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WORCA set for 2003 season

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Mountain bike group focuses on youth programs

The schedule for the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association has been set, and it’s shaping up to be an even bigger year for the club than last year’s record-breaking season.

But first, a little good news and bad news. The good news is that the price of adult memberships has gone down to $15 and youth memberships to $10. The bad news is that the membership fee no longer includes insurance.

"Our usual insurers wouldn’t cover us basically because they’re getting out of mountain biking," explains WORCA president Mike Watton. "Most companies have dropped mountain biking as well, so we didn’t have a lot of choices coming into this year. Cycling B.C. was our only option, which is good in a way because they do support cycling in the province, but it’s also a little more expensive."

This year, WORCA will insure riders through a Cycling B.C. membership at a cost of $15 per member, almost triple what the previous coverage cost. That brought the cost of an average membership up to $30 for adults and $25 for youth.

If you’re only a WORCA member for the bike park discounts and to support trail advocacy and maintenance in the valley, and don’t participate in WORCA Loonie events or WORCA clinics, then you don’t have to buy a Cycling B.C. membership.

Similarly, if you already compete in B.C. Cup races and other Cycling B.C. events, your insurance will already be covered by your $80 race certification fee.

Another benefit of Cycling B.C. insurance is that it makes it easier for WORCA to host events on private property, like the Whistler-Blackcomb bike park, and it includes personal injury coverage.

"For some people the cost is going down, but for a lot of people it’s going up. We really hope that doesn’t turn anybody off," says Watton.

He points out that membership is still a good value, as WORCA will contribute more than $10,000 for trail maintenance this year. In addition, volunteer members will contribute thousands of volunteer hours to keep the trail network in shape.

Membership also means discounts at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and with participating merchants, entry into special clinics, and the ability to participate in the Thursday night Loonie Races, and Wednesday night Gravity series on Whistler Mountain.

Last year, WORCA’s membership topped out at 1,035, almost double the previous year. WORCA credits much of that growth to their ongoing partnership with Whistler-Blackcomb, and to growing community awareness of the organization.

"We’ve finally gotten away from the perception out there that WORCA is just a racing club,’ explains Watton. "Now when people think about WORCA, they think about all the trails out there that we maintain, all of our clinics, they know we do a lot of work with the big stakeholders in the resort, like Intrawest and the municipality…Now people that were never WORCA members before are signing up."

While the perception may have changed, the Loonie races are still popular – attendance at last year’s races was up by more than 60 per cent over the previous year.

And Watton is confident that there is still room to grow. Three more sponsors have lined up to host Loonie Races this year, which means a total of 21 events on the calendar this summer. The Loonie season started on May 1, and will wrap up on Sept. 18.

In conjunction with Whistler-Blackcomb, there will also be a Wednesday night Gravity Series in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park this season for WORCA members. The formats and courses will change from week to week, and the details are still being worked out.

In addition to an expanded race schedule, WORCA is focussing more on youth development this season, and has partnered with the Single Track Off Road Mountain Bike Club (STORMBC), to offer more programs and incentives to young riders in the community.

"I’d say the biggest change for WORCA this year, and the thing we’re probably most excited about is our emphasis on youth," says Watton. "We’ve had programs for a while, but we’ve always wanted to do more, and this year, because of the success of last year, we’re in a better position to do it."

Every second Loonie Race will include an Under 15 youth series component, with STORMBC riders and other kids from the community invited to participate.

For taking part in the races, and in other community initiatives, they can earn WORCA/STORMBC bucks, which can be used towards WORCA and STORMBC programs and clinics.

"They don’t just get the bucks for finishing in the top-three. If they stop in a race to help someone fix a flat, they’ll earn some bucks. If they volunteer in the community, in events like Pitch-in Day, they’ll earn bucks," says Watton.

"The goal is to gets kids out and riding and having fun. The more kids out there riding, the better."

One or two lucky youths could also benefit financially this year. An $8,000 grant-in-aid will go to one local contractor to maintain trails, and an additional $2,000 youth contract will go towards a young trail worker over the summer months. As well, WORCA will once again be hosting four youth clinics this summer under STORMBC’s certified coaches.

In addition to youth clinics, WORCA will continue to provide members with hucking clinics, freeride clinics and women only clinics.

On the trail front, WORCA is looking into a grant to do more work on A River Runs Through It, Whistler’s most popular trail with more than 14,000 rider visits in a three-month period last summer. Grants from community groups have already funded work on Train Wreck and the Emerald trail.

Dan Markle will continue work on his epic Foreplay/Secret Trail this season as the new suspension bridge over Wedge Creek is completed by the municipality. The bridge will make it possible to eventually link the two existing trail sections, tentatively called Foreplay and North Secret Trail, into a single 20-plus kilometre trail.

Regular trail maintenance nights will also be held throughout the season, starting with WORCA’s trail sweep day on May 4.

On the sweep day, volunteers from WORCA walk local trails and clear any logs or debris left lying on the trails after the winter season. More details on this annual event, which usually includes a pancake breakfast, are still to come.

Some dates to keep in mind this season:

First Loonie Race, hosted by Gone Bakery in Alpine – May 1

WORCA Bike Swap – May 3

WORCA Trail Sweep – May 4

WORCA calendars are available online at www.worca.com, or can be printed out for free at Jody’s Internet Café. You can also call the event hotline at 1-604-938-9893, or email info@worca.com.

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