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First full Whistler BMX season approaching

Action at Pemberton track already underway

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For the first time, the spring sunlight is shining on the Whistler BMX track at Bayly Park, creating a sense of anticipation among local riders.

Whistler BMX treasurer Jody Hallett said the track's first winter went all right, though there was some work that needed to be done once the snow melted. The track will, hopefully, be fully open this weekend.

"We definitely have some work to do on the track. We've had a couple little practices, not the full track yet," she said. "There was a lot of water on the track in October, but it held up OK."

Hallett said there are roughly 30 to 40 regulars racing at the track, and the hope is to increase that as the season progresses.

"Hopefully we can increase that this year and get more interest in the sport in Whistler," she said. "It's a very family-friendly sport whether it's your kid on a run bike or mom and dad wanting to ride."

In addition to regular Tuesday night racing action, the track has a provincial race planned on July 9. There will also be some beginner and novice clinics to be announced later in the season. The club will also host a fundraiser at the Longhorn Saloon on May 24.

As well, Hallett said the club is looking for volunteers to help with track maintenance. More information on the club can be found on its Facebook page.

Hallett said the first event of the year is a clinic this Sunday, May 7, and everyone at the track has their fingers crossed for dry weather, especially with the first races of the season taking place the following weekend in Chilliwack.

"We're trying to get as much riding time on any track as we can," she said.

Up in Pemberton, the racing season got underway last Thursday, April 27. The track opened in 2012, and with a few seasons under their belt, president Jessica Turner said this was a fairly smooth opening compared to years past.

"We've been really lucky this year because our track is set from a building perspective. For the first couple years when you build a track, the weather is pretty rough on it and by the time spring comes around, you're usually fighting with weather and dirt quality," she said. "We figured out our drainage and we've had some really good dirt on the track."

Since the track's opening, the sport has gained a foothold in the village. Turner noted that hosting last fall's provincials helped the cause, but word of mouth has also helped boost the riding ranks to roughly 100.

"More girls are riding, which is good," she said. "There's that core of people that know what BMX is, and then that starts to build and other kids do it. Then there are people that come up to (watch). They might know someone who's racing or just happen to be wandering by or might have heard that it's fun to watch."

Turner is glad to see the Pemberton track active so riders get a better sense of other tracks, but also get the chance to make more friends through the sport along the way.

"They're all racing against each other, but really, it's a big family. We have a crew of about 25 that travels regularly to different tracks. They start to build friendships and there are kids that now know each other when they go to every event," she said.

Turner said programming at the track has expanded this year, with gate practice offered on Wednesday nights at 5:30 p.m. to help riders develop.

"You can go out and ride the track any time and actually practice, but a gate practice means that the gate is actually in operation," she said. "There will be a couple coaches on-site that will give the kids some feedback. It's just to have that extra level of being able to get in the gate even if it's not a race night.

"If you can get out of your gate fast and ahead of everybody, your chances of winning are significantly higher."

The club is also bringing up Langley's Joseph Rasmussen for a camp on May 24. The camp, the first of the year, will run from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. and costs $35 to register. More information is available on the Pemberton BMX Facebook page.

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