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Grouse Mountain to host mountain bike triple World Cup

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It seems that Whistler’s loss is Grouse Mountain’s gain.

On March 7, Grouse Mountain Resort announced that it was successful in a bid to host a triple Mountain Bike World Cup from July 4 to 8 – the same triple event that Whistler pulled the plug on in December.

The details leading up to the cancellation of the Whistler event are still a matter of local debate, but are rooted in disagreements between TEAM Management and the W3 group (Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler) over everything from the operating budget to the ownership of the event.

TEAM Management ceased to exist after that point, effectively cancelling the annual Summer Sessions in July, which included the Whistler International Classic races and Gravity Tour, and the Canada Cup Finals in August.

There was some concern that the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body for World Cup mountain biking, would choose to stage the high profile event somewhere else, leaving Western Canada high and dry.

Whistler was one of only 12 sites in the world to be selected to host a World Cup event, and only one of four sites to hold a triple crown, with cross-country, downhill, and dual slalom events.

Canmore, Alberta, was identified as a likely alternative to Whistler until Grouse Mountain announced in late February that it was in negotiations with the UCI.

UCI technical delegate Kelli Turcotte toured the site on Feb. 26 and confirmed that Grouse meets all the criteria necessary to hold the event.

"If the UCI were to build the perfect venue to host a World Cup, it would probably be very close to a site like Grouse Mountain Resort," said Turcotte.

On March 7 it became official.

"A ‘triple’ World Cup at Grouse Mountain will attract more than 450 international athletes from 35-40 countries, as well as 24,000-plus spectators and approximately 75 international media delegates," said Chantal LaChance of Gestev Inc., a Canadian event management company with more than 35 World Cups to its credit. Gestev will help Grouse organize the event.

"This event will also provide more than 40 hours of television viewing around the world in about 200 different territories. Mountain Bike World Cups are a good economic return. For instance, in the 10 years of World Cup events at Mont-Sainte-Anne, the economic impact has grown to just over $4 million dollars per year."

When Whistler lost the event, there was some concern that it would reflect badly on the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic Bid. UCI President Hein Verbruggen, who sits on the International Olympic Committee’s selection committee, was not happy when he heard that the Whistler triple event had fallen through.

With Grouse Mountain picking up the pieces, however, the long-term damage doesn’t look as bad. Grouse Mountain is involved in the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid, and is still considered a potential site for ski jumping and bobsleigh-luge events.

"The revival of this event is a great accomplishment for Grouse Mountain, Vancouver and British Columbia," said Grouse Mountain president and part-owner Stuart McLaughlin. "This will be an opportunity for us to showcase our world class facility and our ability to stage events of this calibre." He added that,"with the involvement of the community and corporate support, Vancouver will once again demonstrate that it belongs on the world stage."

Part of the equation that clinched the deal for Grouse was the participation of prominent Canadian mountain bikers, including Olympic racers Alison Sydor, Lesley Tomlinson and Andreas Hestler, and downhillers Andrew Shandro and Elladee Brown. Together they represented The Shore Group, which will design and develop World Cup level cross-country and downhill courses for the competition.

"The venue offers the best equation," said Turcotte. "A resort willing to invest in the development of mountain biking; the organizer, Gestev, a long-time and experienced organizer of top events; the proximity of Grouse Mountain to an international city such as Vancouver and a group of top international, local athletes actively involved in the event."

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