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Wheel Up turns 20

Classic cross-country race on Sept. 14 all about fun and raising funds

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There is so much to love about the annual West Side Wheel Up, which turns 20 this year on Saturday, Sept. 14:

For one thing, the iconic log-and-assorted-bike-parts trophy has all the names of past winners Sharpie'ed onto the side, and is a piece of local mountain history — a who's-who of the Whistler Mountain bike scene for two decades. The top male and female racers also gets custom tie-dyed shirts that are one-of-a-kind.

For another, the top draw prize is always a season's pass to Whistler Blackcomb, which is worth between $1,249 and $1,589, and maybe more if you miss the early bird pricing. That's one of the most valuable prizes at any amateur mountain bike event in the entire corridor, and anyone can win it — or the other draw prizes donated by local businesses.

Another thing to love is the course. Whistler's west side has become one of the most popular places to ride with huge upgrades to the trails, and the West Side Wheel Up hits all the best trails on that side of the resort. The length is about a Toonie Ride and a half, and anybody can do it. The top riders used to take around an hour and 10 minutes to finish the most recent course design, but the course will change again this year as a result of private property claims over one section at the beginning.

The course will include Beaver Pond, Danimal, Whip Me Snip Me, Rainbow Trail, Bob's Rebob, Get Over it, a section of Emerald Forest and A River Runs Through It in its entirety to the uphill finish near Rainbow Park.

The after-party is also one of the best of the season, with burgers, beer, a DJ and more with a chance to cool off in Alta Lake if it's a hot afternoon.

It's also a race with some heart. Paralympic skier and para-alpine coach Phil Chew took over the race 12 years ago after founder Les Clare was paralyzed in a roofing accident. That year members of the mountain bike community raised over $6,000 to help with Clare's recovery.

After that year, Clare asked that Chew donate the proceeds from the event to the B.C. Para-Alpine Ski Team.

"Throughout the years to right now, about 40 per cent of the national para-alpine ski team has come from B.C., and all of them in the last few years have had some support through the Wheel Up," said Chew. "We've been able to give athletes bursaries to help with their costs. And when we started doing this we didn't have much equipment for the team so we were able to buy some equipment as well, but most of it has been given out in bursaries."In 11 years, Chew says over $40,000 has been raised for the para-alpine team.

This year's race is on Saturday, Sept. 14. Registration is at Whistler Brewing in Function Junction from 10 a.m. to noon, with the race getting underway at noon on the old Millar Creek Trail. Entry fees are $25, which includes race day insurance, the barbecue and beverages after the race and a ticket to the prize draw. If you would like to donate to the 20th anniversary prize draw or volunteer for the event, contact Phil Chew at pchew@telus.net.

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