Sports » Features

Clark, Allen take Samurai titles

Two-day race wraps up year six of seven-year mountain bike series

by

comment

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.”

Clark says he came close to bonking near the end of the first day, neglecting to eat anything out of the Section 102 trail before heading back up the Soo Valley Forest Service Road to the campsite. He managed to keep his bike in the middle ring until the end, and recharged with food and sleep.

On the second day Clark said he felt good out of the start, and was keeping tabs on Hestler and the other top riders as he rode through the checkpoints. The day started with a time trial format on the second day with the slowest riders going first and the fastest going last, separated by one minute.

“People would tell me he was two minutes ahead, a minute 40 ahead, so I always knew how far back I was. It was good to do the math, how far ahead he was, how fast he was going, because it kept my mind occupied,” said Clark. “I wasn’t thinking about my legs.”

Hestler held the lead until the first section of River Runs Through It and Bart’s Dark Trail. They went through the feed zone together, and rode up the 27 switchbacks of the Alpe d’Huez.

When Hestler knew he couldn’t make up the time, the two decided to ride the rest of the race together.

“It was inspiring to ride with Andreas,” said Clark. “I watched him in the ’96 Olympics when I was a junior mountain bike racer, and I was literally going up the Alpe d’Huez with him just laughing. We took turns in the lead coming down, I showed him a few lines, he showed me a few lines, and we rode together into River. It was cool to sprint with him to the finish — I couldn’t keep up, but it was so much fun pulling out on the road and just going flat out to the end.”

Clark knew he was riding strong, but didn’t expect to be able to keep up the pace for a long race.

“I completely didn’t expect that. I went into the race thinking I’ll go hard for the first hour, because all I do are Loonie races, and then I thought I’d blow up. It was such an awesome course I kept finding energy to keep going, and all the people cheering at the checkpoints really kept you moving.”

Clark’s day two time was 4:42:30, just back of Hestler’s time of 4:40:25, for a total time of 9:05:40. Hestler was second in 9:23:05, while 2004 Samurai champion Matt Ryan was third in 9:26:55.

Kevin Phelps was the first rider on a hard tail, placing 10 th overall in 10:35:35. He was also the only rider to clean the final bridge on the double black diamond Gargamel trail on day two.

The top woman was Sylvie Allen, who finished the first day in 6:02:35 and the second day in 6:34:20 for a total time of 12:36:55, 22 nd overall. She also cracked the top-20 on the second day, placing 17 th .

“I’ve really been looking forward to the race for over a year,” she said. “The last Samurai I had the summer off with a knee injury and I was sad I couldn’t ride. I’ve been riding a lot this summer with Samurai as the goal. It worked out, I was fit enough, and I had lots of support and encouragement of friends.

“It was also a good course, I love those and ride them all the time. My training is basically riding technical trails, because I knew it was going to be pretty exhausting for the upper body and road riding doesn’t really cut it for that kind of course. Downhilling also helped, as well as dirt biking, but I’ve been mostly dong cross-country this summer.”

Allen, a former national downhill champion, took her lumps on the course. She went over her handlebars three times on the first day, and snapped her brake lever on the last fall. Luckily it was on the last section of 102, and didn’t affect her ability to ride up to the campsite.

“I think the Samurai gods were looking out for me there, it literally happened on the last little bit of singletrack and J.J. at the campsite was able to fix it for me so it didn’t slow me down at all. If it happened anywhere else it could have been a pretty serious problem.”

Joanna Harrington, the 2005 Samurai champion, placed second in 13:48:10, while third went to Lesley Clements in 14:28:15.

At the awards ceremony organizers Tony Horn and Ru Mehta also presented seven special awards in different categories.

The Last Samurai Standing award went to Jack Hurtabies, the last person up at the campsite and the last person overall in 23:23:51.

The Strongest Samurai award, presented in honour of the late Chris “Beeker” Romeskie, went to Kira Cailles who missed the last Samurai and is still recovering from a back injury sustained in an avalanche. She still has rods in her back, which slowed her on the climbs, but made up for it with her solid skills riding technical terrain.

The King of the Mountain award was given to Ian Ritz, the first of 10 riders to do the optional ride through Babylon By Bike — and on a hard tail.

The Craziest Samurai award went to Joe Lyons for trying every descent and stunt on the route, riding Babylon By Bike, breaking his bike on day two, then borrowing a new one and smiling all the way to the finish.

The Most Determined Samurai was Steve Whittall, the Samurai who abandoned two bikes on course, and broke into his own house to get another one.

The Best Dressed award went to Nicole Hesterman, who rode the first descent down Khyber Pass and Tunnel Vision wearing a 1980’s era ski suit.

The Ride of the Day, renamed the Ride of the Weekend award, was given to organizer Tony Horn. Not only did Horn ride the first part of the course on Thursday, he also rode most of the trails the previous weekend to mark the route, then followed up with a solid two-day time of 14:34:55.

Horn was pleased with how the Samurai unfolded — there were no major injuries, most riders made it to the finish, and even the top riders in town were challenged.

“It was unreal,” he said. “For me both days were so similar. For the first hour I felt terrible, then I felt great, and at the end it was a struggle. Still, I was really surprised — I was riding stuff I would usually walk when I was as tired as I was.”

Horn and Ru Mehta came up with the Samurai concept in 2001, essentially creating a ride for all the hardcore mountain bikers in the community that prefer hard trails to fast races. The goal was to make it progressively harder each year — hence the decision to run two back-to-back Samurai courses this year.

“Ru and I were just blown away by the volunteers and the checkpoints, and the way the whole community came out to support this event. There were people cheering and ringing cowbells and serving coffee and food, it really made the ride exceptional. You always got a boost riding through a checkpoint or an aid station.”

Next year will be the seventh and final Samurai. Only riders that have taken part in all six       previous Samurai events are able to take part, and are encouraged to submit their ideas for a two-day event.

The race was capped at 100 the first year, but grew every year with the addition of volunteers from past years, and the winner of Samurai contests. This year seven riders got in by singing karaoke at a Loonie Race. As well, members of the WORCA board were invited to take part, four of whom signed on.

The race started at the Roundhouse Lodge, followed Pika’s Traverse up and around the peak and dropped down Highway 86 and the Khyber Pass trail to the entrance to Babylon By Bike. Riders had the option of taking that trail, or following the logging roads down to Tunnel Vision before climbing back up through Kadenwood and mountain access roads to Boyd’s Trail on Whistler Mountain.

From there the trail went up the Flank to Cheap Thrills and 99er, the south section of Danimal, and the Beaver Pass trail back to the north section of Danimal. After a climb up Whip Me Snip Me, riders then followed a selection of Binty’s before turning on to Bart’s Dark Trail and the first section of A River Runs Through It. Afterwards riders climbed Mel’s Dilemma into Alpine and headed out to the White Knuckles/No Girlie Man climb up to Shit Happens and Big Kahuna. The last singletrack on day one was Section 102, followed by the long climb up to the Cougar Mountain Forest Service Road.

Day two started with a long climb up the logging roads to the entrance to Gargamel, the last half of Section 102 again, and most of Kill Me Thrill Me before cutting across the highway to the entrance to Comfortably Numb and the Young Lust descent. Riders then headed back towards the village over the Green Lake Loop, then did almost all of the Zappa trails through Lost Lake Park before turning off on the White Gold Traverse.

From there it was a tough grunt up and rip down Cut Yer Bars and a selection of Emerald Forest Trails before riding the first part of A River Runs Through It once again.

The last loop was a brutal climb up the Alpe d’Huez, followed by a descent that included Billy’s Epic, Surf’s Up and Bob’s Rebob before tackling the main section of A River Runs Through It.

Complete results and maps of the course are posted on the WORCA website at www.worca.com .

Clark, Allen take Samurai titles

Two-day race wraps up year six of seven-year mountain bike series

 

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.”

Clark says he came close to bonking near the end of the first day, neglecting to eat anything out of the Section 102 trail before heading back up the Soo Valley Forest Service Road to the campsite. He managed to keep his bike in the middle ring until the end, and recharged with food and sleep.

On the second day Clark said he felt good out of the start, and was keeping tabs on Hestler and the other top riders as he rode through the checkpoints. The day started with a time trial format on the second day with the slowest riders going first and the fastest going last, separated by one minute.

“People would tell me he was two minutes ahead, a minute 40 ahead, so I always knew how far back I was. It was good to do the math, how far ahead he was, how fast he was going, because it kept my mind occupied,” said Clark. “I wasn’t thinking about my legs.”

Hestler held the lead until the first section of River Runs Through It and Bart’s Dark Trail. They went through the feed zone together, and rode up the 27 switchbacks of the Alpe d’Huez.

When Hestler knew he couldn’t make up the time, the two decided to ride the rest of the race together.

“It was inspiring to ride with Andreas,” said Clark. “I watched him in the ’96 Olympics when I was a junior mountain bike racer, and I was literally going up the Alpe d’Huez with him just laughing. We took turns in the lead coming down, I showed him a few lines, he showed me a few lines, and we rode together into River. It was cool to sprint with him to the finish — I couldn’t keep up, but it was so much fun pulling out on the road and just going flat out to the end.”

Clark knew he was riding strong, but didn’t expect to be able to keep up the pace for a long race.

“I completely didn’t expect that. I went into the race thinking I’ll go hard for the first hour, because all I do are Loonie races, and then I thought I’d blow up. It was such an awesome course I kept finding energy to keep going, and all the people cheering at the checkpoints really kept you moving.”

Clark’s day two time was 4:42:30, just back of Hestler’s time of 4:40:25, for a total time of 9:05:40. Hestler was second in 9:23:05, while 2004 Samurai champion Matt Ryan was third in 9:26:55.

Kevin Phelps was the first rider on a hard tail, placing 10 th overall in 10:35:35. He was also the only rider to clean the final bridge on the double black diamond Gargamel trail on day two.

The top woman was Sylvie Allen, who finished the first day in 6:02:35 and the second day in 6:34:20 for a total time of 12:36:55, 22 nd overall. She also cracked the top-20 on the second day, placing 17 th .

“I’ve really been looking forward to the race for over a year,” she said. “The last Samurai I had the summer off with a knee injury and I was sad I couldn’t ride. I’ve been riding a lot this summer with Samurai as the goal. It worked out, I was fit enough, and I had lots of support and encouragement of friends.

“It was also a good course, I love those and ride them all the time. My training is basically riding technical trails, because I knew it was going to be pretty exhausting for the upper body and road riding doesn’t really cut it for that kind of course. Downhilling also helped, as well as dirt biking, but I’ve been mostly dong cross-country this summer.”

Allen, a former national downhill champion, took her lumps on the course. She went over her handlebars three times on the first day, and snapped her brake lever on the last fall. Luckily it was on the last section of 102, and didn’t affect her ability to ride up to the campsite.

“I think the Samurai gods were looking out for me there, it literally happened on the last little bit of singletrack and J.J. at the campsite was able to fix it for me so it didn’t slow me down at all. If it happened anywhere else it could have been a pretty serious problem.”

Joanna Harrington, the 2005 Samurai champion, placed second in 13:48:10, while third went to Lesley Clements in 14:28:15.

At the awards ceremony organizers Tony Horn and Ru Mehta also presented seven special awards in different categories.

The Last Samurai Standing award went to Jack Hurtabies, the last person up at the campsite and the last person overall in 23:23:51.

The Strongest Samurai award, presented in honour of the late Chris “Beeker” Romeskie, went to Kira Cailles who missed the last Samurai and is still recovering from a back injury sustained in an avalanche. She still has rods in her back, which slowed her on the climbs, but made up for it with her solid skills riding technical terrain.

The King of the Mountain award was given to Ian Ritz, the first of 10 riders to do the optional ride through Babylon By Bike — and on a hard tail.

The Craziest Samurai award went to Joe Lyons for trying every descent and stunt on the route, riding Babylon By Bike, breaking his bike on day two, then borrowing a new one and smiling all the way to the finish.

The Most Determined Samurai was Steve Whittall, the Samurai who abandoned two bikes on course, and broke into his own house to get another one.

The Best Dressed award went to Nicole Hesterman, who rode the first descent down Khyber Pass and Tunnel Vision wearing a 1980’s era ski suit.

The Ride of the Day, renamed the Ride of the Weekend award, was given to organizer Tony Horn. Not only did Horn ride the first part of the course on Thursday, he also rode most of the trails the previous weekend to mark the route, then followed up with a solid two-day time of 14:34:55.

Horn was pleased with how the Samurai unfolded — there were no major injuries, most riders made it to the finish, and even the top riders in town were challenged.

“It was unreal,” he said. “For me both days were so similar. For the first hour I felt terrible, then I felt great, and at the end it was a struggle. Still, I was really surprised — I was riding stuff I would usually walk when I was as tired as I was.”

Horn and Ru Mehta came up with the Samurai concept in 2001, essentially creating a ride for all the hardcore mountain bikers in the community that prefer hard trails to fast races. The goal was to make it progressively harder each year — hence the decision to run two back-to-back Samurai courses this year.

“Ru and I were just blown away by the volunteers and the checkpoints, and the way the whole community came out to support this event. There were people cheering and ringing cowbells and serving coffee and food, it really made the ride exceptional. You always got a boost riding through a checkpoint or an aid station.”

Next year will be the seventh and final Samurai. Only riders that have taken part in all six       previous Samurai events are able to take part, and are encouraged to submit their ideas for a two-day event.

The race was capped at 100 the first year, but grew every year with the addition of volunteers from past years, and the winner of Samurai contests. This year seven riders got in by singing karaoke at a Loonie Race. As well, members of the WORCA board were invited to take part, four of whom signed on.

The race started at the Roundhouse Lodge, followed Pika’s Traverse up and around the peak and dropped down Highway 86 and the Khyber Pass trail to the entrance to Babylon By Bike. Riders had the option of taking that trail, or following the logging roads down to Tunnel Vision before climbing back up through Kadenwood and mountain access roads to Boyd’s Trail on Whistler Mountain.

From there the trail went up the Flank to Cheap Thrills and 99er, the south section of Danimal, and the Beaver Pass trail back to the north section of Danimal. After a climb up Whip Me Snip Me, riders then followed a selection of Binty’s before turning on to Bart’s Dark Trail and the first section of A River Runs Through It. Afterwards riders climbed Mel’s Dilemma into Alpine and headed out to the White Knuckles/No Girlie Man climb up to Shit Happens and Big Kahuna. The last singletrack on day one was Section 102, followed by the long climb up to the Cougar Mountain Forest Service Road.

Day two started with a long climb up the logging roads to the entrance to Gargamel, the last half of Section 102 again, and most of Kill Me Thrill Me before cutting across the highway to the entrance to Comfortably Numb and the Young Lust descent. Riders then headed back towards the village over the Green Lake Loop, then did almost all of the Zappa trails through Lost Lake Park before turning off on the White Gold Traverse.

From there it was a tough grunt up and rip down Cut Yer Bars and a selection of Emerald Forest Trails before riding the first part of A River Runs Through It once again.

The last loop was a brutal climb up the Alpe d’Huez, followed by a descent that included Billy’s Epic, Surf’s Up and Bob’s Rebob before tackling the main section of A River Runs Through It.

Complete results and maps of the course are posted on the WORCA website at www.worca.com .

Add a comment