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Locals win muddy Cheakamus Challenge

Matt Bodkin, Lesley Clements on top once again



It was a cold, wet day that greeted more than 300 riders at the start of the 24 th annual Cheakamus Challenge in Brackendale on Saturday, and the promise of wet, slippery conditions ahead.

“It was cold, it was wet — we were prepared for some hypothermia, but that never really materialized, although we were close to it. It was a hard day for hard people,” said event director Grant Lamont.

“Even the people doing the short course were challenged a lot more than they expected… The attrition rate was fairly high, and we saw a lot more DNF’s (Did Not Finish) than usual. Some riders definitely suffered more than others with the conditions, but we only had one injury this year and it was 30 yards from the finish line.”

With some of the top international riders missing the event — some because of the weather, and some because of a competing Cactus Cup event — the podium was wide open to local riders.

They made the most of the opportunity, and the race for the podium remained close for the first 50 km of the 71 km course. Matt Bodkin — winner of the 40 km Soo Valley Rumble the previous week — was first out of the Cheakamus Canyon. Bodkin then waited for Kevin Calhoun to catch up so he would have someone to ride with on the highway.

“It’s always better to have someone to ride with to take turns blocking the wind, and we stayed together until Trash, when I pulled ahead on the singletrack,” said Bodkin. “He started to reel me in on the long climb up (Crater Rim) trail, and at one point I looked back and saw Matt Ryan and Chris Clark bridging up on a switchback. I was actually surprised I managed to keep so much of a gap for so long, and I didn’t want to be the guy from the Tour de France who leads all day then gets absorbed by the pack in the final sprint to the finish.”

Bodkin let up a little to save his energy, and was caught by Ryan on a steep climb in Riverside. He estimates that Ryan had about 20 seconds on him at that point, but Bodkin kept him in sight until the next climb, when he took over the lead again. He was first on Tunnel Vision, and was still feeling good by the road.

“My hands were really cold, which made it difficult to grip the bars by the end, but it wasn’t that bad. I still felt like I had a lot of energy,” he said. “This was a big race for me, I’ve wanted to win this one for a long time and I knew when I found out the big guns weren’t coming because of the rain that I had a shot at it.”