News of Kelly McGarry's death shocked mountain bikers around the world, and will be felt profoundly here in Whistler.
The legendary Crankworx rider died suddenly in his homeland of New Zealand after collapsing while riding on the Fernhill Loop track. The Rotorua Daily Post reported the 33-year-old, known as McGazza, suffered a cardiac arrest.
Local rider Katrina Strand was briefly roommates with McGarry when he lived in Whistler and noted that though it's a shock when anyone is gone at such a young age, it was particularly shocking to hear it about McGarry.
"Kelly was the unbreakable one," she said. "He had some crazy crashes and some gnarly injuries.
"He'd take risks. He had his crashes, but it never held him back when he came back as a rider, either.
"To hear about this happening to him is a shock. It would be a shock if it happened to anybody but, again, he's unbreakable."
The defining characteristics of McGarry that Strand said she'll remember most were his smile and positive attitude, which were always "genuine."
"He's such an icon in the sport. He's a larger-than-life person by his presence and the way that he looks and the way that he is," she said. "It's a huge loss for everyone that knows him but also for the mountain bike community.
"He was an inspiration on so many levels. Not just as a rider, but as a person."
Strand and fellow rider Claire Buchar are in the early stages of organizing a celebration of life for McGarry later this month. Strand expects a high turnout from the Sea to Sky region.
Local mountain biking pillar Seb Kemp is organizing a memorial ride in McGarry's honour this Saturday (Feb. 6) in Squamish. Those interested in riding are instructed to meet at 2 p.m. in the parking lot below Legacy Climb.
"The ride will be pretty mellow. It's a chance for everyone to get together," Kemp said. "On the way down, we'll be having a laugh and at the carpark, we'll be... recounting Kelly's escapades."
Being a place where McGarry spent a fair amount of his time, Kemp felt the Sea to Sky has a responsibility to him.
"(Whistler) was Kelly's second hometown. He had hometowns everywhere," Kemp said. "(In New Zealand), they're doing a really touching memorial ride on Friday. They're going to do a big ride and they're going to finish the ride on the run Kelly passed away on. That's a really popular jump spot that was Kelly's backyard. The casket's going to be there and will be a chance for people to see Kelly one last time.
"We wanted to do something that was in line with that."
Crankworx Events Inc. general manager Darren Kinnaird was audibly devastated at the news, and said the friendly and unflappable McGarry would be commemorated on the tour this year, though exact details are still to be determined after speaking with the rider's family and loved ones.
With just over a month to go until the second edition of Crankworx Rotorua kicks off in New Zealand, Kinnaird remembered the skilled trail-builder as a key component in the expansion to the southern hemisphere.
"He was a big part of why Rotorua made so much sense," he said. "The course that him and Tommy (business partner Tom Hey) built is one of the best in the world and the riders all love it.
"Barely over a month from now, the whole Crankworx community or family is going to be gathering in New Zealand and riding on Kelly's course."
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