By Andrew Mitchell
After weeks of drought a coastal system finally delivered some much needed rain this past weekend, unfortunately coinciding with the 13 th annual West Side Wheel Up. Despite the colder weather and wet trail a field of 115 riders turned out to participate in one of Whistler’s oldest mountain bike races and support the B.C. Disabled Alpine Ski Team.
Despite the wet trails and slippery roots and stunts on A River Runs Through It the riding times were as fast as past years.
Dave Burch was the man to beat on Saturday, third out of the Millar Creek Trail connector to Function Junction and first onto the new singletrack section out of Lower Sproatt. He didn’t see another rider until A River Runs Through It, when he caught a glimpse of Matt Ryan at a corner where the course winds back on itself.
“I kind of new the long climb at the start was key to the win, but didn’t really have the goal to be at the top of the climb first,” he said. “I dug deep and kept a good high cadence and pushed hard, passed Matt and Kevin to be first into the singletrack.
“I was looking back, wondering how far back Aussie Matt was. Once I was in Stonebridge I looked back and couldn’t see anybody, which gave me a little confidence but I didn’t want to be overconfident.”
Burch lost his focus a little in River, bumping into a few trees, but pulled it together to be the first rider back on Alta Lake Road sprinting to the finish line. He made it in one hour, one minute and 43 seconds, about 20 seconds ahead of Ryan.
“It was so much fun,” he said. “I’m just honoured to be on the trophy with all these great locals. There were 11 different names on there from 12 different years, nobody has won it twice. Such great riders, too, like Kevin Phelps, Rolo (Paul Rawlinson), Chad Miles, Lucas (Curran), Aussie Matt, Dre (Andreas Hestler) — all the hardcore riders.”
Burch will ride the Samurai of Singletrack this weekend and the Cheakamus Challenge the following week, but has no intention of going for the triple crown.
“I’ve got a couple of hours in me in terms of just give’n’er, but guys like Dre and Matt, those guys can chug along at top speed for five and six hours.”
To date nobody has broken the one hour mark, although Hestler came close last year in 1:00:15.
Joanna Harrington won the women’s race for the second straight year in 1:17:30, shaving two minutes off her time from last year despite the wetter conditions.
Nick Geddes was the top junior in 1:28:11.
Organizer Phil Chew was hoping to get 150 riders out this year, but concedes that the weather probably thwarted his plans. Even so, he says the group raised about $2,500 for the B.C. Disabled Ski Team after costs were covered. He hopes to get higher numbers next year, with some better weather, and a few more sponsors to help cover costs.
“I think some riders probably got up in the morning, looked out the window and decided they didn’t want to come,” said Chew. “But the hardcore locals still came, the same that come every year. So I’m generally quite pleased, and I think the race ran quite smoothly.”