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Hestler repeats as Cheakamus champion

Newcomer McKirdy wins women’s event; Whistler riders win junior, masters titles



North Vancouver’s Andreas Hestler looked back on one climb in the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic and saw that, at last, he was alone.

Even so, he couldn’t relax and enjoy the ride. For the rest of the ride he saw shadows out of the corners of his eyes – usually just trees and tricks of the light – but he picked his pace up just to be certain, and didn’t let up until he was safely over the finish line with close to nine minutes on his closest competition.

"I don’t know if it was all the climbing or what, but I was definitely seeing things out there. Any minute I expected to see a rider coming up behind me. I kept looking back and looking back, and kept going and going," said Hestler, won the race for the second year in a row.

He finished the Sept. 25 race in three hours, 16 minutes and 37 seconds, eight minutes slower than his time last year.

The course was slightly longer for 2004, at 72.8 km, with two hard climbs near the end and some more technical singletrack with the addition of Tunnel Vision and Big Timber. In total there was almost 2,100 metres of vertical climbing.

"It’s one of the hardest courses I think I’ve ever ridden, with all those hills (race organizer) Grant (Lamont) put in at the end of the race, the Northwest Passage, Microwave Tower, Riverside – I was cursing his name the whole way," said Hestler.

At 34, Hestler is still one of Canada’s top cross-country riders. He’s also a strong downhill rider, and plans to spend the next month racing bikercross.

"I’m happy to still be out there pushing hard, and feeling good at the end of a race like this. It’s also nice to see all these young guys coming up," said Hestler. "There’s a really strong group of up and coming riders in Canada, like (second place finisher) Max (Plaxton), who are going to be taking over, but it’s nice to get the win today.

"I’ve been biking the Cheakamus for 12 years now, and I’ve been beaten so many times. All of those guys, Roland Green, Ryder (Hesjedal), Kirk Molday, all of them kicked my ass. But I’m still here, still going, and I’m really happy to be here."

Tofino’s Plaxton finished second overall in 3:25:07, followed by Vancouver’s Matthew Martindill in 3:29:19. Whistler’s Matt Ryan, winner of the 24 Hours of Adrenalin (Team of Four), the Samurai of Singletrack, the West Side Wheel Up and countless Loonie Races this year, finished a close fourth in 3:29:46.