The annual Samurai of Singletrack series was always about the epic ride — linking trail, after trail, after trail, with nothing easier on the course than an intermediate trail. Some participants race each other and the clock to the finish, but for most participants it was something to be dared and then endured.
It was also progressive, getting harder from year to year. One year would be marked by its lung-busting climbs, while another would be about going the distance. All were technical, but some were far more technical than others.
And it was always limited. From the start organizers Ru Mehta and Tony Horn committed to running the race for just seven years, giving riders of past events precedence when it came to registering the following year. The seventh year was also meant to be special, something reserved for the riders that made all six previous Samurai races — a select group of 50 people after last year.
This weekend the race will be stretched out over three days and a total of 144 km. The trails are a secret, according to Horn, but riders will camp three nights — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — in a region to the north of Whistler.
This year riders are being matched up into groups of four to six for safety, and will have to be self-reliant during the rides.
As for the difficulty level, Horn promises a tough race.
“Ru and I wanted this to be a celebration more than anything, although I think Ru wishes it were more celebratory and less riding,” he said. “The first day is a particularly long day and it’s no cakewalk. The riding per kilometre is probably less technical, but over the distance I think it will take people longer than the rides did in Whistler.
“It is a celebration, but it’s still the Samurai. I’m even a bit nervous myself, I haven’t been riding all that much.
Day one will be the hardest at 62 km, followed by 39 km on day two and between 42 and 46 km on the third day.
Whether the Samurai will be replaced by another hardcore event is yet to be determined, but for riders it’s the end of an era. Horn and Mehta set out to create a unique ride for people that don’t race, like technical trails, and don’t mind carrying a few extra ounces of weight here and there if it toughens up their bikes.
That’s a wide spectrum of riders. Past courses usually took the strongest riders around five hours to complete, while the last few riders to the finish could take anywhere from 12 to 14 hours.