By Andrew Mitchell
Riders in the sixth annual Samurai of Singletrack saw it all this year — it snowed at the start, rained at the finish, and included over 108 km of mostly technical singletrack with about 3,000 metres of climbing over two days. Times ranged from a low of nine hours, five minutes and 40 seconds to a high 23 hours, 23 minutes and 51 seconds.
Still, despite two longs days of riding, only two riders out of 122 did not make it to the finish line and neither pulled out because of an injury. Others did everything they could to get to the end — one rider even abandoned two broken bikes in the woods and borrowed a third, smashing out a window in his own house to get his second bike when he realized he didn’t have his key. Four riders who voluntarily cut themselves off on Sunday when it got dark even went back on Monday to properly finish the route.
On both days dozens of riders had to pull over on the course to replace shocks, derailleurs, hangers, chains, tires and tubes as the mud and terrain took their toll.
While the Samurai has always been billed as “a ride not a race,” the top three men and women are always recognized for their effort.
While riders at the back measure their Samurai’s in hours, it was a battle of minutes and seconds for the top riders.
Chris Clark, who is emerging as one of the top local riders with a few recent Loonie Race wins and the top time in the Ken Quon Memorial, went head to head with Canadian mountain bike legend Andreas Hestler and came out on top. Hestler won the seven-day TransRockies Challenge with partner Seamus McGrath just two weeks earlier, and came into this year as the defending Samurai champion.
Clark placed first on day one with a time of four hours, 23 minutes and 10 seconds, followed by local Matt Ryan in 4:26:15. Hestler, who had a double flat to contend with earlier in the day, pulled up third in 4:42:40.
“I was just trying to ride my own race really,” said Clark. “Pretty much off the start I was riding with Andreas until the cutoff on Highway 86. After that we slowed down a little to enjoy the view and enjoy the snow, which was good because I don’t have the endurance to keep up that pace all day. We rode Khyber and Tunnel Vision together, and halfway through the hometown advantage of knowing the trail really well kicked in. He didn’t see me make the turn at one section and went the wrong way.”