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WORCA Back Forty returns for second year

The race was inspired by the long-running Nimby Fifty race in Pemberton
Back 40
One racer tackles a trail in the first ever Back Forty race in 2021.

With a full year to plan it, Whistler Off Road Cycling Association’s (WORCA) director of special events Quinn Lanzon believes the second iteration of the Back Forty race being held on Saturday, June 11, will be better than ever.

The first ever Back Forty was supposed to happen in the spring of 2020, but after being forced to postpone for a year because of the pandemic, WORCA was finally able to get all the permissions needed to run the race in the fall of 2021.

According to Lanzon, the idea behind the race was to capture the spirit of the long-running, Pemberton-based Nimby Fifty, which was discontinued in 2019.

“One thing that the Nimby did was appeal to a really wide spectrum of riders. For more average and intermediate riders, it was like a benchmark. You’d train for it in the spring, and you’d go out and do it pretty early in the season and that would probably set you off for a good season of being in good shape. And then for more advanced riders it was really just a chance to push yourself because it was a challenging course, but a bit more laid back,” said Lanzon.

“I was a huge fan of that race, I loved it. It was a good way to kick off the season. It was a really fun atmosphere and not a super common ride format. It was a cross-country race, but on really fun, proper mountain bike trails. So I wanted to bring the spirit of the Nimby Fifty to the trails of Whistler.”

While the Nimby Fifty was a classic point-to-point race, the Back Forty is split into three legs, each approximately 10-kilometres long and involving a big climb, a lengthy descent and a cross-country traversing section, taking riders from Function Junction to Rainbow Park.

For participants of the race like WORCA’s president Dale Mikkelsen, who raced in the first-ever Back Forty last year as well as multiple Nimby Fifties in the years prior, the inaugural Back Forty was successful in its goal of capturing the spirit of the Nimby. However, with a few hiccups due to the short timeframe to put it on, Mikkelsen is excited to see how the race has improved with more planning time heading into year two.

“I’m super excited. I think this is the evolution of the first year. We saw the Nimby Fifty sort of flex and change over time. I think that was the beauty of it, it wasn’t a static event and we’re trying to do the same thing where we understand what worked and what didn’t work and try to create and keep it interesting year over year and build a ridership, so I’m excited about that,” he said.

“We’ve tweaked the course based on what we’ve learned last year to be both more fun and more challenging and I think now people that are returning have a baseline to sort of go, ‘OK that was hard, but now I’m ready for it.’”

When race day finally rolls around on June 11, Mikkelsen said he’s “not after the enjoyment,” but instead his sole focus is on riding as fast as he can and beating his time from last year.

According to Lanzon, this year’s race has been tweaked to improve the event in certain areas like more efficient start times for each leg to avoid logjams like last year, a less gruelling third stage, and a better layout which allows people to easily get to the après location at Meadow Park from the finish line without being shuttled.

This year people will be able to pick up their plates at RideWrap in Function Junction, drop their bikes there and park their cars at the après location before being shuttled back to the starting point by Whistler Connection.

Entry fee for the race is $99 with 75 per cent going directly to building new trails in Whistler. The other 25 per cent will go to the Indigenous Life Sport Academy to help train coaches and kick-start its summer mountain bike programs.

With only about 100 racers last year, the event still raised about $8,000. This year, the goal is to increase that to $10,000. But if the rider limit of 200 is reached, Lanzon believes the event might even be able to raise upwards of $15,000 for the organization.

If you are looking to get involved in the race, potential volunteers can email Lanzon at events@worca.com, while those looking to register for the race can do so at worca.com/the-back-forty.