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While the perception may have changed, the Loonie races are still popular attendance at last years 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.
"Id say the biggest change for WORCA this year, and the thing were probably most excited about is our emphasis on youth," says Watton. "Weve had programs for a while, but weve always wanted to do more, and this year, because of the success of last year, were 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 dont just get the bucks for finishing in the top-three. If they stop in a race to help someone fix a flat, theyll earn some bucks. If they volunteer in the community, in events like Pitch-in Day, theyll 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 STORMBCs certified coaches.