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Green takes fifth Cheakamus Challenge

Kassel wins first Fall Classic With the driest course conditions in many years, the racers looked unusually clean coming through the finish line at the 20 th anniversary of the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race Saturday, Sept. 21.

Kassel wins first Fall Classic

With the driest course conditions in many years, the racers looked unusually clean coming through the finish line at the 20 th anniversary of the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race Saturday, Sept. 21.

Aside from a handful of DNF’s due to the heat and mechanical failures, the majority of riders finished the entire 71-kilometre race course, from Squamish Airport in Brackendale to the base of Whistler Mountain this year.

Not surprisingly, the overall Cheakamus pro expert men’s title went to Victoria’s Roland Green for a record fifth time.

The 28-year-old has had a remarkable season so far, winning the Commonwealth Games, the world relay title, and his second consecutive world championship title. Still, he says the Cheakamus Challenge was a nice way to round out the mountain bike season.

"I love this race, this is one of the great races," said Green, who completed the course in two hours, 48 minutes and 16 seconds – an average of more than 25 km/h.

According to Green, he started the day "pretty easy, strolling through the fast parts. Geoff (Kabush) and I just rode together for most of the day, we didn’t start racing until Microwave (Tower) road. I lost him somewhere on the climb, and just had a blast coming down," said Green. "The new route through the bike park was a lot of fun."

Green will be switching to his road bike for the next few weeks and he hopes to finish in the top 10 at the world championship time trials in Belgium on Oct. 10. After that he says he will take four or five weeks off the bike before getting back into training for next season.

"Overall I’m very happy with my season this year. My biggest goals were the world championships and the Commonwealth Games, and I achieved both of those.

"The World Cup races didn’t always go my way, but it’s a longer schedule next year with six races. I’d like to see even more in there. The way it is now, you can be on top in every race but if you can’t make every race for some reason, or you have a bad flat or break your bike, that could cost you the whole title.

"More races mean the overall title will go to the most consistent rider."

Green didn’t know if he would be around for the Cheakamus Challenge next season, but said he would race again in the future if he was able.

"It really is one of the oldest and best races around, and it’s not easy. Their numbers were down this year, but I’d like to see them go up again to where they were a few years ago with a thousand people out there," he said.

This year the field included more than 320 riders.

Victoria’s Kabush, the Canadian champion, finished the race in 2:53:11, less than five minutes back of Green. Ricky Federau of Abbotsford was third in 2:58:11.

Whistler’s Will Routley was the top local in the race, finishing fourth overall among the pro expert men in 3:04:45. As the top local, Routley received a $300 gift certificate from Nesters Market.

Other strong local performances came from Matt Bodkin, who was eighth overall, and Matt O-Keefe in 13 th .

In the women’s race, Whistler’s own Nikki Kassel was the top racer, coming in at 3:44:58.

Kassel had raced in five previous Cheakamus Challenge races, and was ecstatic to finally be on top.

"I’ve come in second place for the last three years," she said. "I finally won!"

Like Green, Kassel paced herself with a strong group of riders, including Carrie Tuck of Calgary, until she reached the final climb.

"Once I reached the wall by the Northwest Passage on Whistler, I knew I was going to do it. I knew the course so well after that, I just cruised down."

According to Kassel, the race felt easy this year after riding in the Samurai of Singletrack the previous week. Although the Samurai was 15 km shorter than the Cheakamus Challenge, she said all the technical riding made for a long day.

"The Samurai was fun, but the Cheakamus was more my style," she said. "I’ve been riding long hours all summer, and I love to climb. The conditions were perfect, and I just wanted it. I was tired of second."

Tuck finished second in 3:50:05.

Third and fourth place went to Angela Teng and Joanna Harrington of Whistler, with times of 4:09:59 and 4:21:32 respectively. Tonja Dwyer of Calgary was fifth in 4:46:13.

Several Whistler riders also finished on top of their competitive categories. Eric Crowe won the veteran expert men 35-plus category with his time of 3:14:12.

His son, James Crowe, won the junior expert men’s category in 3:19:42. Tyler West was fourth in the category in 3:33:57.

The junior men’s race went to Michael Harrington in 4:35:51.

Stuart Cook was on top of the beginner men’s race with a time of 4:01:58. Greg McDonnell was third in 4:09:19.

Dawn Weberg-Titus won the veteran 35-44 women’s race in 4:19:17.

Brenda Baker won the women’s 45-plus race in 5:19:12.

Her daughter, Canadian downhill champion Brook Baker, won the junior women’s race, unopposed, in 4:42:34.

Honourable mention went to Bart Nakano of Abbotsford, who finished the race with a single speed bike in 3:45:30.

Complete results for the 2002 Cheakamus Challenge are available from ten36 Race Timing at .