The first West Side Wheel Up bike race took place in 1994, when organizer Lester Clare put together an epic race to wrap up the summer bike season and showcase the burly cross-country mountain bike trails on Whistler’s West Side.
While a lot has changed since that first Wheel Up — bikes are completely different, part of the trail now runs through the Stonebridge subdivision, and River Runs Through It has more features from start to finish — it’s still pretty much the same course Clare created. With the exception of the Cheakamus Challenge, no other Whistler race has as much history.
The route starts at the end of Millar Creek Trail in Function Junction and follows the trail to Alta Lake Road and the long climb up Lower Sproatt Trail, which includes a new singletrack section. From there the route follows Beaver Pass trail and heads down the north section of Danimal to Whip Me Snip Me. After another climb riders make their way to Bob’s Rebob, and the start of A River Runs Through It.
It’s about a Loonie Race and a half in length, and the fastest riders usually come in under an hour, while recreational riders might take two or three hours.
The race finishes in a clearing near Rainbow Park, where there is food and refreshments for riders. One of the highlights of the after-party is the prize draw, which includes a Whistler-Blackcomb season pass, a night at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, gift certificates for local restaurants, all kinds of bike and ski gear — dozens of donated items.
The cost is $20 to take part, which includes a raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets are $5 for one or three for $10, and are available at the start and finish. Participants are also required to be WORCA members, and memberships will be available at the start for $40.
Les Clare himself will be on hand at the after party. Before the 2000 race Clare was injured in a construction accident and all the proceeds from that year went towards his recovery. His friend Phil Chew organized the race that year, and starting in 2001 Clare has directed all of the proceeds to the B.C. Disabled Alpine Ski Team, which Chew coaches.
Once again all of the money raised at the event will go towards the provincial disabled team, helping with travel and competition expenses.