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Whistler to host national mountain bike championships


Nationals part of week-long Whistler Summer Gravity Festival

Whistler is one step further in its quest to become the mountain bike capital of Canada with the announcement that the Tim Hortons Mountain Bike National Championships will be held here this summer, as part of a larger Whistler Summer Gravity Festival.

The decision to bring the nationals to Whistler is also very convenient for our local core of national champions and contenders, like juniors James Crowe and Brook Baker, and all the other West Coast riders who come here to train.

The events, which are scheduled from July 14 to 20, follow the third annual Tissot-UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Grouse Mountain on July 12 and 13, and should attract an all-star international field of athletes.

"The festival will attract top-calibre athletes from around the globe, while showcasing home-grown Canadian talent," said Rob McSkimming, director of sports programming for Whistler-Blackcomb. "With a full-blown program of competitive and entertainment events, the festival will be a draw not only for professional and amateur riders, but anyone who has a mountain bike or a taste for thrilling spectator events. And we are very excited about securing the Canadian Championships."

The festival is a joint effort between Whistler-Blackcomb, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Tourism Whistler.

The national championships are a defining event for Canadian riders, with the top athletes earning a berth in the world championships. The even attracts athletes like two-time world champion Roland Green of Victoria and Olympic silver-medallist Alison Sydor of Vancouver.

"This will be the event that the mountain biking community has been waiting for," said John Rae, manager of strategic alliances for the RMOW. "Whistler has made a substantial investment into mountain biking trails and recreational infrastructure throughout the resort and the Whistler Summer Gravity Festival will provide the opportunity to present our incredible mountain bike product to the world."

The roster of events includes:

• Joyride Bikercross – the third-annual Joyride Bikercross will feature World Cup athletes, like world champion Brian Lopes, and other big names from the sport. Locals are also welcome to compete in the age categories.

• Air Downhill – In its second year, this is a fast downhill race down Whistler Mountain’s A-Line, which is one of the most popular runs in the world.

• Slopestyle Expression Session – This event will feature the jumps and stunts from some of the top freeriders in the sport.

• World’s Biggest Loonie Race – The Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) is putting together a cross-country race for all ages and abilities.

• The Whistler Fat Tire Criterium – A dizzying race around the patio stones of Whistler Village with divisions for kids and adults.

• Trials Competition – The top trial riders in the region will be on hand to attempt to clear a challenging course set up at the base of the mountain.

To complement the racing, the festival will also feature clinics, performers, and daily bike shows in the village. The Ride With the Stars event allows members of the public to take a spin with World Cup stars, and there will be free daily concerts.

"The Summer Gravity Festival will truly put Whistler on the map as a year-round destination resort," says Barrett Fisher, vice president of marketing and sales for Tourism Whistler. "Whistler is known for its ski, snowboard and golf product, and now will come into its own as a mountain biking mecca."

Some of the proceeds from the event will also go towards trail maintenance, rider development, and trail advocacy programs in Whistler, as WORCA could receive up to $10,000 from the festival, dependent on how much is raised.