By Andrew Mitchell
The Test of Metal is Squamish’s longest bike race at 67 km, but the 47 km Gearjammer, which takes place on Sunday, July 15, is easily the most technically challenging with times on par with the Test for most age categories.
“There’s just more singletrack,” said organizer Curtis Roberts. “It’s intermediate mountain biking, but the course does not relent, there’s no resting time. You really have to pace yourselves, and in that sense it’s really a thinking course — if you go too hard off the top you’ll run out of energy partway through.
“The Test is a good long race, but there are a few spots where you can just spin and don’t have to think too much, like when you climb Nine Mile Hill. You don’t get that on the Gearjammer course.”
Despite the difficulty level, Roberts says the goal is to create a strong recreational event as well as a challenging race. There’s only one cut-off, and that’s at the five-hour mark near the end of the course. Even then, organizers will probably let most participants go ahead.
“It’s good to have fast people out there challenging the course, but with the Grass Roots Mountain Bike Association one of the things we’ve been looking at is to try and get the recreational riders out a little bit more,” said Roberts.
“There are really two schools out there. There are the hammerheads who love to race hard, and that’s always fun to watch, but there is a far larger number of people who would really just love the opportunity to come out and ride some of these trails in a structured way — and challenge themselves rather than challenge the trails. We want to encourage the folks like that to come out and try the race.”
This year’s Gearjammer will follow the same general course as 2006, but with a few changes. The new Farther Side trail in the Crumpit Woods will make an appearance, as will a new descent called Snakes and Ladders. The Lost Loop section, always unpopular at the end of the race, will not be included due to construction in the area.
“I think most riders will think that’s a good thing. We got a lot of complaints about including that trail in the race, and one year the sweep actually found a grown man crying on the side of the trail. The new route will still be hilly, but not quite as tough,” said Roberts.
The course starts at Alice Lake Provincial Park with a sprint up the Forest Service Road (FSR) to Cliff’s Corners, and onto Ed’s Bypass. From there the course follows Rock ’n’ Roll, Dead End Loop, and Bob McIntosh back to the FSR. The course crosses the road then continues on Mike’s Loop, down Mice and Men, and Tracks from Hell onto Mashiter. From there it’s a climb up Ray’s Café, up Cliff’s Corners, and onto the Mashiter Creek bridge. The first water station is on that road.
From there the route climbs up to the top of a logging road to Skookum, and up to the top of Middle Power Smart, and onto IMBA Smart. The course then drops down to the lower part of Skookum, and over to George’s Crossing and the Recycle descent. Next up is the Pseudo Tsuga descent to the new Snakes and Ladders section, which brings riders to Garibaldi Park Road.
On the gravel road, racers will climb to the new Hell With Darwin bridge across Ring Creek, climb up to the Ring Creek Creek, and follow the singletrack to the Powerhouse Plunge and the second water station. Next up is the Crumpit Woods area, with Farther Side, Far Side, S&M Connector, Three Virgins, Seven Stitches and Summer’s Eve to Raven’s Plateau in Vallecliffe.
The last section is down the Climber’s Trail and left on Logger’s Lane. The race ends at the Rose Park trail.
Registration has been going strong, and there is a chance that organizers will sell out all 500 spots this year.
If there are any spots available on race day, they will be available on a first come basis on the day of the race, from 8 to 10 a.m. Check the website before showing up, as the event could sell out the night before.
The cost is $55, which includes a $10 special event license from the Grass Roots Mountain Bike Association. Kids under 18 will need a signed letter of approval from a parent or guardian.
For more information, a detailed course map and registration, visit www.gearjammer.ca.