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Cheakamus Challenge succumbs in tough economic climate

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There likely won’t be a Cheakamus Challenge mountain bike race this year.

After 14 consecutive years of organizing what has been variously subtitled the Fall Classic, A Bike Odyssey, A Celebration of Pain and was originally called See Colours and Puke, Grant Lamont has decided the effort isn’t worth the aggravation, or the skyrocketing costs.

"I’m not saying it’s dead, but with the economic climate and the state of insurance this year…

"Insurance just isn’t available," Lamont said this week. "Even after 14 years and not one claim."

He said estimates for insurance on the one-day race from Brackendale to Whistler are more than $10,000. Insurance for last year’s race cost $1,800.

But it’s not just insurance; the sluggish economy is not exactly flush with sponsors. And even if it was, resolving potential sponsor conflicts with Whistler-Blackcomb, the municipality and Tourism Whistler also requires a lot of work.

Lamont estimates he has spent 500 hours a year organizing the race.

"It just doesn’t make sense," he said. "I’ve had good support from some people in the community, but for it to continue and flourish it needs a lot more."

The race was founded by the late Doris Burma in 1982. Lamont took over race organization in 1988, after Burma had let it lapse for a couple of years.

In 1988 there were 88 riders at the start line. In 1991 there were 1,100. Among the riders have been world champions Roland Green, Allison Sydor.

Lamont said prior to last year’s race that there have only been three editions of the race where he’s actually made money. Some years it has cost him as much as $3,500 out of his pocket to organize the event.

The high cost of insurance in the post-9/11 world is becoming a problem for many outdoor recreation organizations, from rafting companies to independent bike race organizers.

Insurance would be available if the race was sanctioned by Cycling B.C., but Lamont says he’s had bad experiences working with the cycling association on previous Cheakamus Challenges.

"I’d be willing to partner with someone, but I want to maintain the integrity of the race," Lamont said. "(The race) is a hard thing, and it should be. It shouldn’t be an event where you have someone slapping you on the back every 500 metres saying ‘way to go.’ It’s a physical test."

This year’s race was scheduled for Sept. 20.

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