In the beginning, the West Side Wheel Up was all about fun - a chance for local mountain bike riders to get together and race some of the tough west side trails at the end of the season.
That changed in 2000 when race founder Les Claire was injured during a construction accident, and that year's race was held as a fundraiser for Claire and his family. The next year Claire gave Phil Chew the nod to host the event as a fundraiser for the B.C. Para Alpine Ski Team, which assists young disabled ski racers in achieving their dreams of racing for Canada in the Paralympics.
It's that legacy that Chew wants people to keep in mind heading into the 17 th annual West Side Wheel Up taking place Saturday, Sept. 4.
"Some people don't realize that funds from the Wheel Up are helping the B.C. Para Alpine Ski Team, and that over the years it's helped to fund programs that have given athletes with disabilities a better chance of fulfilling their dreams," said Chew.
Some local examples include Josh Dueck, a silver medallist in the 2010 Paralympic Games. Dueck took part in the first Build Our Best camp hosted six years ago by Phil Chew using Wheel Up funds. Other funds have gone towards Paralympic athletes like Sam Danniels, Matt Hallat and Morgan Perrin.
"We're used to running programs on a shoestring, so that money goes a long way," said Chew.
Registration for the ride takes place at Whistler Brewing in Function Junction from 10 a.m. to just before noon, when riders will head out to the start line. The race gets underway at noon.
The course includes the old Millar Creek Road to Alta Lake Road, a climb up Cardiac Hill to the Lower Sproatt and Beaver Pond trails. This year, due to construction in Stonebridge, the course will head down Danimal North, instead of Beaver Pass, and then up Whip Me Snip Me to the Rainbow bridge and the trail leading to Bob's Rebob. After Rebob riders will head back up Get Over It to the Alta Lake Road crossing. After that it's a small section of the Emerald Forest, followed by A River Runs Through It in its entirety. In length it's about a Toonie Ride and a half, and will take the average rider an hour-and-a-half to 1:45 to finish.
The cost is $25 to register, which includes the post-race barbecue sponsored by Nesters Market, Creekside Market and the Village Grocery Store, and refreshments by Whistler Brewing. As well, all participants get a ticket to the raffle, which includes prizes like a dual mountain season pass donated by Whistler Blackcomb, a hotel room donated by the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and thousands of dollars in prizes donated by local shops and restaurants.
The after-party is in the forest above Rainbow Park. There will be shelter if it rains - although at press time the forecast was for sun and 20 degrees.
Chew's goal is to get at least 150 riders to race, which would raise roughly $5,000 for the para-alpine ski team.