The 21 st Annual Cheakamus Challenge took place on Saturday, Sept. 24 with a new course and some of the best racing conditions in the events long history.
There was a bit of trouble at the start, with a crash taking down several riders on the first gravel road section, but otherwise the day went smoothly for most of the field.
At the front, it was Tofinos Max Plaxton who set the pace this year. He was the first rider out of the Cheakamus Canyon, capturing the $100 Lumpy Leidal Prime presented by the Leidal family.
For Plaxton, 20, this was his fourth Cheakamus Challenge and the first time he won the event. He was second last year to Andreas Hestler, who admitted he had nothing left in the tank after racing hard in the West Side Wheel Up and Samurai of Singletrack the previous two weekends.
Plaxton finished the course in three hours, 10 minutes and 14 seconds, averaging 22.24 kilometres an hour on the almost 71 km course. He finished just three seconds up on 18-year-old Squamish rider Neal Kindree, who has emerged as one of Canadas top up and coming cross-country athletes.
Plaxton said it was a battle to keep the lead. "I definitely felt (Neal) a lot. At one point I was told I had about 30 seconds, so I knew he was closing the lead and he bridged up a lot on the singletrack. I was riding a little more conservatively, and that made it really close. Hes one to look out for, for sure."
Third place went to Ricky Federau of Abbotsford with a time of 3:13:57. Kris Neddon of Victoria was fourth, Michael Hunter of North Vancouver fifth, while Andreas Hestler was sixth by a fraction of a second.
Hestler had been going for wins in the Wheel Up, Samurai and Cheakamus Challenge, but knew early on that he didnt have it Saturday.
"Im tired," he said. "I had a flat up near the start, but that didnt throw me off too much. In a way it was over before it started. I kept pushing to get to the end, but it was all over long before that.
"When you race with these young guys you need to bring your A game, and I brought my C game C-plus maybe."
In the womens pro category it was Trish Sinclairs race from start to finish. She completed the course in 4:00:29, almost seven minutes ahead of Squamishs Meghan Kindree.
Whistlers Joanna Harrington was the third women across the line, in 4:08:16, just 1:02 back of Kindree.
September has been Harringtons month she was the top woman in the West Side Wheel Up, Samurai of Singletrack and two Loonie races.
The fastest Whistler rider was Mike Boehm, who was seventh overall and first in the 30 to 39 category with a time of 3:25:58.
Matt Bodkin, who inadvertently competed in the Pro/Expert category, was 11 th overall in 3:30:37.
Vesa Suomalainen was third in the mens 40 to 49 category and 16 th overall in 3:39:24.
James Crowe was 19 th overall and first in the mens 14 to 18 age category with a time of 3:45:32 and was on pace to do even better before he broke his chain. His father Eric Crowe broke his frame earlier in the race, and gave James the chain off his bike even though it meant the end of his own day.
Joe Maika was 24 th overall and fifth in the 40 to 49 race in 3:50:31.
Bob Allison, accidentally lumped in the Pro Expert category, finished 32 nd overall in 3:57:34.
Ewan Thornburn was 39 th and second in the 19 to 29 category with a time of 4:01:41. Jonny Lloyd was third in the same category and 42 nd overall in 4:04:53.
Todd Carter and Scott Brunning were 63 rd and 64 th overall in 4:14:49 and 4:15:28, finishing finishing 14 th and 15 th in the 40 to 49 age category.
Tyler Allison, 13, came in 67 th overall out of 224 finishers, while dominating the 13 and Under category with his time of 4:19:31. He was close to 20 minutes faster than Nicholas Geddes of West Vancouver, and 1:15 faster than Sebastian Sleep of Gibsons, B.C.
"I bonked pretty bad," said Allison, "right at Brandywine.
"It was just a struggle (after that), I went so hard until I ran out of energy. My best part was the road out of the Cheakamus Canyon, I was probably the strongest there, but I liked all the singletrack, thats where I gained the most ground."
The downhill singletrack helped him to regain some spots he lost after his energy ran out Allison is one of the top downhill riders in his age group in the province, as well as the top Under 15 cross-country rider, and he estimates that he passed about a dozen people in the technical parts.
Now that the cross-country season has wrapped up, Allison will focus on the upcoming Joyride Huckfest in Whistler, where he will compete in the Super D and Joyride DH.
Ryan Matts of Pemberton was second to Mike Boehm in the Mens 30 to 39 category while Trevor Hopkins of Pemberton was sixth in 3:54:05, Russ Wood and Dean Linnell were 12 th and 13 th , and Jason Simpson was 15 th . Whistlers James Hallisey was 29 th , John Minton 37 th , and Duncan Munro 43 rd . Jason Wint of Pemberton was 56 th .
In the mens 40 to 49 group David Kvick of North Vancouver won the race and the B.C. Cup Marathon Series with his time of 3:32:14. Other local riders not already mentioned in that age group include Brent Murdoch in 19 th with a time of 4:26:03, Joern Rohde in 38 th in 4:52:09, Martin Stockley in 42 nd , Geoff Weddell in 45 th , Carl Martineau in 49 th , Stu Snowball in 54 th and James Monahan in 77 th .
In the mens 50 and Over group, Whistlers John Blok was fourth in 4:22:12.
New this year, the Cheakamus Challenge also featured a 39 km short course that started at the Whistler Bungee bridge in Calcheak, and joined with the regular race course.
Gary Jackson, the technical director for Cycling B.C., won the mens event in 2:18:46. Whistlers Benoit Reneault was second in 2:43:08, and David Thornhill third in 2:48:25.
Robin Pickering of North Vancouver was the top female, and was third overall in 2:46:33. Catherine Mulvihill of Pemberton was second in 3:13:13, while Caroline LHereux was third in 3:22:54.
Calindy Ramsden of Vancouver was the top junior woman, eighth overall, with a time of 3:11:26. Patrick Frost of Bowen Island was the top junior male in 3:47:21.
Complete results will be available online at www.cheakamuschallenge.ca .
According to race organizer Grant Lamont, the new course with the added singletrack and the finish at Dustys was a success.
"Ive already got about 160 e-mails from people, all positive, and they really loved the new course," he said.
"I think thats the template were going to stick with for a while Ive been fiddling with the race for the last five years, making changes to it, but this is the winning formula."
Although just 300 entrants took part this year, Lamont is hoping to build the race back to its high point when more than a thousand riders would take part each year. Part of that strategy is landing new sponsors, which should be easier now that the 2005 event is part of the B.C. Cup Marathon Series and was showcased on Ride Guide.
Hosted with the assistance of Aloha Whistler, the Ride Guide camera crews followed the race from start to finish, and will feature the event in half hour show this fall.
Another part is building up the short course race, which attracted a wide range of riders, from beginners who werent up to the full 71 km to experienced cyclists with heavier bikes that prefer riding technical singletrack.
"From what Ive heard so far everybody loved it, and I think its going to be a real draw in the future," said Lamont. "Give it a few years and it could be bigger than the Cheakamus itself."