The longest ride 

Cheakamus Challenge turns 20 but remains original

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Since the beginning in 1989 the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic has always been a race/ride that tests your fitness, skill and sanity.

It's long - at just over 70 km it's the longest one-day race in Sea to Sky. It's also tough, with close to 2,000 metres of climbing from start to finish, and most of that in the second half of the ride. What it lacks in technical riding (although the Cheakamus Canyon remains challenging to clean and more singletrack has been added over the years) it makes up for in sheer size.

The race starts at Squamish Airport in Brackendale and follows a series of roads to an old gravel trail that leads, eventually, to Highway 99. The route follows the highway briefly before going off-road again on a mix of doubletrack roads on both sides of the highway that lead, eventually, to the outskirts of Whistler. That's where the ride begins in earnest as a new section of the Sea to Sky Trail brings riders to the Whistler Interpretive Forest and the longest climbs and descents of the race - up Crater Rim trail and Upper Riverside, then down the Black Tusk Road to Lower Riverside, followed by a climb that includes Farside, the Highline Trail and a steep section of the Microwave Tower Road.

After that riders head down Tunnel Vision, a black diamond section of singletrack added to the course six years ago. After that it's the home stretch with another climb up Kadenwood Road to Big Timber, a technical descent that eventually brings riders to the finish line in Creekside.

The race has gone through many changes over the years as alternatives to roads have opened up and new sections of the Sea to Sky Trail have been completed. Obstacles have also come and gone, including a disgruntled landowner to the south of Whistler who made his mark in the '90s by dumping metal on the course to flat tires and blocking the trail.

In short, it's a race with a long, glorious, entertaining and sometimes bizarre history.

"It all started with Doris Burma who ran a race for a number of years called See Colours and Puke, because it was so hard - and then I made it harder," said Grant Lamont, who created the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic in 1989 after See Colours and Puke fell by the wayside. Lamont had been involved staging the cycling portion of Ironman, and was convinced by some friends that he should take over.

The first year there were just 80 riders, and it grew from there until there were close to 1,000 riders in the race after 10 years. Since then it's shrunk to a "more manageable" 300 to 400 riders each year, plus a shorter Cheakamus Lite course that tackles the last 40 km of the race course.

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