Ryan, Allen top Four Jacks 

Four stage race puts mountain bike skills to the test

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Some riders prefer to ride the bike park. Others like nothing better than to strap on a three-litre hydration pack and spend hours going up and down mountains.

There was something of everything in the inaugural Four Jacks race, a WORCA-sanctioned event designed to test every style of mountain bike riding over four unique stages.

When all was said and done, Matt Ryan came out ahead with wins on the first and third stages, a top-10 result in the downhill and a fourth place finish on the final day. He was actually first to the finish line of the short, technical course, but Matt Bodkin stole the stage win by cleaning all of the challenges on course to gain four minutes on Ryan.

"It was a typical Tony Horn stage race, ranging from euphoria to hatred," he joked.

Ryan's favourite stage was the downhill, from the top of Garbanzo to the lower part of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. "I wasn't the fastest on that stage out of pure terror. I hung back and just tried to keep it tight and not flat or have a mechanical, and actually had a really fun ride. All the stages were good, but if I had to pick a favourite that would be it."

Not only did the Four Jacks test all-around riding ability, it also forced riders to do everything on a single bike. No changes to tires, pedals, or other gear was allowed.

That forced Ryan to do a complete rebuild of his front forks before the second stage after they locked up followed the first stage, the Toonie Ride on July 9.

The final stage also posed a challenge. Ryan found himself riding with Greg Grant in the no-flow zone around Emerald Estates, wondering if it was better to go for time or try to make all the special challenges along the way like skinny bridges and extremely technical uphill climbs. They finished within a few seconds of each other, but both missed challenges and allowed Matt Bodkin to win the day.

"It was definitely different... to go fast and try to put yourself out of reach or save your energy and try to get all the bonuses," he said.

Sylvie Allen was the top female rider and came away with the lowest point total of any racer. Riders in the Four Jacks were not ranked by time but by their finish position on each stage. Stage winners were give 0.75 points, second place two points, third place three points, and so on, and the rider with the lowest combined score placed first overall.

Allen was third on the first day, then won the next three stages to finish with 5.25 points.

"I pre-rode all the trails so I would know them really well, which was really important today," said Allen after completing the fourth stage. "I also tried to guess where the bonus lines were going to be, and I was right about a few of them."

Allen enjoyed all the stages, although she probably rode more of the Flank Trail on Saturday than ever before. "I liked all the trails except for the Flank climbs," she said. "I think we pretty much covered the entire Flank."

While having to ride a stock bike posed a few challenges, the only thing Allen changed day-to-day was her air pressure. Riding tubeless allowed her to lower her pressure on the downhill and final stage without risking pinch flats.

"I think that was key for a lot of people," she said. One rider she spoke to had eight flats over four days.

The youngest rider on the course was Jesse Melamed, 17. Melamed placed 21 st out of 96 men in the race, despite a flat on the downhill that put him in 86 th place on the day. In the other three stages he placed in the top-10, including seventh on the first day and ninth on the final two days.

"It was good, but brutal, exhausting, excruciating," said Melamed at the finish line on the final stage.

"My favourite stage was the first stage, definitely, it was a really good race for me. There was a lot of uphill at the start, then a lot of ripping downhill. I also liked the last day of riding. It's definitely my style of riding but after three days it was a lot tougher. My legs felt pretty dead."

Melamed still has a lot of racing ahead this season including the B.C. Cup this weekend, the Gearjammer in Squamish, and every local race between now and the end of the season.

Next year, his last as a junior, he plans to make the trip to Quebec to compete at the nationals and possibly ride in the world championships.

Race director Tony Horn was exhausted by the end of the weekend, but happy with how everything worked out.

"I think everybody was pretty stoked on the format," he said. "Even if someone had a bad mechanical it still allowed them to get back to where they should be in the rankings, more or less. (The one bike rule) really got people to think, and I know people are already thinking what they might do differently.

"It was also neat to see that the people who like riding together all finished around the same time. For some people just to finish was a big deal."

As for whether there is going to be another Four Jacks race next year, Horn isn't committing to anything. "No comment," he said.

Stage One (Jack Tripper): The first stage was the time trial Toonie Ride hosted by Slopeside Supply and Samurai Sushi. It was just over 10 km long and included a selection of West Side trails like Lower Sproatt, Danimal North, Bob's Rebob and Get Over It. On the men's side, the top five riders were Matt Ryan, Dave Burch, Mike Boehm, Greg Grant and Dylan Wolsky. Fanny Paquette was the top female, followed by Kristin Johnston, Sylvie Allen, Robin O'Neill and Katrina Strand.

Stage Two (Jack Daniels): The second stage was a downhill from the top of Garbanzo to the lower part of the bike park, with a vertical drop close to 1,000 metres. Tyler Morland was the top male in that race - riding a Chromag hardtail with a five-inch front fork - followed by Kevin Phelps on his Chromag hardtail. The next three riders were James McSkimming, Matt Juhasz and Seb Kemp. Sylvie Allen won the women's race, followed by Katrina Strand, Gloria Addario, Kari Mancer and Fanny Paquette.

Stage Three (Jack Nicholson): This was the long day, weighing in over 35.5 km including several thousand metres of climbing on the Flank Trail, as well as some of the tougher descents to the valley. Matt Ryan was first by a solid gap, followed by Kevin Phelps, Dave Burch, Greg Grant and Mike Boehm. The top riders finished in just under two hours. On the women's side it was Sylvie Allen, followed by Katrina Strand and Paige Bell (tie), Fanny Paquette and Nicole Heisterman.

Stage Four (Jack The Ripper): While this was the shortest day at 8.5 km it was also the most technically challenging with trails like Shit Happens, Anal Intruder, Big Kahuna, Section 102 and Trial and Error. There were up to 18 minutes in time bonuses and penalties - bonuses for riding difficult routes, penalties for not riding hard routes. Matt Ryan and Greg Grant were first and second for time but it was Matt Bodkin who won the stage with 18 minutes in bonuses. Greg Grant was second, Kevin Phelps - also earning 18 minutes - was third, Matt Ryan fourth and Dave Burch fifth.

Sylvie Allen was the top female rider, followed by Nicole Heisterman (11 minutes in bonus time), Katrina Strand, Fanny Paquette and Paige Bell.

Overall Men:

1. Matt Ryan - 13.5 points

2. Dave Burch - 24

2. Kevin Phelps - 24

4. Chris Johnston - 29

5. Greg Grant - 36

5. Dylan Wolsky - 36

7. James McSkimming - 29

8. Oliver Kristevic - 55

9. Paul Stevens - 61

10. Greg McDonnell - 63

Overall Women:

1. Sylvie Allen - 5.25

2. Fanny Paquette - 12.75

3. Katrina Strand - 12

4. Nicole Heisterman - 22

5. Paige Bell - 25

6. Robin O'Neill - 27

7. Lynda Cowan - 36

7. Gloria Addario - 36

9. Lisa Korthals - 37

10. Marla Zucht - 47

The Winning Bikes:

Bike and component choice was part of the overall strategy in the Four Jacks race, and there was even doping control to check bikes at the end of every stage to make sure everything was the same as when the riders registered.

Matt Ryan was riding a Specialized Stumpjumper with a 2.2 Captain tire up front and a 2.0 Captain on the back. Both were tubeless, and could run at lower pressure on the technical days.

He also switched up his disk brakes to the newest Magura line, and put a seven inch rotor up front and a six inch in the back.

One change - which Ryan said was key to his ride - was the use of a Crank Brothers Joplin adjustable seat post with a remote that allowed him to adjust his height on the fly. "I used that all the time," he said.

Sylvie Allen was riding a stock Norco Fluid with some fatter tires - a 2.35 Maxxis Minion up front and a 2.35 High Roller in the back. She went tubeless on both, and made it through the entire ride without a single flat - which was just as well as the only replacement tube she brought with her had a hole in it.

Her secret was to lower her air pressure for the downhill and for stage four, which takes place on the rockiest, most rugged terrain in Whistler. That's why they call it the no-flow zone.

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