The BC Bike Race, coming back for its 11th year, won't have any impact on Highway 99 this time around.
When the singletrack-slanted event's final stage traverses through Whistler on July 13, riders will use the Nordic overpass to the west-side trails to avoid putting any rubber on the Sea to Sky Highway.
In 2016, the Whistler stage coincided with travellers heading north for the Pemberton Music Festival, straining the thoroughfare to its limits.
Whistler course director Grant Lamont said even though the festival has been cancelled, the race would use a route that does not interrupt traffic flow.
"In our original proposal last year, we put forward a plan to use the Nordic overpass and the Valley Trail going down past Wayside Park. We're doing that this year after we had some traffic issues last year," he said. "We're going to be crossing the highway, but there aren't going to be any highway stoppages."
From the public perspective, using the overpass will be the most noticeable change, but for riders, there will be a few other changes to the route as they meander their way from Cheakamus Crossing to the Rainbow Park finish line, capping the seven-day stage race.
"We've made a minor change to the trails we're using on the west side. This year, we're going to stick with entering Stonebridge and going into Middle Danimal and Piece of Cake and A La Mode, but there's also some new climbing trail that takes people off the forest service road onto Lower Sproatt," Lamont explained. "We're psyched about that, that WORCA (Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association) has built three new little sections of climbing trail to eliminate a lot of the steep, punchy climbs up at the top.
"We're also excited to be adding A Cut Above, a new two-year trail project that we had up on Sproatt, that goes from Beaver Path to Whip Me Snip Me at the bottom."
Lamont explained that the west-side trails are becoming so built-up that he hopes to use them exclusively for 2018's course.
"We don't like to do the same thing too many times in a row. We always like to keep it fresh. I'm anticipating, hopefully, doing a complete west-side route with a start and finish at Rainbow Park next year," Lamont said. "We've been adding (to) and upgrading that network on the west side, so we really want to show it off."
Lamont noted there were concerns about gaining access to Kadenwood this year, though race organizers and the strata worked out an agreement.
"We'll be utilizing Kadenwood, after Tunnel Vision, to climb up (then) come down Dusty's Downhill and then to make a turn onto Snow Ridge Circle," Lamont said. "They had some concerns with events and safety, and we showed them our plan and they liked it."
BC Bike Race director of marketing Andreas Hestler noted the Whistler stage is slightly longer than in past years, with other stages seeing slightly shorter maps to offset it. While the seventh stage serves as a coronation for the champs, it's not exactly a simple victory lap.
"I always like to refer to Whistler as the Champs-Elysees (for the Tour de France). It's not necessarily a full parade lap since they still have to crush through ... something technical and significant," Hestler said. "This year, for the finale in Whistler, it's going to be a little bit more of a test."
Hestler said the field should be strong for the race, which officially kicks off in Cumberland on July 7 and takes competitors through Powell River, Earls Cove, Sechelt, Langdale, North Vancouver and Squamish en route to the finish in Whistler.
On the women's side, 2015 champion Katerina Nash will return, with Luna Chix teammate Maghalie Rochette here to challenge her. Nanaimo's Carey Mark will suit up, as well as Whistler-based Kirsten Sweetland, a 2016 Olympic triathlete who battled through Lyme disease at the Rio Games.
As for the men, 2016 champion Cory Wallace is back to defend his title, with Squamish's Geoff Kabush and Quinn Moberg and Bellingham's Stephen Ettinger (who was third in 2016) set to challenge him. American cyclocross racers Troy Wells and Tim Johnson will give it a shot, as will Whistler Enduro World Series rider Jesse Melamed (see related story on page 41).
"He's been chatting about it for years, so we reached out to him this year and asked 'Will this work with your program?' He said yes, went to his coach and worked it into his schedule," Hestler said of Melamed.
Lamont noted organizers are also looking for marshals for the July 13 stage. Anyone interested in lending a hand can contact him at email@example.com or by texting 604-902-0054.