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Plaxton defends Cheakamus Challenge title

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“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.