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Sports Briefs: Wheel Up rolls on Saturday

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Time flies when you're having fun, and fun is definitely the whole point of the now 20th annual West Side Wheel Up mountain bike race — a rip through some of Whistler's best west side trails, followed by a famous afterparty and prize raffle.

Things are shaping up for the event, which takes place this Saturday, Sept. 14. The course will be a little different this year with "no trespassing" signs going up at the entrance to Lower Sproatt, and instead riders will now go up Stonebridge Road before turning back onto the singletrack at Beaver Pond. After that, the race follows its usual course — Danimal North, Whip Me Snip Me, Rainbow Trail, Bob's ReBob, Get Over It, a section of Emerald Forest and all of A River Runs Through It.

The length is about a Toonie Ride-and-a-half, and the fastest riders take just over an hour to reach the finish. The winners get their names on the trophy and the now traditional tie-dyed shirts.

The highlight, as always, is the prize draw. The main prize is once again a season's pass donated by Whistler Blackcomb. This year, Four Seasons Whistler has donated an annual pass to their gym and spa that's worth $1,200, and there are hotel stays at the Fairmont Chateau and Whistler, plus dozens of other items donated by sponsors.

The cost is $25 to take part, which includes the ride, food and beverages at the afterparty and a raffle ticket. Additional tickets will also be available at the start and finish of the event.

All of the proceeds go towards the BC Para-Alpine Ski Team, which is coached by event organizer Phil Chew. He's seen firsthand how the money helps athletes realize their dreams of making the national team and competing for Canada at the Olympics.

"It's a really good thing for the para-alpine team," said Chew, who explained that the money goes directly to the athletes in the form of grants — over $30,000 so far.

As well, Chew said the race and ride is one of the mountain bike community's better socials of the season.

"It's near the end of the season, and we always get a lot of people that don't come out to many races but make a point of racing the Wheel Up every year," he said.

The after party is in the woods behind Rainbow Park, an area where riders could find shelter in the early years of the race — now one of the longest running mountain bike events in the corridor. This weekend that lakeside location could come in handy with the weather forecast calling for hot and dry conditions all week — and a high of 28 degrees in the afternoon.

Registration is from 10 a.m. until just before noon on Saturday, Sept. 14, with the event getting underway at noon.

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