Bike swap steps it up a notch 

High school team training to defend home turf

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There are many signs of spring in Whistler, from the retreating snow line to the blooming of swamp cabbage in every puddle and ditch. And then there's the annual WORCA bike swap.

This Saturday, the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association is hosting its swap from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Whistler Celebration Plaza behind the Marketplace - a new location with ample fencing (the asphalt is being torn up next week), wireless Internet to allow for online credit and debit card transactions, and it's close to the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

Having a bigger venue will make it easier for people to shop for used bikes, as well as for more separation between bikes and bike gear. There will be additional tills this year to speed up the inevitable lines. As well, various shop owners in town will set up tents to sell items like helmets and bike gloves, as well as their rental fleets.

"The big difference this year is that we were in touch with the (municipality) and VANOC beforehand and we had this window of opportunity to hold this event - the first community event on that space since the Paralympics," said WORCA spokesperson Vanessa Murphy. "Having more space is probably the biggest difference because it allows us to do a lot more, like allow businesses to come in."

The cost is $2 to sell an item at the WORCA bike swap, plus 10 per cent of any sale over $1,000 and 15 per cent of any sale of $999 or less. All the proceeds from the event - over $12,000 last year on $107,000 in total sales - will go towards the Whistler Secondary High School mountain bike team, which is competing at home in the provincial championships at the end of May, and eight weeks of WORCA's youth Dirt Camps. WORCA also organizes four youth Twoonie nights during the year for younger riders, providing food and refreshments.

Craig Mackenzie, WORCA's director of youth, has made the high school team a priority this season after taking part in B.C. Cup events last year and seeing the strong presence of Squamish athletes. He hopes that supporting the high school team - which is being coached by teacher Dori Faulkner, who helped set up the school and team programs in Squamish - will help Whistler to establish more of a presence at the provincial level.

"Mountain biking is a recognized high school sport and there's actually a race league with about six or seven races in the springtime," explained Mackenzie. "The last race is on May 12 in Whistler on a Wednesday afternoon, and on May 29 we're having the provincial high school championships here with anywhere from 400 to 600 high school riders in town that weekend. We want to be ready."

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