Usually races are about who's fittest and fastest, but the Four Kings — the last in a trilogy of racess organized by Tony Horn — was not about that. The trails and formats for the four stages were created to be a true test of riding skill, to see who could get through some of the toughest trails in Whistler the most efficiently. Speed mattered but riding skills mattered more.
The final results, controversial for a few riders, tell Horn that the format succeeded.
"The final winners were Seb Kemp and Sylvie Allen, but I have to give props to Greg Grant and Katrina Strand who were basically co-winners. It was really close," said Horn.
Any debate about the results is strictly academic. There was no prize money or prizes, just a paper crown. Bragging rights are the only thing that the winners can claim, but even bragging is out of tune with the spirit of the event. It was a personal test that most of the riders who set out on Friday night passed, aside from a few who had to pull out with damaged bikes and injuries.
If anything, Horn said, the results show that the event succeeded in its goal of recognizing riding skill.
"This is the best way to describe it," he said. "Greg Grant is a really fast cross-country rider who rides everything fast and well; he rides singletrack and the park. Seb Kemp is the opposite, he's a downhiller who's really fit and can ride trails really fast. Greg would probably beat Seb in the Test of Metal, and Seb would probably beat Greg in a Phat Wednesday race. In the end I was happy to see that the top 10 was pretty evenly divided, with five really good cross-country riders and five really good downhillers."
The final results were posted online at www.worca.com early Wednesday morning after Horn worked to resolve a timing/mapping issue that threw Stage 3 — a timed climb up Yummy Nummy followed by a timed descent of Foreplay — into confusion. That's because Horn was testing a new technology for the event, using FLAIK GPS transceivers to time riders between checkpoints rather than traditional timing gear. That technology made Stage 4 possible, with nine separately timed stages.
The riders were not ranked based on gross time but on their finish position in each race. First place was worth 0.75 points, second worth two points, and so on. The lowest score wins.
The first stage was an after dark time trial in Lost Lake Park with 18km of trail. Stage two was a downhill on some challenging, rocky trails. Stage three was a timed climbed and timed descent on Yummy Nummy/Foreplay. Stage four was an epic 48km ride around Whistler with nine separately timed sections. Riders could use just one bike with one set of tires for all of the stages.
On the women's side, Sylvie Allen was given first place on the first stage, second on the second stage and first on the next two stages to finish with 4.25 points. Katrina Strand was second on three stages and first on the second stage to finish with 6.75. There's some question over whether timing was off on part of the final stage, and if it was then the two riders would have tied with 5.5 points apiece. Paige Bell was third with 14.
The men's results were extremely close, and in some cases the winners of individual stages didn't even place in the top 10.
Seb Kemp finished second on stage four, third on stage two, seventh on stage three and eighth on the first stage to finish with 20 points. Greg Grant won the final stage, was fourth on the first stage, sixth on the third stage and 10th on the second stage to place a close second with 20.75. Jesse Melamed placed third with 25.75 points, but had a good chance of winning the overall before he crashed in the last 20 metres of the second stage and placed 18th. He continued to ride with stitches in his arm and won the third stage, but he was too far back to rebound.
"This is the best format race I've ever done," said Kemp at the finish on Sunday. "I rode with so many different people today, we chatted, we rode. The spectators were awesome, the girls (cheering on the riders) were awesome, and the volunteers were all over the course keeping the vibe going. All the courses were awesome, it was a true Whistler race."
Kemp broke his foot back in May and was told he probably shouldn't race again this year. But when he heard about the Four Kings he signed up immediately, and managed to squeeze in about three weeks of riding to get ready. "I just knew I had to get better for this. I aimed for it, and it sped up my recovery as I worked towards that goal," he said.
Grant also gave the race high marks. "This was the best race I've ever done for sure, it was just awesome," he said. "I liked every stage, every trail."
Horn thanked all the volunteers and spectators that came out to the event.
"Really, everybody went above and beyond," he said.
"A lot of the guys really stepped up to cheer on the Charlie's Angels event, and I think that came back to them because the girls came out to cheer them on.
"It sucks about some of the issues we had with timing and that some people feel shortchanged, but the same people have also said to me that it was the funnest race they've ever done."
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