Twenty years ago mountain biking was still a fringe sport. Doubletrack roads counted as trails, while actual singletrack trails were few and far between. A 2.1 was a wide tire, and a fork with three inches of travel was a luxury, although more often than not you'd be riding a fully rigid bike.
Twenty years ago in February, a group of local mountain bike enthusiasts banded together to lobby for the reintroduction of mountain bikes into Garibaldi Park, after access to Singing Pass was cut by the province. They called that group the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association, because nobody understood what mountain biking was exactly. That summer a few of the board members started hosting Loonie Races, and would get up to 20 riders out for a race along local trails where the winner would get to keep all the Loonies.
The original board included Bob Eakins, Richard Kelly, Eric Wight, Vincent Massey, Charlie Doyle, Keith Bennett and Paul Rawlinson. Grant Lamont joined later, along with Milo Rusimovich and Todd McPhelan, with Lamont and Rawlison launching the Loonie Race series.
Things have changed, from the bikes to trails, and today WORCA is by far the biggest mountain biking club in the world. A quick Google search of other clubs making that claim turns up groups of mountain bikers with a few hundred members, while WORCA has signed up over 1,000 members for eight of the last nine years. This summer WORCA is on pace to set a new record with 1,500 members, which means that roughly one out of every seven Whistler residents is a member.
This year the club is hosting 22 Toonie Rides (formerly Loonie Races) as well as eight weeks of youth dirt camps, numerous volunteer trail sweep and maintenance days, regular clinics for kids and adults, the annual bike swap, and special events like the Four Jacks. They also sanction events such as the Phat Wednesday Downhill Series, the West Side Wheel Up, the Ken Quon Ride On and others.
To honour the 20 th anniversary of WORCA, the present board held a birthday party in February to celebrate the Feb. 27 anniversary of the group's first official meeting. This Saturday at 3 p.m. WORCA is hosting Worcapalooza, an outdoor bike festival at Base II on Blackcomb that is open to everyone, members and non-members alike.
Worcapalooza includes a series of bike challenges and events, as well as the premiere of a documentary on the club that has been in development for more than a year.
The fun gets underway around 3 p.m. The first event is the Celebration Criterium at 3:30 p.m. Participants will make laps of the trails on lower Blackcomb, racing or riding. It's free, but registration is required.