Westside Wheel Up keeping cool 

Annual race supports athletes in the region

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY ERIC MACKENZIE - on the west side Dave Burch is shown winning a past Westside Wheel Up. The race returns Sept. 19.
  • File photo by Eric MacKenzie
  • on the west side Dave Burch is shown winning a past Westside Wheel Up. The race returns Sept. 19.

When the Westside Wheel Up began 22 years ago, it had a bit of an edge to it.

The event, branded as "Whistler's coolest mountain bike race," was started as a response to the now-defunct Cheakamus Challenge and has lived on to this day.

During a visit to Pique's offices, organizer Phil Chew stressed that the race still maintains that slightly offbeat aura, with this year's poster incorporating a skull and a rider making the rockin' devil horns gesture.

"It was an anti-Cheakamus Challenge (race), because Cheakamus Challenge was so organized," Chew said. "It was an anti-establishment race, and it has been (since)."

Even with the admitted attitude, Chew — who retired as the B.C. Para-Alpine Team head coach in 2014 — explained the race is put on for a good cause. Half the proceeds go to bursaries for the team's athletes while the remainder is split between the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) and the Whistler Cycling Club (WCC) to help spread the benefits around the community.

"I still wanted to keep helping out athletes with disabilities," he said. "We give (the bursaries) to those who need it. Depending on how many that is, (the money) will be split between them."

Chew said the race typically raises between $3,000 and $5,000, with most falling right in the middle at $4,000.

Though the number of participants has topped out around 120, he feels there is still growth after all these years.

"I see no reason why we can't have 200 riders. We're set up for 200 riders. If we could have 150, that would be great, but if we could get up to the 200-rider zone, which I think is possible, it would be a great fundraising event," he said.

This year's race is slated for Saturday, Sept. 19 at noon. Registration begins at 10 a.m. at the Whistler Brewing Company in Function Junction. Riders then traverse Westside trails before ending up at Rainbow Park for an après.

"The last of the trails is A River Runs Through it, which then pops out at Rainbow Park and the finish line is in the trees there," Chew said. "We have a nice site for a party. We've been able to have the same place for 22 years."

At the park, there will be volunteers selling raffle tickets for prime prizes like a Whistler Blackcomb ski pass or a night at the Edgewater Lodge. In all, over $5,000 worth of loot will be given out.

"This has been our busiest summer ever and everyone seems to be very gracious with their prizes," he said.

Registration is $25 and includes one raffle ticket, though additional tickets come at a price of one for $5 or three for $10. Riders must hold a WORCA membership.

Those looking to volunteer or sponsor the race can contact Chew at 604-932-2110.



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