The battle for first place in the West Side Wheel raged hard over wet roots and across slick bridges on Saturday afternoon, but in the end it was Whistler's Matt Ryan who got the best of Squamish's Neal Kindree.
Kindree, who didn't know the course that well, said he got lost a few times and stopped at one point when Ryan - then in the lead - went off the side of the wet bridge and crashed to the ground. Kindree also had the lead coming into the finish, but slowed in the Rainbow parking lot while he looked around for the finish line. Ryan, who won the previous four races, made the pass and finished just seconds ahead of Kindree.
"I pre-rode the course the day before and it was bone dry and perfect conditions," said Ryan. "I said to myself if it's this dry then Neal will tear my legs off. I was praying for rain the night before because that would favour me."
On race day, Kindree took the lead from the start but Ryan managed to bridge up by the Danimal descent after the technical ride down Lower Sproatt. They rode together on Whip Me Snip Me before Kindree pulled away again.
"We regrouped at Get Over It for a little bit, then I didn't see him again until I bridged up again going into River," said Ryan. "We rode together for a while, but he was bobbling a little bit and I managed to get past on one of the corners and thought I'd better torch it from there and get away in the technical stuff. But I pushed too hard and wiped out on one of the greasy bridges."
Neal stopped to help Ryan and they headed out again. Ryan took the lead again, but Kindree passed and they slowed the pace a little to keep it safe. Ryan did try one more pass when Kindree bobbled over some roots, but crashed again in the attempt.
"At that point I toned it town a little and sat behind Neal for the last sprint into the finish. When we came out in the car park I don't think he knew where the finish line was, and I noticed he wasn't pedalling that hard so I just went for it. If he'd known where the finish line was it might have been different, but I had been bracing for the sprint at the end and went out hard.
"It's probably the hardest Wheel Up I've done because of the competition out there."
It was Ryan's sixth Wheel Up win, including his win in 2004. He won again in 2007 and in 2008 was the first rider to win the trophy two years in a row.