The Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race turns 24 this year, once again promising local riders one last epic ride before the season wraps up. The race takes place on Sept. 20 this year, after Whistler races like the West Side Wheel Up (Sept. 6) and the sequel to the Soo Valley Rumble.
More than 90 riders have already registered, almost two months out, and organizer Grant Lamont is hoping momentum keeps building for one of the longest races on the calendar.
The Cheakamus Challenge weighs in at around 71 km, from the airport in Brackendale to Creekside in Whistler, although it could get slightly longer if a new section of Sea to Sky Trail in the Brandywine area is finished in time. The course includes about 2,000 metres of climbing, most of which is also included in the Cheakamus Light race which starts in the Calcheak area and is 40 km in length.
The race regularly attracts some of the top riders in the province, and Max Plaxton is expected to defend his title for the third straight year. Also expected are Kris Sneddon and Seamus McGrath, who teamed up to win the B.C. Bike Race this year. No pro riders have confirmed on the women’s side yet.
While the race will be similar to past years, Lamont is hoping to introduce a new element to the event. Inspired by recent drives to get people to donate bikes to Africa, Lamont is hosting a bike drive to send bikes to First Nations families in Squamish and Mount Currie.
“Sending bikes to Africa is positive, but I know there are lots of people in this corridor that can probably use bikes as well,” said Lamont. “I think it provides a really good transportation alternative for getting back and forth to town, and it’s important for building healthy communities.”
Lamont also wants to find a partner to teach bike maintenance to First Nations to keep those bikes on the road.
While he’s primarily looking for bikes for transportation — as well as accessories like helmets, clothing, parts and tools — mountain bikes are also welcome. With so many bike trails in First Nations territory in Squamish and Pemberton areas, Lamont would like to see more recreational riders in those communities.
The bikes can be donated at the start line and finish line, with Slope Side Supply in Whistler volunteering to accept the bikes. Lamont is also looking for warehouse space in Whistler to accept bikes through the month of September.
Anyone with space can contact Lamont at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also new this year, Lamont is bringing back free meals for registered riders, and pushing back the start time of the Cheakamus Light race by one hour.
“It was always such a drama for us to get to the Cheakamus Light start on time with everything going on, so we’re going to delay it until probably 1 p.m. this year,” he said. “We also got a lot of feedback from riders doing the full race, and how it’s disheartening when you’ve been out riding hard for two hours only to have all these riders blow by you. This way the Light riders will be out on their own.”
For more information and registration for the 2008 Cheakamus Challenge, visit www.cheakamuschallenge.ca. Registration is up, although the website is still being updated for this year’s event.