When this years Max Vert Enduro got underway at 9 a.m., it was minus three degrees Celsius at mid-station on Whistler Mountain, and a thick blanket of frost covered the course. The only creatures didnt seem to notice the cold, according to the volunteers, were the black flies.
By the time the race wrapped up at noon, it was about 18 degrees in the sun, and the nip in the air was replaced by the usual clouds of dust.
It was not an easy race, but that was never the point.
In its second year, the WORCA Max Vert Enduro on Oct. 13 challenged riders to see how many laps of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park they could complete in three hours, plus a final lap if they were at the finish before noon rolled around.
From Olympic Station, 55 riders rode up and around Dirt Merchant and Rippin Ruttabega, down A-Line, and through the biker cross course back to the gondola station.
The total vertical drop was approximately 344 metres (1,132 feet) per lap, spread out over approximately five kilometres of track.
The mens category went to Rob Cook, who was the first to complete his 12 th circuit of the course. Thats 4,138 vertical metres of descending and nearly 50 kilometres of mountain bike trail in just over three hours. One average, a lap took him just over 16 minutes, including the gondola ride.
"It as a lot of fun, but much more like a cross-country race than a downhill all legs and lungs," commented Cook.
Cook started the day with a group of strong riders, and gradually managed to hammer his way to a lead of close to two minutes when an ill-timed gondola stoppage evened things out again.
"I could see the people behind just five gondola cars back, and then we were all caught up. You had to race the whole time, you couldnt relax for a second because your lead would be gone," he said.
Physically, Cook expected his arms to be sore, but said he had some cramping in his legs from ridingthe uphill section of dirt merchant with his heavy downhill bike.
When he reached the finish line just before the noon cut-off, he wasnt expecting to take another lap of the park.
"I was pretty tired by then, and I really thought I was done after the eleventh lap. It turns out that there was still time left, so they made three of us go up again. That hurt," said Cook.
Dave Burch was a close second in the race, finishing a minute-and-a-half back of Cook. Vincent Maicette was third, squeaking his way onto the gondola just before the noon deadline, and finishing about four minutes back of Cook.
In the womens race, Canadian Junior Downhill Champion Brook Baker built a healthy lead to finish more than three minutes ahead of the next competitor. By the end of the day, she had made a total of ten laps of the park.
As a competitive cross-country racer as well as a downhiller, she enjoyed the uphill sections of the course more than other riders but not the transition between the two styles.
"The first part was uphill and flat, and I was going full out for that part of the course. But by the time I got to the jumps on A-Line, I was like whoah, slow down. I was pretty shaky. You dont have any time to recover from the uphill climb and it was pretty weird to go from one riding style to another like that. Its two different mind sets."
Baker was happy with the way she rode for the most part, keeping pace with a competitive group of guys. "They didnt pass me, and I passed a few guys on the course, so Im pretty happy about that," she said.
"Im improving every time I ride. The worlds (mountain bike world championships) helped me to improve a lot."
Baker will be competing in both cross-country and downhill events next season at the provincial and national level, and hopes to represent Canada at the 2003 World Championships.
Baker was followed by Kaz Boelema and Sonya George, who completed ten laps each.
In the recreational category for junior riders, Ryan Sullivan won the day with ten laps. Gage Allard was second and Matthew Lawton third with nine laps apiece.
The winners in each category received a Whistler Mountain Bike Park pass for next season, which opens on May 17, 2003. In addition, Mike Tolbridge of Bellingham, Washington, won the draw prize of a pair of a Marzocchi Junior T fork, courtesy of Whistler Marzocchi.
All the proceeds from this years enduro event will go towards WORCA programs.
In the future, WORCA hopes to grow the event into a downhill version of the eight hour and 24-hour enduro events currently held for cross-country riders. In the next few years, with the cooperation of Whistler-Blackcomb, they are looking into extending the length of the event and adding team divisions.
The Max Vert Enduro was part of the Harvest Huckfest to celebrate a successful season the last closing weekend for the bike park.