For the first time in four years the West Side Wheel Up took place in the sunshine, allowing organizers on Saturday to forgo the customary blue rain tarp.
The course conditions were also good for the most part, allowing Matt Ryan to break the course record by almost two minutes as well as be the first rider to break the one hour barrier.
Ryan crossed the finish line in 59 minutes and 11 seconds, more than two and a half minutes faster than Mike Boehm. Andreas Hestler placed third in 1:03:06, followed closely by Matt Bodkin and Jason Shorter.
“It was pretty fast today, but it was pretty gnarly and technical as well,” said Ryan. “Overall the conditions were pretty good. I always wanted to do this race in sub-one hour but that’s eluded me the last few years.”
In the race’s 14-year history, Ryan is the only rider to have his name on the men’s Wheel Up trophy twice. Not only does he get to take the trophy home until next year, he also gets to add a part to it.
“The biggest thing for me was to have a good ride and be the first to finish the first section of River, which is pretty technical. I definitely was feeling it by the end, my legs were getting tired, and I nearly crashed when I saw a glimmer of Matt Bodkin in the corner of my eye. The trail winds so much in River, and I had no idea how close he was. That woke me up a bit.”
On the women’s side, Joanna Harrington picked up her third Wheel Up win in 1:17:18. Brandi Heisterman was second in 1:24:46, while Nicole Heisterman picked up third in 1:26:26. Hilary Hendriks and Chrisato Sugawara rounded out the top five.
For the juniors, Tyler Allison placed first in 1:11:39, followed by Justin Holmes in 1:37:25 and Jesse Melamed in 1:45:21.
The course started in Function Junction and included Lower Sproatt, Beaver Lake, upper and lower Beaver Pass, the Rainbow Trail, Rebob, and all of A River Runs Through It.
This year almost 130 riders took part, raising money for the B.C. Disabled Ski Team.
Team head coach and Wheel Up organizer Phil Chew hailed the event as a success.
“It was a great day for the Wheel Up,” he said. “Our numbers were up over the last few years, and we finally got a break with the weather. We had someone break the course record and break the one-hour mark for the first time, and we also set a fundraising record as well. Not having to set up the blue tarp this year was also a pretty big bonus. I couldn’t be happier with the way it went, and hope we’ll sign up 150 riders next year.”
According to Chew, the 2007 West Side Wheel Up raised over $3,000 — partly from entry fees, and partly due to the raffle ticket sales. This year Justin Harvey won the grand prize of a season’s pass donated by Whistler-Blackcomb.