More singletrack, later start, lower fees, new categories and larger prizes planned for Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race
The basic concept will remain the same - a 71 kilometre grunt from Squamish to Whistler with more than 2,200 vertical metres of climbing - but the 2003 Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race is a whole new game this year.
After nearly being cancelled as a result of climbing insurance rates, organizer Grant Lamont has the Cheakamus Challenge back on track, with sanctioning (and insurance) from Cycling B.C., event support from the municipality, and a variety of changes to make the race more interesting.
"It's still in the works, and we've got a few things to figure out, but it's shaping up to be a different race," said Lamont, who is in his 15 th year organizing the race.
For people who ride the race every year, the most significant change is to the route. After crossing the Cheakamus River, instead of following the dirt road all the way up to the landfill, riders will take a detour on Trash, an intermediate singletrack trail. Not only will the route change make the event more challenging and technical, it will also give riders a more scenic perspective.
"It's the Cheakamus Challenge, and Trash hugs the Cheakamus River, so this will give the riders a chance to see the river a little bit more," said Lamont.
Trash will have some trail work done to make a few of the awkward sections flow a little better, and the Northwest Passage trail up from Creekside has had extensive work this year to repair wear and tear, said Lamont. The downhill route on Whistler Mountain is tentatively B-Line to Heart of Darkness.
Because this detour will lengthen the course slightly, another water station has been added for the Brandywine Falls section of the trail.
Another change this year is that the race won't start until 11 a.m., giving people more time to prepare on race day. Lamont hopes that will help to boost the number of participants this year, giving more time for late entries to sign on. A later start also means a later finish, which puts more people in the village for the post-race celebration and awards. The awards are again being held at the BrewHouse.
From a field of more than 1,100 in 2001, the number of entries has dropped to around 300 riders over the past couple of years.
The event still attracts some of the top mountain bikers in Canada, and World Champion Roland Green is expected to compete for his sixth Cheakamus Challenge title.
The prize purse will also be increased this year for the elite racers, with the prize purse decided by the number of riders.
For example, if 500 people participate, the top male and female will get $500 each. If 700 people race, then the top prizes will be $700. The top five men and women will all qualify for cash prizes.
"As far as I know we're the only race to offer equal prize money to men and women as long as we've been going, and we always manage to have a pretty good women's field out there," said Lamont.
Because insurance will be covered by Cycling B.C. this year, registration is just $40 for carded racers and WORCA members - down $5 from the $45 early bird fee from last season. The cost is $50 for non-WORCA members, plus an additional $5 if they don't have Cycling B.C. coverage.
Lamont hopes to keep 50 or 60 spots open for race-day registration, with a $20 penalty.
There will also be a new category in this year's Cheakamus Challenge for bikes that are 40 pounds or more without water bottles. There will be a weigh-in before the race.
"We just though it would be fun to watch these guys push their bikes up some of these hills," said Lamont. "At least they'll have the downhill to look forward to."
All of the proceeds from the event will go into organizing the event, paying for things like trail maintenance and event support, said Lamont.
The apres party at the BrewHouse is also WORCA's year-end party, and will include the presentation of Cheaky Awards - personalized beer mugs - to six more locals whose commitment and enthusiasm for mountain biking make the sport what it is in Whistler.
"We wanted to get more people out, show a little enthusiasm for the sport and the race," said Lamont.
The event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 20, the third in a triple crown of weekend mountain bike races starting with the West Side Wheel Up on Sept. 6, followed by Samurai of Singletrack on Sept. 13.
Registration forms will be available at all the local bike shops, or you can register in person at any Wild Willies location in Whistler.
You can also register online this weekend at www.cheakamuschallenge.ca.