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Hestler edges Routley in Cheakamus epic

Sydor top female in event’s 20 th anniversary The 20 th annual Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic put the gears to the riders, with average times 20 to 40 minutes slower for many riders than previous years.

Sydor top female in event’s 20 th anniversary

The 20 th annual Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic put the gears to the riders, with average times 20 to 40 minutes slower for many riders than previous years.

Most of the credit was due to the addition of the Trash mountain bike trail to the course, adding a moderately technical – and unfortunately wet – leg of singletrack to the race.

For many participants, it was the breaking point. More than 60 participants were forced to drop out of the race after missing the three-and-a-half hour cutoff mark before the climb up the Riverside trails to the Microwave Tower Road.

Still, for the people up front, it was the best ride yet.

"Loved it," said Andreas Hestler, elite racer and 2003 Cheakamus Challenge champion.

"It was the best course I’ve ever done here. I was talking with Will (Routley) out there about people who always said that this race wasn’t technical enough – that should take care of them."

Hestler finished the race in three hours, eight minutes and 2.67 seconds, averaging more than 23 kilometres an hour.

By way of comparison, the three fastest times of last year were under three hours.

Both Hestler and Routley ride for the Rocky Mountain-Crystal Decisions team and worked together on the trails and road sections to stay in front. Their closest challenger was junior phenom Max Plaxton, who finished fourth in the world championships this year and was part of the bronze medal-winning Canadian relay team.

"We wanted a Rocky Mountain win, so we really put the hurt on Plaxton on the road section," said Hestler.

Hestler and Routley were together until the mid-way point of Trash, when Hestler pulled ahead slightly. The next time he saw Routley, the 20-year-old Whistler rider was one switchback behind him on the climb up the Riverside trails.

"He was maybe 10 to 15 seconds back at that point, so I was like ‘uh-oh’, and just gave it everything I had," said Hestler, who divides his time between North Vancouver and Whistler. "I felt good all the way up the Microwave Tower Road, and stayed in the middle ring the whole way up."

Hestler was on his own after that point, and cruised through the rest of the course, up Northwest Passage and down the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. The riders came down Easy Does It, before riding Heart of Darkness to the bottom.

For Hestler, a three-time national champion and two-time Canada Cup champion, winning the Cheakamus Challenge was definitely on his list of things to do.

"I’ve probably started this race six times, and blown up four times," he said. "I’ve only finished it twice. You could say I’ve had a personal battle going on with the Cheakamus Challenge."

Just two minutes later, Routley pulled up to the finish line in 3:10:03, and shook hands with his teammate.

"I was getting tired on the climb and my muscles were a little twitchy. I couldn’t keep it up," said Routley.

"It feels good to be second, and to be so close to the lead. It was my best Cheakamus race, that’s for sure, and a pretty good way to end the season. I still have some riding to do, but it’s more the fun races like the Samurai (of Singletrack)."

According to Routley, he and Hestler shared the work on the road sections, taking turns at the front while the other drafted. He was frustrated when he lost Hestler in Trash, and said he did his best to catch up even though his muscles were acting up.

"I never really gave up, but it was tough," he said. "It was all I could do today."

Just Mark of Port Moody was third across the line in 3:22.52.

Canadian mountain bike legend Alison Sydor succeeded in crossing the finish line fourth after pulling ahead of Plaxton. Her time of 3:23:10 was more than 45 minutes faster than the next elite racer, Whistler’s Angela Teng.

"I tipped over at one point, but the new singletrack was pretty fun," said a muddy and bloody Sydor, pointing to her knee.

"After hammering hard for an hour and 45 minutes, it was definitely a challenge, but I think this course gets better and better every year."

Sydor said she believes the Cheakamus Challenge rivals any races on the World Cup marathon mountain bike race series, and hopes that the event will become part of the international marathon circuit in the future.

As for strategy, Sydor stuck with the same game plan that has already won her four Cheakamus Challenge titles:

"Every year it’s the same. I push myself hard through the canyon, and try to come out of it with a good group of guys on the road section. If that goes well I’m usually in a good position by the time we get back on dirt, and I just go hard and ride my own race until the end."

Although it is competitive, Sydor says it is still one of the most fun races she participates in.

"It’s great riding together, all the guys and the girls, with everybody supporting each other. You don’t get that in any other race."

Plaxton finished in fifth place, exhausted after riding most of the road section himself.

"I thought they’d wait up," joked Plaxton, referring to Routley and Hestler. "I would have waited for them."

Plaxton said he was just happy to be finished his last race of the season, and to be able to take some time off from riding.

Dozens of Whistler riders took part in the race, many of them winning their divisions. In addition to Routley’s silver, Lesley Clemens, Meredith Armstrong, Angela Teng, Joanna Harrington, James Crowe, Eric Crowe, Steve Turner, Joe Maika, Keith Ray, Matt Bodkin and Tony Routley all finished in the top-three in their categories.

The full results for the Cheakamus Challenge are available online at

Women Under 15

1. Alyssa Garrison, North Vancouver – 5:46:56

Women Sr. Sport

1. Lesley Clemens, Whistler – 4:20:53

2. Maelle Ricker, Whistler – 4:23:49

3. Hillary Harrison, Crystal Mtn. – 4:30:31

5. Vanessa Stark, Whistler – 4:48:02

Women Sr. Expert

1. Ashleigh Miller, North Van. – 4:35:11

Women Pro-Elite

1. Alison Sydor, North Van. – 3:23:10

2. Angela Teng, Whistler – 4:09:41

3. Joanna Harrington, Whistler – 4:25:22

Women Sport 30-Plus

1. Meredith Armstrong, Whistler – 4:51:14

2. Melanie Lewis, Duvall – 4:54:02

3. Mariah Sederholm, Squamish – 4:54:38

6. Sue Price, Whistler – 5:04:48

8. Tanya Reck-Peterson – 5:17:13

Women Expert 30-Plus

1. Kathleen Negraeff, Vancouver – 4:44:09

Men Under 15

1. Matt Potma, Coquitlam – 5:00:37

2. Maxwell Barnard – 5:21:11

Men Under 17 Expert

1. James Crowe, Whistler – 3:48:03

2. Scott Crump, Port Coquitlam – 3:51:01

3. Trevor Mann – 5:49:25

Men Junior Sport Men

1. Daniel Stein, North Van – 4:25:05

2. Matt Law, White Rock – 5:01:18

Men Junior Expert

1. Max Plaxton, Victoria – 3:23:23

Men Sr. Sport

1. Matthew Ryan, Australia – 3:34:52

2. Ryan Sullivan, Vancouver – 3:49:24

3. Steve Turner, Whistler – 4:06:06

8. Jonathan Lloyd, Whistler – 4:14:32

9. Mark Knight, Whistler – 4:15:58

11. Aidan Foster, Whistler – 4:20:42

16. Felix Wong, Whistler – 4:39:05

21. Steve Delane, Whistler – 5:05:31

Men Senior Expert

1. Ryan Edwards, Squamish – 3:36:00

2. Manuel Fehlmann, Blind Bay – 3:47:09

3. Albert Nomura, Burnaby – 4:08:25

Men Pro-Elite

1. Andreas Hestler, North Van. – 3:08:02

2. Will Routley, Whistler – 3:10:03

3. Justin Mark, Port Moody – 3:22:52

11. Ryan Thorpe, Whistler – 3:46:01

Men Sport 30 to 39

1. Al Ross, Squamish – 3:48:40

2. Moe Maika, Whistler – 3:49:14

3. Roy McBeth, Maple Ridge – 3:57:45

9. Todd Kemp, Whistler – 4:03:59

25. Ben Thomas, Whistler – 4:32:48

36. Stu Ridley, Whistler – 4:47:52

38. James Morris, Whistler – 4:50:38

42. John Minton, Whistler – 4:53:01

44. Joern Ronde, Whistler – 4:54:15

46. Gavin Christie, Whistler – 4:59:46

66. Brett McDonald, Whistler – 5:44:02

67. Martini Bart, Whistler – 5:45:56

Men Expert 30 to 39

1. Keith Ray, Whistler – 3:29:18

2. Matt Bodkin, Whistler – 3:35:12

3. Paul Newitt, Vancouver – 3:37:03

Men Sport 40-Plus

1. Michael Ryan, Vancouver – 3:30:33

2. Mike Fitzmaurice, West Van. – 3:44:12

3. Shayn Swatazky – 3:57:04

5. Jonathan Blok, Whistler – 4:00:01

13. John Bland, Whistler – 4:22:57

18. Bob Falconer, Whistler – 4:32:33

27. Rick Reid, Whistler – 4:47:57

36. Gary Baker, Whistler – 5:01:26

41. Graeite Fitch, Whistler – 5:07:51

49. Cliff Eschner, Whistler – 5:20:29

Men Expert 40-Plus

1. Eric Crowe, Whistler – 3:25:02

2. Tony Routley, Whistler – 3:36:21

3. James Shellard – 3:37:01

5. Mike Charuk, Whistler – 3:42:41

9. Scott Bronning, Whistler – 4:29:10