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Twice the Samurai in store for riders

One day not enough for epic mountain bike ride

The Samurai of Singletrack mountain bike ride turns six this summer, and for a lot of past participants this will be the end of an era – only athletes that have ridden in all of the past events will be invited to the ultimate Samurai ride planned for 2007.

Organizers Ru Mehta and Tony Horn are looking to go out with a bang, and are planning a roughly 100 km ride on Whistler’s toughest singletrack trails for Sept. 16 that will be broken into two days of riding. There will be mandatory camping involved.

"The course isn’t finished yet, but our plan, because this is the last real Samurai, is to do the best of what’s in Whistler," said Horn. "There are a lot of great trails that we’ve only done once, and some trails we haven’t used at all. We plan to make it a tour of the whole valley, which is the real impetus for doing it over two days.

"We said before that it’s not going to get easier."

Mehta and Horn came up with the idea for the Samurai back in 2000. It was billed as a ride, not a race, although the clock is running and some riders do compete for bragging rights. The Samurai courses were designed for people who enjoy going for long rides on Whistler’s most technical singletrack, as Mehta and Horn felt that none of the other local races and rides really captured the essence of mountain biking in Whistler.

The race was capped from the beginning at 100 riders, and every year returning riders and volunteers are given priority for the open spots. It has sold out every year since then, taking fewer and fewer members of the public. Horn estimates that as many as 50 people have hung in since the beginning and could be invited to the seventh and final event next year.

Horn doesn’t expect many spots to open this year. In addition to giving preference to last year’s riders and volunteers he’s also offering entries to all of WORCA’s board members, in appreciation for their efforts to promote biking and preserve trails. WORCA also sanctions the Samurai event, and all riders have to be WORCA members.

If any spots are available, Horn will announce either a contest or a draw for the remaining spaces in August.

Because of the camping – "no comment" on the location of the site – the price for taking part has gone up from $85 last year to $150. That includes a jersey, dinner and breakfast at the campsite, and the after party and dinner at Teppan Village.

Horn is concerned that more people will be turned off by the cost than the length of the ride, but maintains that the event is not for profit and any proceeds (there usually aren’t any) will go back into the race.

Horn expects to break the course up around 60-40 so that the longest slog is on Saturday, followed by a shorter day. He wants people to feel they can hang out on Saturday night, and still finish the event on Sunday with enough energy for the after party.

Kevin Phelps has even been deputized as the campsite’s sleep police, ensuring that nobody goes to bed too early on Saturday night.

The irony is that Horn and Mehta are planning their longest race at a time when neither rider is in Samurai shape. Horn is a new father, while Mehta spends more time chasing his three year old around than on his mountain bike.

"We joked that this year’s Samurai should be a 100 km of the Valley Trail pulling chariots behind us," said Horn. "This one’s going to hurt."

Horn will start to take applications for the 2006 Samurai on Thursday, July 6, and forms will be available at the Loonie Race. If there are any spots open to the public they will be released after Aug. 3. You can drop applications and money to Slope Side Supply in Function Junction.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Horn at 604-938-1680.

The course will be announced at the Loonie Race and in Pique Newsmagazine on Thursday, Sept. 14.