Cheakamus Challenge rolls on Sept. 22 

All-star field expected for 24th annual running of bike race

Many of the top mountain bikers in Canada have already registered for this year’s running of the Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic mountain bike race on Sept. 22, promising an exciting race for the 2007 men’s title.

As of press time the list of competitors registered on the men’s side includes reigning Test of Metal champion Neal Kindree; former national champions Seamus McGrath and Andreas Hestler; reigning Cheakamus Challenge champion Max Plaxton; and current national champion Ricky Federau. Geoff Kabush, Canada’s top World Cup racer this year, is also a solid maybe.

Fewer top riders have signed on in the women’s pro category, but Megan Kindree and Joanna Harrington are among the registered riders, and seven-time Cheakamus Challenge champion Alison Sydor is a likely addition.

Overall registration has also been stronger than in past years, according to event director Grant Lamont.

“At this point we’re about 80 riders ahead of where we were at this time last year with 189 people signed up, and we’re expecting 400 to 450 riders in the field this year,” he said.

“I think we’ve worked hard in the last few years to improve the race experience, and the word is getting out to a lot more people.”

There are two courses in the Cheakamus Challenge. The full-length course starts at the Squamish Airport in Brackendale and winds its way up the Cheakamus Canyon to the Sea to Sky Highway. After a road section, riders get back on a mix of single and doubletrack that brings them to Whistler, and a selection of trails that includes Trash, the Ridge Trail, Upper Riverside Trail, Riverside Trail, Far Side Trail, the Highline Trail, Tunnel Vision and Big Timber, finishing in Creekside.

The total length is over 71 km from start to finish, with more than 2,000 metres of climbing and descending.

The Cheakamus Lite short course starts at the Whistler Bungee Bridge two hours after the start of the race in Squamish, and follows the same route for a total distance of over 40 km. The toughest climbs and most technical trails are on the Lite course, which will take riders two to three hours to complete.

It’s never the same race twice, and this year there are a few minor changes to the route. A small part of Trash was rerouted to make way for the construction of the 2010 athletes’ village, and some new switchbacks have been cut into Tunnel Vision in a section that has eroded. Some new features and bridging may also be complete in time for the race.

The biggest change could be the addition of a new section of the Sea to Sky Trail that would circumvent the climb from the Cal-cheak area to the Whistler landfill. If completed in time the new section of trail will add about half a kilometre to the length of the race, but will take out some tougher climbs.

Also, the Microwave Tower road was recently graded. It’s still soft and steep, but it will be easier for cyclists to stay on their bikes all the way to the top.

Due to a scheduling conflict, the after-party will not be held at Dusty’s this year. The after-party will still take place at the Creekside base, and Lamont is working out the details. Registration will still include post-race food and refreshments.

The cost is $50 to enter the full race, $40 to enter the Cheakamus Lite race and the junior fee is $30 until Sept. 1 when the cost will increase by $5. Day-of-race registration will also be available in Brackendale.

As well, riders that require rides to or from Squamish will be charged an extra $10.

According to Lamont there is room in the budget this year to hire a volunteer coordinator, and volunteers will be needed from the start to the finish. If you can donate some time to the race, contact cwilding@telus.net .

There will be prizes for the top-three riders in every category, and a cash purse for the top men and women that will be determined by the overall number of entries. Men and women will receive the same amount.

For more information or registration, visit www.cheakamuschallenge.ca.

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