While the Whistler Olympic Park is earning rave reviews as one of the top Nordic skiing venues in North America, the official 2010 venue is also making inroads as a mountain bike facility, with the first major event taking place on Sunday, July 19.
The park is providing the venue, putting the finishing touches on several new singletrack sections this week, while their partners at Team Whistler are setting the course and putting the event together - a cross-country B.C. Cup race sanctioned by Cycling B.C.
According to Tony Routley of Team Whistler, the trails should be completed for training this weekend, July 11-12, giving riders a chance to familiarize themselves with the trails before the race.
"We've been working on this like crazy," said Routley. "There's a lot of effort from a lot of guys with Team Whistler to put the event together, and crews have been hard at work on the trails. It's definitely coming together."
B.C. Cup events usually have around 150 racers, but it could be higher with a brand new venue and so many riders from Whistler and Squamish. A lot of the course is set on the area's network of cross-country trails, but the highlight will be the new singletrack trails.
"It's not going to be a super technical type of course but we think we've got a good mix of trails and a couple of sections that will be pretty challenging for people," said Routley.
The goal is to make the race an annual event, a regular stop on the circuit, like the Mad Trapper, while developing more trails in the area. While there is already a huge inventory of trails in Whistler and Squamish, Routley feels there is room for a trail network that can offer a more conventional cross-country experience.
"Whistlerites have some of the best singletrack trails anywhere, bar none, so we're kind of spoiled in a way," he said. "But a lot of people find what we take for granted to be extremely challenging, to say the least. So having something up there that more people can ride is a good thing, it's already a cool spot to go and it just adds to the whole area. It's another dimension to riding up here, and another facility to use."
There are actually three events taking place on July 19: a B.C. Cup race for experienced riders, a recreational citizens race where you can purchase one-day insurance from Cycling B.C., and a kids Bike Biathlon held in partnership with ActNow B.C.
The B.C. Cup is open to kids as young as age 10, all the way up to the elite categories. Registration is $25 for kids 10 to 14, $35 for kids 15 and 16, and $50 for juniors, seniors and masters, and $60 for elite racers. All citizen categories are $35, which includes the one-day licence. The biathlon, where kids get to shoot at the Olympic biathlon range, is free for the first 50 kids on the day of registration.
Distances depend on your category. For citizens there is a starter 8 km race, a 16 km entrée race, or a "full meal" 24 km race. Under 17 athletes do one lap of the approximately 8 km course; junior, senior and master female racers make two laps for 16 km; junior, senior and master male riders make three laps for 24 km. Elite female riders make three laps and elite male riders make four.
Registration is available at Karelo, or by visiting www.teamwhistler.ca