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Plaxton defends Cheakamus Challenge title



Max Plaxton’s mountain bike season wrapped up on a high note Saturday with a convincing win in the Pro Elite category of the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic. Plaxton took an early lead with Squamish’s Neal Kindree, but lost Kindree at the halfway point.

Despite the muddy singletrack and a new, soft section of Sea to Sky trail that added over a kilometre to the length of the course, Plaxton’s time was just three minutes back of his winning effort in 2006.

“I was with Neal until Trash, and then I pulled ahead,” he said. “I didn’t do it on purpose, it was nice to have someone to ride with, but I think I was a little stronger on the technical stuff. I was also a bit stronger on the climbs today, and coming out of Trash onto all those twisty (Interpretive Forest) trails I built up a bit of a gap. In that section it’s good to be on your own, there’s so much sudden braking and climbing.”

Plaxton was also excited that the Microwave Tower road was graded recently, and that the rain made it quite easy to climb.

“That’s the last big climb, and it was nice to get to the top and still feel strong,” he said.

Plaxton played it safe on the Tunnel Vision descent with the slippery conditions, then hammered up the last climb to Kadenwood, and the final descent on Big Timber to Creekside.

Although B.C.’s cross-country season is more or less over, Plaxton says he will switch to Cyclocross — a crossover event for both road and mountain bike riders — for the month of October, then head to Costa Rica for the La Ruta des los Conquistadores stage race in November.

He also pledged to return to the Cheakamus Challenge next year to try to keep his streak alive, and see whether he can top the record for consecutive wins held by Roland Green.

His final time was 3:11:43, while Kindree crossed the line more than six minutes back in 3:18:02. Whistler’s Matt Ryan posted his best Cheakamus Challenge result to date, finishing a strong third in 3:23:31. Ryan also set a new course record in the West Side Wheel Up earlier in the month, but gave the Soo Valley Rumble the weekend before the Cheakamus Challenge a pass.

Jason Shorter was sixth in the Pro Elite category, and Jeff Calder 14 th .

In the women’s Pro Elite category, Nikki Kassel returned from Prince George to win her second title since her first win in 2004. She also placed 12 th overall in 3:47:12.