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UCI pulls Grouse downhill, 4-Cross

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Cross-country event to run as planned

A heavier than normal snowpack – measured at almost 4 metres as of June 1 – has prompted organizers to cancel the World Cup downhill and 4-Cross mountain bike competitions scheduled for Grouse Mountain July 4-7.

While the snow could be cleared by then, both Grouse Mountain and Gestev Inc., the Quebec-based event management company organizing the event, supported the Union Cyclist Internationale’s decision to cancel the downhill because they couldn’t guarantee the course would be safe or up to World Cup standards by race day.

Because the same athletes who compete in downhill events also compete in the 4-Cross – a four-rider bikercross event – the UCI will cancel that event as well.

The World Cup cross-country race will go on as planned. The 33-kilometre course was built last year to withstand spring run-off.

"We reassessed the conditions on the cross-country and downhill courses 10 days ago," explained Chantal Lachance, the vice-president of Gestev. "Grouse Mountain had such an incredible snow season this past winter and there were still some areas where there were more than 12 feet of snow. With safety in mind, we have been frequently updating the UCI on the progress since then."

According to Scott Ellis, the vice-president of Grouse Mountain, "The safety of the riders and our guests is absolutely paramount and we understand the UCI’s decision."

The UCI announced its final decision to cancel the events on June 7. Since then Gestev and Grouse Mountain have announced that they will attempt to stage both downhill and bikercross events during the World Cup weekend, but these events won’t be sanctioned by the UCI.

The UCI has already informed the World Cup racers of the decision, and it is unlikely that the UCI would relocate or reschedule these events for 2002. There was a rumor that the events could be moved to Whistler Mountain, but according to Stuart Rempel, the vice president of marketing and sales for Whistler-Blackcomb, that was never an option, and the company is not pursuing these events.

The announcement came as a disappointment to several Whistler downhillers who don’t have the opportunity to travel to events in Europe, and likely won’t be going to World Cup events at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, or Telluride, Colorado. The opportunity to compete against the best in the world – and qualify for the World Championships – has slipped through their fingers.

"I cried when I heard, I seriously did because I’ve been training super hard for this," said Whistler’s Claire Buchar. "I was ready to get a bunch of people to volunteer to dig the course out. I thought there must be something we could do."

This is only Buchar’s second year competing, but she was impressive in the B.C. Cup and Canada Cup events she raced in last year. At the 2001 national championships at Sun Peaks, she was third overall and the second Canadian, earning enough World Cup points to compete at Grouse Mountain this year.

"A lot of us don’t get to go and race out east, it’s too expensive," Buchar said. "This was the race. Then my whole June and July fell apart. I was really feeling ready to race, really psyched up for it.

"When you do well at Grouse you have a better chance to get into the World’s and make the national team. I didn’t want to set my goals too high, but I’ve been doing really well lately, and I was ready to try to make it to the World’s. I worked hard, and trained all winter."

Other Whistler athletes who are affected include Sylvie Allen, who is a member of the national team, and Canadian junior champion Jeff Beatty.

From the Lower Mainland, the list of affected athletes includes Andrew Shandro, Chad Onyschuk, Cassandra Boon, Dave Watson, Tera Meade, and Jordie Lunn, to name just a few.

Buchar says she will race in a downhill at Grouse Mountain if they can pull it off, even if it doesn’t help her to reach her goal of qualifying for the World Championships in Kaprun, Austria in August.

Now the only way Buchar and the others can make it to the World Championships is to win at the nationals in August, or to receive a coaches’ choice recommendation.

"I haven’t been around a long time, so it’s not likely that the national coaches are going to choose me, but I’m not going to give up," she said.

The Tim Horton’s Mountain Bike National Championships are scheduled for July 19-21 at Sun Peaks, near Kamloops.

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