1,300 metre descent, four 300-plus metre vertical gain sections among challenges
It was never easy, but with 91 out of 96 riders finishing the first Samurai of Singletrack mountain bike ride last year, event organizer Tony Horn decided to up the stakes a little this Saturday.
The route for this years ride was announced at the final WORCA Loonie Race of the season on Sept. 12, after a lot of speculation and badgering. Horn said he wanted to keep the route a secret so people wouldnt be able to practice for it.
"There were all these rumours going around about the course, and so many people were coming up to me and trying to get a hint," says Horn. "It was hilarious."
The goal, like last year, is for riders to make it from start to finish, on some of Whistlers toughest singletrack, in one piece. All of the riders who finish are awarded honourary Samurai status at a special post-race dinner at Teppan Village.
The field was once again limited to 100 riders, the capacity of Teppan Village, and participants in last years Samurai were given first shot at the open spots. About 75 riders are returning from last year, and the remaining 25 spots were scooped up in the first two hours. Two people have dropped out, and the first two people on the 20 person waiting list are in.
The lucky 100 starters will get to ride a longer, and arguably more technical course than last years event starting with a descent of more than 1,300 vertical metres.
The Samurai starts at the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain at 10 a.m. and winds up The Saddle to the peak. From there it descends on Highway 86 to the start of Khyber Pass and the first singletrack riding of the day.
After reaching the B.C. Rail Microwave Tower, the course climbs slightly on Babylon By Bike before descending into the clearcut and back to the Microwave Tower road.
"Whistler-Blackcomb have been just awesome letting us host this event using these trails, and well have safety and first aid on Khyber Pass for people who need it," says Horn.
The road cuts back to the Highline Trail, and up the Riverside Trail.
After that the route travels via the Basalt Valley Spur to the Ridge Trail and back down to the start of Trash.
After Trash, riders cross the highway into Function Junction and tackle the Flank Trail, followed by the double black diamond Industrial Disease trail.
There is a short climb on Alta Lake Road before the route heads up the steep Lower Sproatt trail and connects to 99er, Danimal and Beaver Pass. Although these last three trails are generally closed to the public, the developers in the area have given the go ahead to the Samurai to use the area for the ride.
A River Runs through It is next, followed by LAlpe DHuez, Bintys, ReBob, and Barts Dark Trail. The final trail of the day is the Emerald Forest, finishing up at the gravel pit at the bottom of Lorimer Road.
All told, there are 19 trails on the list, although Horn may take Babylon By Bike out of the ride if its raining.
The course is itself 55.5 kilometres in length, compared to 43 km last year.
"Some of the hardcore purists will probably be upset that were starting at the Roundhouse and not doing the full Khyber Pass, but that would be three quarters of the race right there," says Horn, who points out that there are four climbs over more than 300 metres in the race, including Highline-Riverside, Flank Trail, Lower Sproatt, and Bintys.
Horn has not ridden the route himself, but estimates that the top riders will come in at around five hours, depending on the weather.
"Im hoping for seven hours. And Im hoping my wife makes it to dinner," he says.
Horn plans to change the route every year, and next year he says he will run a contest to come up with the best route. The winner will receive a free entry into the Samurai.
In the meantime, riders in this years competition are advised to bring lots of water, food, repair equipment and full armour if they have it.
Registration takes place at the bottom of the Whistler Village gondola between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., and the last load to the top has to be on the gondola by 9:15 a.m. The ride starts at 10 a.m. and people ride until they are finished, one way or another.
The dinner for the riders and volunteers at Teppan Village takes place at 8 p.m.
There will be 25 volunteers on course during the day and at the checkpoints between sections. There will also be one water station at the LAlpe DHuez leg.