Whistler has played host to some truly challenging mountain bike events over the years, from the seven Samurai of Singletrack epics to rain-soaked 24 Hours of Adrenaline races, but this weekend's Four Kings — the successor to 2009's Four Jacks and 2010's Four Queens — may be the most diabolical of all.
With four stages packed into three days, the race challenges every type of mountain bike skill; technical descents in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, long climbs and descents on scenic mountainsides, the treacherous ups and downs of Emerald's rhythm-busting "No Flow Zone."
As well, organizer Tony Horn went out of his way to make things more interesting. For example, one section is going to be staged after dark, while another is based on European Enduro races where only select sections of the course are timed. He's using a new trail in the high alpine of Whistler Mountain, breaking in new trails in the valley, going against the flow on some trail sections and generally mixing things up across the board.
"I tried, as much as possible, to include all the stuff I hadn't ridden before or hadn't ridden that much," he explained. "Even the time trial in Lost Lake is different. I've never done a time trial in there before, or an event at night, and it seemed like the perfect place to do that because people know the trails so well."
The event sold out all 120 spots within about 20 minutes of going on sale, despite the size of the challenge — or, more likely, because of it. There were about 40 people on the waitlist, prompting Horn to open the event up to let more people in. Now the race is full with about 165 riders taking part.
The overall winners of the event will be decided based on points, which are determined by a rider's placing on the different race stages rather than time.
Stage 1 is the "King Tubby Dub In The Dark" Time Trial, which takes place in Lost Lake Park after sundown on Friday, Sept. 7. While it's arguably the least technical portion of the race, the 18.6km route gets a little harder when you're using a headlamp.
Stage 2 is the Elvis "All Shook Up DH" in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park on Saturday morning. The ride is short but tough — especially when you get one bike and one set of tires to do the entire course, strictly enforced through "doping" control. The course includes the steep, off-camber rock of Schleyer, Lower Whistler Downhill and Lower Detroit Rock City and gets underway around 10 a.m.
Stage 3 is the "Yummy 500," named after racecar driver "King" Richard Petty, and gets underway Saturday afternoon. The first part of the race is a loop of Yummy Nummy/Foreplay with the uphill and downhill sections timed separately, with a short gap between timed sections for riders to catch their breath. By this point riders will be ranked, and will leave the start in groups of 10 along with riders they're closest to at that point of the race.