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Xterra organizers excited about Lost Lake course

Goal was to make event less technical, more inclusive for mountain bike stage



Whistler has a wide selection of lakes and an abundance of cross-country mountain bike and running trails, but for the purposes of an off-road triathlon it was always difficult finding a route.

Alta Lake is the best lake for an Olympic-distance 1,500 metre swim course, but the trails on Whistler's west side used by Xterra Canadian Championships the past two years have been on the challenging side for riders from outside the corridor.

Alpha Lake is too shallow for a full course, while Lost Lake was always considered too small.

However, race director Keith Nicoll wanted to host the most inclusive event possible when the off-road triathlon series returns on July 21-22, and for that the natural choice is Lost Lake.

"Every Xterra I've ever done the riding was more cross-country, to the point where almost anybody could do it," he said. "We would get people in their late 40s to mid 60s, and it was fine for them. The faster guys would make it harder on themselves by going faster and pushing it, but the routes were always a little less technical while still providing a challenge.

"We get a lot of people at those events that don't do the kind of riding we have here, and were scared off by (A River Runs Through It in last year's course). The question was where can you go in Whistler to make a course that an average rider can do, and the obvious answer was the whole Lost Lake area and the Zappa Trails."

Creating an inclusive event is also a big part of the reason why organizers are hosting additional events in addition to sprint and challenge distance triathlons. There are two distances for the duathlon (running, biking and running) for athletes that don't have wet suits or feel comfortable swimming in a triathlon; there's a 10km trail run; there's even a short distance kids race where the swim leg takes place in shallow water off the Lost Lake beach with no actual swimming required. As yet another option, athletes can opt to enter a team of two or three into the relay category, racing on the challenge-distance course.

The 10km run and duathlon take place on Saturday, July 21.

The full duathlon starts off with an almost 5km trail run, followed by two laps of the almost 13km bike course, followed by another lap of the run course. The sport duathlon distances are half that.

On Sunday, July 22, the championships triathlon features a roughly 1,500 swim around the docks on Lost Lake, two laps of the bike course and a nearly 10km trail run. The sport triathlon includes a 750-metre swim, one lap of the bike course and a roughly 5km trail run.

Off-road triathlons don't use exact distances, but adapt courses to the terrain with an eye on how long it will take the athletes.

Following the triathlon there will be a kid's triathlon featuring a 50-metre swim (shallow water off Lost Lake beach that kids can run) followed by a short bike race and trail run through the park. The entry fee for that event is $10, with the proceeds going towards the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association.

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Nicoll said registration is going strong for this year's event and 170 had registered by the start of the week. With the new course, Nicoll hopes that more last minute racers will sign on.

So far the field includes racers from as far away as Newfoundland and Ontario, and Washington State, although the majority are from the North Shore through Pemberton.

With a new location, and no championship status, Nicoll said it's a building year that he plans to develop for the long-term as an annual event.

"I think a lot of people and the municipality especially see the potential in this at the new location, and we're really pleased with all the feedback and support we've been getting," he said.