While the annual Mega Avalanche bike race in France beats the Red Bull 5000 Down for vertical, Whistler is arguably the most technical of the two peak to valley competitions.
The Whistler event boasts close to 5,000 vertical feat of descending from the peak of Whistler Mountain, versus over 7,500 feet for the Mega Avalanche. But with the bottom two-thirds of the Whistler course in the best bike park in the world you need to have skill as well as endurance.
The Red Bull 5000 Down runs this weekend, with training and qualification on Saturday and the race taking place on Sunday. According to Cody Swansborough more than 130 riders were registered on Tuesday morning, including Nanaimo's Steve Smith - a Red Bull athlete who finished second in the world downhill championships last week in Quebec. That was the best showing ever for a Canadian male at that level. Other athletes confirmed include Dusty Klatt and possibly Gee and Rachel Atherton.
Athletes will leave in a mass start, divided into up to 25 rows of 10. The course includes several road sections to provide riders with passing opportunities.
The riders will follow Matthew's Traverse to Pika's Traverse, then drop down into a section of trail outside of the Roundhouse Lodge that takes them to the Red Chair and the entrance to the Garbanzo Trails. The route also follows wide open sections of the Dave Murray Downhill and Expressway, and a selection of trails on the lower section that includes Angry Pirate, World Cup Single Track, Ho Chi Min, Heart of Darkness and the Canadian Open traverse to the finish.
The prize purse is $12,000, with cash going to the top five men and top three women in the race.
The qualifier is from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday. On Sunday there will be a women's mass start at 11 a.m., with the men following at noon. Last year's top times were over 20 minutes, but this year the course is slightly faster with open fire road sections for passing.
Registration is open until midnight tonight (Thursday, Sept. 9) at www.eventsonline.ca/events/redbull5000down. Package pickup is on Friday.
The race is open to riders 17 and older and costs $80 for bike park pass holders and $90 for non pass holders (and includes a two day pass to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park).