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Samurais endure one of hardest races yet

Technical climbs take their toll on field of riders

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The 2004 Samurai of Singletrack took place in the most miserable September weather that Whistler can experience, with rain and wind soaking the riders to the bone on the very first climb. Still, despite the fact that the 2005 ride was cool and mostly dry – perfect weather for an epic bike ride – the consensus at the finish line was that this year’s race was the hardest yet.

The Samurai took place on Saturday, Sept. 17, with a field of 110 riders starting in Whistler Village and making a 625-metre climb up Whistler Mountain to the Raven’s Nest area. From there riders descended through the Whistler Mountain Bike Park on No Joke, Duff Man, Golden Triangle, Lower A-Line and, after a short climb back up, Heart of Darkness.

From there the trail crossed over to Blackcomb, ascending on service roads to a new trail called Hey Bud just below the top of the Excalibur Gondola. Hey Bud was probably the most technical descent of the race, with steep, rooty sections and exposed log bridges over creeks.

From there the trail followed Lost Lake trails to the exit of Comfortably Numb, a 24 km trail that riders rode backwards to Young Lust. From there riders headed back to Lost Lake on the Green Lake Loop before crossing the highway into Cut Yer Bars, Emerald Forest and the first part of A River Runs Through It.

The last 10 km of the trail included a section of the Rainbow Flank Trail to Whip Me Snip Me, then on to Danimal, 99er and more Danimal before descending the last part of Industrial Disease to the highway, and the final few hundred metres of riding to Alpha Lake Park.

All told, this year’s course was just over 60 km in length, with a total vertical gain of close to 2,500 metres.

Whistler’s Greg Grant held the lead for most of the race, riding on a front wheel he bent out of shape in a pothole on the second major descent. He had about a seven minute lead on Andreas Hestler heading into the Green Lake Loop section, but Hestler’s experience allowed him to close the gap to just two minutes heading back into Lost Lake Park.

Hestler, a former national cross-country champion and World Cup racer, managed to close the gap at the entrance to the Emerald Forest trail, and had almost seven minutes on Grant by the time he got to the finish line in 5 hours, 2 minutes.

"This has got to be one of the hardest races I’ve ever done," said Hestler. "I consider myself a good technical rider, but I’ve never had to do that much technical riding in a row.

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