Whistler's Matt Ryan has a bit of a lock on the West Side Wheel Up title, going back to 2006. He was the first rider to put his name on the trophy for two consecutive years starting in 2007, and has won every year since then. His 2011 win was made even more special by the fact that he also won the grand draw prize for a Whistler Blackcomb ski pass, which has been a mainstay of the event for well over a decade.
But this year Ryan is taking a pass on the event, as he did on the Four Kings race to train as a firefighter, leaving it wide open to other riders.
But while a lot of riders will be racing the course, a lot more will be taking their time as they enjoy the last mountain bike race of the season. In terms of distance it takes the top riders around 1:10 to finish, and most riders are done by the two-hour mark. If you can finish a Toonie Ride, you can finish the Wheel Up.
Registration on Saturday, Sept. 15 is from 10 a.m. to around 11:45 p.m. at Whistler Brewing, which is sponsoring the after-party. The race rolls out on the Millar Creek Trail at noon.
Riders head to Alta Lake Road and up Cardiac Hill before turning up Lower Sproatt. From there, the course follows Beaver Pond, Danimal North, Whip Me Snip Me, Rainbow Trail, Bob's ReBob and Get Over It before crossing Alta Lake Road onto short section of Emerald Forest. The final section is all of A River Runs Through It, which has been made easier recently with a new river bridge and ride-arounds on many wood features. The finish line is through the Rainbow Park parking lot to the road behind the washrooms.
The entry fee is $25 for WORCA members, and day-of-race licences are available for non-members. That includes a ticket to the prize draw, food, beer and fun at the somewhat legendary après race party.
All proceeds from the event go towards the B.C. Para-Alpine Ski Team, where organizer Phil Chew is the head coach.
"That goes towards bursaries to help the athletes out," said Chew. "They'll be making a few expensive ski trips to the U.S. chasing IPC (International Paralympic Committee) points. In the last 12 years this race has raised over $38,000 for the ski team."
Chew's goal is to get at least 150 riders out to ride/race this weekend.
"That would make it a really good fundraiser for us," he said. "Plus, it's September, it's still the month of pain. For all the diehard racers and Four Kings riders looking for another challenge, this is it. Now that there's no more Cheakamus Challenge, this is the last big local race of the season."
Chew is looking for a few more volunteers. If you can spare a few hours on Saturday, call 604-932-2110.