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To air is human



French riders take top spots in Air Downhill

Aside from a bear on course, the usual crashes and a few last minute course repairs, things went smoothly for the first Whistler Air Downhill on July 5.

When the World Cup downhill and 4-cross events were cancelled at Grouse Mountain due to a heavier than usual snow base, Joyride Production, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Whistler Mountain Bike Park teamed up to organize the Air Downhill to fill the gap. With the help of sponsors Kona, Marzocchi, and Race Face, the organizers put together a race on the A-Line run.

A-Line has been compared to a downhill BMX course, with table-tops, gap jumps and banked corners the whole way down. There are also some North Shore style sections, and technical sections with roots, rocks and drops on the course, which drops more than 400 vertical metres.

After the race, the Glacier Shop hosted a jumping contest on two massive gap jumps built outside the Garibaldi Lift Company patio.

"The event was pretty much a revelation for the riders that were here," said event co-organizer Chris Winter of Joyride. "Some of them said that this was one of the best lines they’ve ever been on, and they’ve ridden the top World Cup courses around the world. They were blown away."

More than 170 riders took part in the race in different age and skill categories.

Cedric Gracia of France, the World Cup downhill standings leader, posted the fastest run of the day in four minutes 14.76 seconds.

"That’s a record that is going to stand for a little while I’m guessing," said Winter. "He’s not a big guy or anything, but he’s smooth and very, very fast. He was teaching locals how to ride that trail."

Steve Peat of Great Britain, currently ninth in the World Cup downhill standings, wasn’t too far off the mark in 4:15.55.

"That was so much fun," said Peat, who was in Whistler for the first time. "I’m disappointed that the Grouse event was cancelled, it’s good to have six races on the calendar, but I’m glad the people put this event together otherwise I might never have come here. (North Vancouver’s Andrew) Shandro told me about it and I decided I had to check it out for myself."

Third place went to Shaums March of Squamish in 4:17.04.

"I was feeling kind of fatigued coming down, and I didn’t know how fast I was going. I pushed as hard as I could without getting all squirrelly," said March.

March raced without any body or leg armour, misplacing his equipment during the Joyride after party.

Scott Beaumont of Great Britain, ranked 53 rd in the world, was fourth in 4:25.98.

Andrew Shandro of North Vancouver was fifth in 4:27:86.

Fabiano Lucena was the top Whistler rider, finishing sixth with a time of 4:27.86.

The Pro Women’s race went to Anne-Caroline Chausson of France, the reigning World Cup Downhill champion, in 4:35.74.

Vanessa Stark, Sylvie Allen and Claire Buchar of Whistler were second through fourth with times of 4:49.57, 4:51.24 and 4:53.92 respectively.

"Chausson completely dominates on the World Cup circuit, so it was great to see the local women coming as close as they did," said Winter.

In the Amateur Female 13 to 18 Race, Whistler’s Brook Baker won uncontested when her only opponent crashed. With a bike borrowed from her STORMBC teammate Jeff Beatty, she finished with a time of 5:34.38 in only her second downhill competition.

In the Amateur Female 19 to 29 race, Whistler’s Joanna Johnstone was first in 5:08.51. Kara Boelema was second in 5:28.18, and Jill Emperador of Whistler third in 5:30.24.

The Amateur Female 30 and Over race went to Whistler’s Marilyn Manso in 5:12.35, followed by Christina Haveriort in 5:38.31. Corey Cooper of North Vancouver was third in 5:48.78.

In the Downhill Chair race, Whistler’s Stacy Kohut was first in 5:52.85. Johnny Therien of Pemberton was second in 6:08.82.

The Amateur Male 13 to 18 category went to Jamie Biluk of Winnipeg in 4:46.57. Harley Wright of Kamloops was second in 4:50.91. Jordan Giesbret of Prince George was third in 4:51.15. Sadio Kobayashi was the top Whistler Junior in the race in 12 th place with a time of 5:02.46.

Eric Sewell of Whistler took the Amateur Male 19 to 29 race with a time of 4:39.99. Pro snowboarder Drew Neilson of Vernon was second in 4:42.00, followed by Brent Floyd of Whistler in 4:43.27.

The Amateur Male 30-Plus race went to Brian Solem of Renton in 4:36.75. Jamie Blobla was second in 4:38.14. Andre Weaver of North Vancouver was third in 4:40.68.

Complete results for the Air Downhill can be found at

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