By Andrew Mitchell
The Whistler Off Road Cycling Association celebrated the end of another good year at their annual general meeting on Tuesday, an event that gets more entertaining by the year.
The meeting started with reports from WORCA’s outgoing directors, all but two of whom stepped down this year after serving two or three years on the board, and wrapped up with an election that saw eight new members step into the vacant portfolios.
Most notably, WORCA president Grant Lamont stepped down after two years, but will remain with the board in the advisory position of Past President. Joe Lyons, the Race Director for the past two years, became the president — partly because nobody else volunteered for the position, partly because he knew he had the confidence and assistance of the rest of the board and past president, and partly, in one of the night’s funnier moments, he got the blessing of his fiancée in exchange for a puppy.
Lamont thanked board members for their work over his term, and recounted a long list of accomplishments from the past year, starting with the fact that WORCA reached a total of 1,099 members this year, the fifth time in the last six years the association has broken the 1,000 member mark.
Other highlights include:
• The annual spring bike swap raised close to $10,000 for youth programs this year.
• WORCA helped to host the International Mountain Bicycling Association Summit and World Mountain Bike Conference, holding a race, dinner and guided rides for delegates, while participating in all conference sessions.
• WORCA hosted three week-long cross country youth camps for kids aged 5 to 17.
• WORCA helped to host the B.C. High School Mountain Bike Championships, contributing $500 to the Whistler Secondary team.
• Eight Whistlerites took part in a WORCA-facilitated trail building and maintenance course, ensuring that the skills and knowledge of local trail builders is maintained if they leave town or hang up their tools.
“It’s been a very good year for the club, we broke a thousand members again… and we got a lot of stuff done,” said Lamont. “I know for me it was great to host the IMBA Summit and World Mountain Bike Conference to really show the passion of the community, and give the delegates some good ideas to take home with them.”
As the new president, Lyons says his main focus is to continue the work of the board, and build on its strengths.
“I’m just excited to continue building our trail network and maintaining it, to keep the riders coming out, and to keep our sponsors on board,” he said.
Director of Youth
Youth director Greg McDonnell stepped down after two busy years. This past year WORCA hosted three camps for youth, which attracted 48 young riders, as well as increased youth membership to 154 riders.
The association also held four Youth Toonie Nights for younger riders aged 5 to 12 and their parents that focused on skills and having fun.
Other youth initiatives include supporting the high school team, presenting the Lumpy Leidal award to Under 15 cross-country and downhill champion Tyler Allison, and awarding the first ever WORCA youth scholarship for $1,000 to former national downhill champion Brook Baker.
At the mention of the scholarship, Behind The Grind owner and WORCA member Chris Quinlan stepped forward to announce that he would be giving $500 each year to the scholarship fund in recognition of the support mountain bikers have given to his business — for which Grant Lamont ceremonially presented him with a second beer ticket.
McDonnell thanked community members for helping to run the youth programs, and suggested doubling WORCA’s contribution to the high school team next year, as well as increasing Loonie Race fees and using the proceeds for local non-profit organizations.
Financially, the youth portfolio finished the season well ahead with over $20,000 in the bank, which will go back into the program next year.
McDonnell will be replaced on the board next year by Sean Bickerton, who helped coach the high school team and all three camps.
Director of Planning
Ted Battiston, the director of Planning, also stepped down after serving three of the last four years. This year he has been working with developers of the Rainbow lands, the athletes’ village, the highway improvement project, and sliding centre to ensure that there is a no net loss of recreational trails.
The good news, said Battiston, is that all of the stakeholders have approached WORCA and voiced their support for the association’s no net loss policy. The developers of the Rainbow housing project also provided WORCA with $10,000 to help with trail development in the area and to compensate riders for losing a section of Shit Happens.
“The fact that these groups are coming to us really says something,” said Battiston. “It’s a huge coup for us to have earned this kind of recognition and legitimacy when it comes to making these decisions. It wasn’t that long ago that we were looked at as a bunch of skids who ride bikes.”
Battiston urged all members at the AGM to attend the Whistler Cycling Committee open house on Thursday to voice their support for mountain biking, and make recommendations for future trail development.
The Director of Planning position was filled by Guy Patterson.
Director of Trails
Boyd McTavish stepped down as director of trails after three years on the board. WORCA has so far spent over $25,000 on trail building and trail maintenance this year, with members contributing hundreds of volunteer hours to various projects. Most of that money was from a municipal community enrichment grant of $34,000, $22,000 of which was directed specifically to trails.
That money was spread around Whistler’s trail network this year, but the main focus was the redevelopment of the Cut Yer Bars trail network on Nesters Hill.
In addition to subsidizing a four-day trail building clinic, WORCA also presented local bike shops with copies of trail building manuals put together by IMBA and the RMOW to share with customers that are building or maintaining trails, recognizing that bike shops are the hub of the mountain bike community.
Filling McTavish’s position this year is Jerome David, who took the trail building clinic and helped out with several projects this year.
Director of Race
As Race Director, Joe Lyons thanked the sponsors for their continued support of the mountain bike community, as well as the volunteers that make the races possible.
According to Lyons, 4,566 racers participated in Loonie Races this year, for an average of 217 riders per race — almost 30 more on average than last year. Rider numbers were weather dependent to some degree, but even on the rainiest day of the season there was a field of 134 riders.
Lyons will be replaced this year by Benoit Reneault.
Lyons also announced that WORCA will once again be hosting a Halloween Loonie Race on the Thursday before Oct. 31. Details will be announced in the next few weeks.
Director of Membership
Todd Hellinga stepped down as Director of Membership after two years, but said he plans to remain actively involved in WORCA and assist Lyons.
According to Hellinga, membership numbers were boosted this year by the success of the Phat Wednesday Downhill Series hosted by Whistler-Blackcomb. A total of 222 different riders took part, between 150 and 200 of which bought members exclusively to race in the downhill events.
Hellinga also said it was encouraging to see the growth in youth members to 154.
This year Hellinga will be replaced by Andrew Mitchell (the author of this article), who has held the Director of Web position for the past two years.
Director of Public Relations
John Blok stepped down as the Public Relations Director after two years to focus more time on training for triathlons, but not before a short speech where he credited members and directors for making WORCA work, and encouraged members to get involved with the board. Blok was replaced by Paul Ruiterman.
Director of Freeride
Lena Martin stepped down as Director of Freeride after thanking Whistler-Blackcomb and others for their help putting on the Phat Wednesday races, and Cross-Country Connection and coaches Jerome David and Matt Ryan for coaching a series of riding clinics over the summer. She will still attend events to take pictures for the website.
Katherine Mulvihill will rejoin the board as the new director.
Director of Treasury
Sue Clark stepped down as WORCA Treasurer after one year, noting that WORCA is finishing the year with a healthy balance of $18,580.10. Most of that money is earmarked for youth, although some insurance payments and trail work invoices are still pending.
While the association is still on strong footing, Clark noted that insurance continues to increase while membership fees have been frozen for the past two years. Insurance costs are now almost two thirds of the cost of a membership. If rates continue to rise, she said, WORCA will need to raise membership prices to ensure the association is still generating enough revenue to cover operating costs and commitments to trails.
Clark was replaced on the board by James Brooks.