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Robertson returns for Red Bull 400

Grouse Grind record holder looks to conquer uphill race

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Traversing your way through different heats at the Red Bull 400 might be a grind, but that won't faze Ian Robertson.

Now Robertson is looking to make a new mark on the uphill racing community this Saturday, Aug. 5 at Whistler Olympic Park. He set a new record for ascents of the Grouse Grind, with 16, in June 2016.

The Vancouver resident will challenge the Red Bull 400 — a 400-metre course as opposed to Grouse's 2.9-kilometre incline — for the third time, which could very well be lucky as he's soaked in new approaches in the past two years.

"One of the benefits of being able to watch the other heats going is to see what line is looking better and what shoes are working better," he said. "People put gloves on and take them off in different heats.

"It's a bit rare nowadays in that there is quite a bit of strategy."

Robertson has made the finals both years, but is still looking to place among the top finishers after placing 26th in 2015 and 22nd last year. That said, he's also looking to enjoy himself after having completed the bulk of his season already.

"One goal is to just have a fun weekend," Robertson said. "I'm expecting to make the final and it would be nice to make the top 10. It would be nice to improve on what I've done in the past — I should be able to."

What Robertson and others will have to keep in mind is to avoid exploding right out of the gate, as the course — which goes up the park's biggest ski jump at a 37-degree incline — is surprisingly long.

"It is deceiving how fast you go at the start and how fast you go at the finish because everybody goes too fast at the start. Every, every, everybody goes too fast at the start," he stressed. "The first time I hit it, I got to the top of the grass in a qualifying heat in first place and realized Gary Robbins is in my heat. He's faster than I am. This is going to hurt.

"It did, and he pulled it out five seconds ahead of me coming up the wood. Trying to pace oneself is interesting because it's tempting to go way, way too fast at the start."

Though setting the Grouse Grind record had a greater endurance aspect to it, Robertson said there are some transferable skills from one challenge to the other.

"One of the things I was doing to train for Grouse day was hiking up Grouse Mountain and (the) BCMC (Trail) with a bunch of rocks in my backpack. Strength certainly will help and that's basically what I've been training with all winter," he said.

Those interested in competing in the race can register at the event on the day of competition. Those looking to leave the car at home can catch a shuttle at the Aava Hotel, the first of which leaves at 7:30 a.m. and every 30 minutes thereafter.

Participants can register as individuals or as teams of four.

As well, Red Bull-sponsored aerobatic and air race pilot Pete McLeod will do a flyover of the park around noon on race day.

For more information, visit www.redbull400.com.

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