Route change adds more singletrack to Cheakamus Challenge 

Weeks of heavy rains and a deactivated Bear Creek bridge have forced the organizers of this year’s Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic Mountain Bike Race to make a last minute change to the course that most riders are probably going to love.

What: Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic

Where: Squamish Airport to Whistler Village

When: Saturday, Sept. 21, 10 a.m. start, 7:30 a.m. day of race sign-up

Instead of continuing up towards the Northwest Passage after climbing the Kadenwood road, riders will head down Big Timber, a fun singletrack descent that comes out on the Lower Dave Murray Run at Creekside. From there riders will climb the Northwest Passage before starting the descent into the Whistler-Mountain Bike Park.

The change adds more descending to the course, increasing the distance slightly to 72.8 kilometres while lowering the overall elevation gain from over 2,200 metres to 2018 metres.

"I like it and so will a lot of people in the race," said organizer Grant Lamont. "It adds a pretty good little descent to the race and brings the vertical back down to what it was last year. That whole section flows really well, the descent down Tunnel Vision, the climb up Kadenwood, the descent down Big Timber and the home stretch climb up Northwest Passage to get to the end of the race."

The decision to add Big Timber to the course continues the trend of adding new singletrack sections to the course that started last year with the addition of the Trash trail, which is located just south of the Whistler Landfill.

This year organizers have already added the popular black diamond Tunnel Vision descent to the race, making the course a lot more interesting for technical riders.

If everything works out on Saturday, Lamont says he will consider making Big Timber a permanent part of the race course.

"It’s a natural fit for the race, and it’s good for spectators and supporters as well because people will be able to sit at Creekside and watch the riders come out and head back up the Northwest Passage, adding a little excitement to the race. Some of the riders need all the cheering they can get at that point," he said.

The plan to finish the race in the North Village after riding through the Village Stroll also had to be changed. The race will end in Whistler Village as usual, before heading to the after-race barbecue and awards ceremony at the Brew House.

"It was a good idea to finish with a ride through the village and we’ll probably bring it back next year, but we didn’t have the time to do it properly so we went back to the base of the mountain," explained Lamont.

The Cheakamus Challenge, which is celebrating its 20 th anniversary this year, starts at the airport in Squamish and finishes in Whistler Village, following the Cheakamus River as far as Function Junction.

The event usually attracts some of Canada’s top mountain bikers, with a list of past winners that includes Roland Green, Allison Sydor, Andreas Hestler, Ryder Hesjedal, and Lesley Tomlinson.

The top riders finish in about three hours, while the slowest come in at around seven hours.

Registration is ahead of last year for the race, and Lamont expects the number of entries to be between 500 and 550 this year. The number of riders in the race will determine the prize money for the top three male and female pro elite racers. The Cheakamus Challenge is still the only race that gives equal prize money to the top male and the top female, says Lamont.

The winners of the age categories will also receive prizes.

You can register in advance at Wild Willies and Whistler Bike Co. locations, as well as on the day of the race starting at 7:30 a.m.

"The weather report is looking good for Saturday, so we’re expecting a lot of people to sign up on race day this year once they get a look out their window," said Lamont.

He recommends that Whistler riders take advantage of a sign-up at the Spruce Grove Fieldhouse between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24, however, and save $10 towards the price of registration.

In addition, organizers are looking for more volunteers and course marshals. If you’re interested in helping out this year, you should also come by the Spruce Grove Fieldhouse.

Following the award ceremony, Lamont will also present five more "Cheaky" awards to members of the mountain bike community who have made a contribution to the development of the sport in Whistler. The winners will receive their own mugs, which will be kept in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame wall at the Brew House.

For more information on the race, visit the Web site at www.cheakamuschallenge.ca.

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