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.
“This is awesome, I felt great today,” she said. “Anytime I get a chance to ride here I’m pretty jacked up, and I was pretty excited to be able to ride with the (Eric) Crowe.”
Kassel found the singletrack challenging, with all the mud and slick rocks, and says she decided to stick with her strengths.
“I’ve gotten pretty good at getting off my bike and running with it, and getting back on again. I know I lost some time in the slippery sections, but I made a lot of it back on the climbs. I felt really good heading uphill. The highway sections were pretty heinous with all the construction, but that just motivated me to go faster and get it over with.
“I don’t get to ride these trails very much, but it still feels like coming home. It was so good to be out riding with all the people I used to ride with, and get back on the trails.”
Kassel is also planning to go to La Ruta in November, and she has been practicing her ascents for the long climbs up the sides of volcanoes.
Kassel finished more than 24 minutes ahead of Karen Trueman of Quesnel. Pemberton’s Hillary Harrison was third in 4:26:39.
The top junior this year was Whistler’s Tyler Allison — a little payback after years of mechanical problems and illnesses prevented him from riding the kind of Cheakamus Challenge that he wanted. Not that this year was free of bad luck — he rode his father’s bike after breaking his own bike earlier last week — but at least got the bad luck out of the way before the race started.
Like Kassel, Allison also battled veteran Eric Crowe.
“I actually dropped him for a bit on the technical section, but he flew past me on the Kadenwood climb and I couldn’t reel him back in,” said Allison.
“I had a good race. The trail was pretty slippery in some sections but I rode that stuff pretty well. It was tough, in some sections, like the new Sea to Sky trail — the trail isn’t set up yet so you would sink in around the corners and the gravel was like ball bearings. Still, I liked it, it was a lot better than the road.”
Allison won the junior category for all three Month of Pain cycling events, also placing first in the West Side Wheel Up and then sharing the win with Sebastian Sleep in the Soo Valley Rumble. He has one training camp with the provincial team in October, but otherwise finished his cross-country race season with the Cheakamus Challenge.
Allison finished the Cheakamus Challenge in 3:44:23, or ninth overall. Hayden Drygas of Team Squamish placed second in 4:22:44, while Erik Mulder placed a close third in 4:23:35.
Whistler’s Max Horner finished in 4:59:09 after a series of mechanical problems left him without a chain on a long section of the course.
In the Men’s 19 to 29 category, Yu Takenouchi of Japan placed first in 3:25:37, followed by Whistler’s Jonny Lloyd in 3:50:10. Josh Stott of Pemberton was third in 3:59:11.
Also from Whistler, Jody Edgar was eighth in 4:33:27.
In Men’s 30 to 39, Mike Boehm was first in 3:26:02, follow by Brian Cimmiyotti of Oregon. Trevor Hopkins was third in 3:51:39.
Rounding out the top-30, Pemberton’s Russ Wood was fifth in 3:52:54, just over a minute back of Hopkins. Duncan Munro of Whistler placed 21 st overall in 4:25:29, while Julian Base was 30 th in 4:43:00.
Eric Crowe won the men’s 40 to 49 race in 3:42:55, more than eight minutes faster than the 3:51:16 time posted by Rod Dagneau of North Vancouver. Mike Charuk of Whistler was third in 3:54:28, Richard Potter was fifth in 3:58:01, Keith McIvor was eighth in 4:09:56, Ken Kozel 10 th in 4:15:05, Brent Murdoch 11 th in 4:17:28, and Graeme Fitch 28 th in 4:47:37, rounding out the top-30.
In Men’s 50-Plus, William Letham of North Vancouver placed first in 4:13:58, followed by Whistler’s Scott Brunning in 4:26:30. Salmon Arm’s Chuck Connor was third in 4:49:42. Dave Thornhill was sixth in 5:11:35, Mike Hawes 16 th in 5:45:53, and Francis Chaisson 20 th in 6:39:30.
On the women’s side, Fanny Paquette won the 19 to 29 age group in 4:34:31, followed by Lina Augaitis is 5:02:32.
In Women’s 30 to 39, Sarah O’Byrne placed first in 4:57:68, followed by Jennifer Garrett in 5:02:48, and Tara Walsh in 5:04:46.
Tamara Geoppel of Carcross won the 40 to 49 category in 4:58:19, followed by Penny Klossen in 5:07:42, and Linda Dufour of Yellowknife in 7:00:39.
Lois Marquart of Tacoma, Washington rode alone in the Women’s 50-Plus category, finishing in 6:54:50.
In the Short Course, which started at the Whistler Bungee bridge and joined the race in progress in the Calcheak Forest Service campground, Jesse Melamed was the top junior in 2:25:43, followed by Mark Burrill of Burnaby in 3:02:44, and Jordan Heyes of North Vancouver in 3:26:20. Whistler’s Alex Gershon, 10, rode the course with his father in 5:28:46.
Jocelyn Ramsden raced alone in the Short Course Junior Women, finishing in 3:31:43.
In the men’s race, Martin White was first in 2:51:57, followed by Hugo Paquin in 2:55:51, and Olivier Gendron in 3:00:19.
In the women’s category, junior rider Katherine Short was first in 2:27:57, followed by Maggie Phillips in 2:53:36, and Sarah Licko in 2:56:44.
Complete results are posted online at www.cheakamuschallenge.com.