race two years in a row as organizers continue to look for ways to subtract roads and add trails to the race course.

This year’s race is no exception. The, 27 th edition of the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race on Saturday, Sept. 22, will include a new section of the Sea to Sky Trail that will add about a kilometre to the overall length of the course, but will take out the punishing gravel road climb up to the start of Trash. The new trail rejoins the road just before the entrance to Trash — the first technical singletrack of the race.

“I think people will like it,” said organizer Grant Lamont. “It’s kind of like Tin Pants doubletrack, and you can pound through it on your middle ring. It is a bit longer and you lose the fast downhill after the dump road climb, but it’s a beautiful trail and I think racers are going to enjoy riding it for the first time.”

The Microwave Tower road has also been graded this summer, making it slightly easier to climb to the top of the Tunnel Vision descent. Tunnel Vision itself has been reworked this year by the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association, with the addition of new switchbacks on an eroded section of the trail as well as a few new bridges and trail features.

There will be two aid stations along the 71 km route. The first is a water station at Pinecrest Estates, about 90 minutes after the start for most riders. The second is a food and water station sponsored by Marketplace IGA in Whistler in the House Rock area of the Whistler Interpretive Forest, and can be potentially accessed by riders twice — once when heading up the Ridge Trail to Upper Riverside Trail, and once after heading down Lower Riverside Trail.

Event director Grant Lamont is expecting between 350 and 400 riders this year, based on stronger advance registration than past years. For fair weather riders he is also offering day-of-race registration at the start line in Brackendale and at the start of the Cheakamus Challenge Lite course — about 40 km of riding starting at the Whistler Bungee bridge.

While the short course is almost half the distance of the full course, it does include all of the technical singletrack and a good chunk of the 2,000 metres of climbing from the start at the Squamish Airport in Brackendale to the finish line in Whistler Creek.

According to Lamont, several of the top elite riders have already confirmed for this year’s race, including reigning champion Max Plaxton, national champion Ricky Federau, past Cheakamus Challenge and national champion Andreas Hestler, Test of Metal champion Neal Kindree, West Side Wheel Up champion Matt Ryan, and World Cup rider Chris Sneddon. The women’s side will include Squamish’s Meghan Kindree, and Whistler’s Joanna Harrington — who is currently on a streak with wins in the West Side Wheel Up and the Soo Valley Rumble. Alison Sydor, who has won the Cheakamus Challenge at least seven times, may also be in the field.

Several local athletes have made a side-bet to see who can post the lowest combined time in Saturday’s Cheakamus Challenge and Sunday’s 26 km Rubble Creek Classic trail run. Some of the locals taking part in both races include Duncan Munro, Sarah O’Byrne, and Greg Grant. A few other local athletes are mulling over the double challenge this year.

Another change for 2007 is the new post-race venue at Zen Sushi. Dusty’s was booked this year for a private function, and Zen stepped forward to provide the riders with food and refreshment at the end of the ride — both of which are included in the price of registration.

Registration is available at www.cheakamuschallenge.com until 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21. The price is $40 to ride the Cheakamus Lite short course, and $50 for the full pull and a $12 insurance fee is mandatory. Day of race registration is an additional $10, so register early. The fees include the race and post-race food at Zen Sushi, and T-shirts featuring the new race logo are available for $15.

There will be cash prizes for the elite category winners, and prizes for the top three in every age group.

If you can’t race on Saturday but would like to help out as a volunteer, e-mail cwilding@telus.net.

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