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.

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.

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