Next to the Cheakamus Challenge (70-plus kilometres) and the Test of Metal (67 km), the GearJammer's 52 km seems almost reasonable.
However, there's a reason that the times for the top athletes are only slightly shorter than the Test of Metal despite the 15 km difference, and that's the fact that the event is a lot more technical. Over 40 km of the course takes place on singletrack trails in the Squamish area, and many of those on trails that are rated black diamond.
The list of trails includes Ed's Bypass, Rock'n'Roll, Dead End Loop, Bob McIntosh trail, Mike's Loop, Mice and Men, Tracks from Hell, Ray's Café, Cliff's Corners, Skookum, Middle Power Smart, IMBA Smart, Lower Skookum, Recycle, Psuedo Tsuga, the Powerhouse Plunge, Far Side, S&M Connector, Three Virgins, Seven Stitches and Summer's Eve. The complete course description and map is online at www.gearjammer.ca.
The race takes place this Saturday, July 24 with an 11 a.m. start at Alice Lake and finishes at Rose Park anywhere from two and a half to six hours later. There are no official cut-offs, but the course sweep may cut off riders that are too slow or having trouble.
The event is capped at 500 riders, and according to race director Jo Sykes, registration has picked up substantially in the past week - mostly with local racers signing on.
"Everything is in place - the course is marked and people are riding it, and basically now we're just hoping for good weather, not too hot and not raining," said Sykes.
So far the forecast is co-operating. Things are expected to cool down to the low 20s at the end of the week and there's no rain in the forecast.
While there are some hard trails on the course, Sykes is confident that most intermediates with a decent level of fitness can finish the race.
"You get these crazy pro elites that step off their bikes after two and a half hours and can have a conversation, but it's really nice to see all the people out there slugging it out for four hours or more that can barely speak, but are so gleefully happy to have finished."
There are a few important changes to the race this year.
Late registration and package pickup will be at the Nesters Market at Station Square Mall, as usual, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday. However, day of race registration and package pickup is no longer available at the start line in Alice Lake Park - instead, organizers are hosting the package pickup and registration table at the finish line at Rose Park from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, then shuttling riders and their bikes to the start line. New this year, the organizers are also offering a shuttle to the start line so spectators can watch the start of the event.
There are two drink stations on the GearJammer course, but most riders will want to bring some food and their own water bottles or hydration pack. There will also be a barbecue at the finish line hosted by the local Lions Club that will serve both racers and the public.
The GearJammer is only one part of the weekend's activities. On Friday evening the first GearJammer Flow event will take place with 120 racers tackling the new Half Nelson downhill trail.
There is a bit of a super D component, so riders would be wise to choose bikes that can go uphill as well as down.
For more information or registration visit www.gearjammer.ca.
The GearJammer is also the fourth event in the five-event Hell of a Series, with only the newly created Just Another Bike Race (JABR) in Squamish remaining on Aug. 21. Information on the JABR on that race can be found at www.testofmetal.com, while you can learn more about the Hell of a Series at www.hellofaseries.ca.