For years the West Side Wheel Up was the first big bike event in September's Month of Pain, but this year with a later date and no Cheakamus Challenge it's both the next and last big thing.
Taking place this Saturday, Sept. 17, the Wheel Up is a race/ride that used to be on the tough side, but with new trail sections and trailwork it's now the kind of ride that almost any intermediate rider can do. It's blue squares for the most part with a few black diamond sections along the way.
The ride starts on the Millar Creek trail in Function Junction before climbing up Cardiac Hill to the BC Hydro road that connects to Lower Sproatt. After the Lower Sproatt climb and descent the course heads out to Beaver Pond and Danimal North before climbing again on Whip Me Snip Me. After crossing the Rainbow bridge and descending another section of Rainbow Flank the course follows Bob's ReBob and the new Get Over It connector trail. After that it's a small section of Emerald Forest that's had some work recently, linking up to A River Runs Through It. River is also a bit easier than in the past with a new river bridge and trails around most of the wood features.
The fastest riders complete the trail in just over an hour in good conditions.
The sign-on is at Whistler Brewing in Function Junction starting at 10 a.m., rolling out to Millar Creek trail just before the noon start. The cost is $25 to take part, with all of the proceeds going towards the B.C. Para-Alpine Ski Team.
"The money goes to young skiers like Josh Dueck, who started with the B.C. Team and went on to win a silver medal for Canada at the Paralympics," said race director Phil Chew, who coaches the provincial team. Last year two of his athletes moved up to the national level and this winter he'll be working with another four athletes that have national team potential in the near future.
Chew took over the race in 2000, when race found Les Clare was injured in a construction accident and became paralyzed. That year proceeds from the event went to Clare and his family to help in his recovery, but for subsequent races Clare asked that the proceeds go towards the para-alpine team.
Clare himself will be on hand to celebrate what will be the 18th running of the Wheel Up, which is now the longest running cross-country event in Whistler.
The entry fee includes the race, post-race barbecue, refreshments and a ticket to the raffle. The prize draw includes a Whistler Blackcomb seasons pass, and dozens of gift certificates and other items donated by local stores, restaurants and hotels.
You need to be a member of WORCA to take part, but one-day race insurance is available for $15 for non-members.
The total distance is around 12km, which is less than the Betty vs. Veronica race said Chew. It's only slightly longer than the average Toonie Ride.
Matt Ryan has won the men's race the last four years, last year finishing the longer course (with Get Over It and the section of Emerald Forest added) in 1:09:36. Brandi Heisterman was the top female racer in 1:22:40.