Samurai’s soldier on 

Riders’ ability to master long, tough course challenges organizers

Bike frames were broken. Shorts were ripped at the seat. Handlebars were gone over. Knees swelled up like grapefruits.

Still, an amazing 101 out of 104 riders in this year’s Samurai of Singletrack test kept at it to the very end last Saturday, completing the 63 kilometre mountain bike course with times that varied from five hours and 12 minutes to 12 hours and 41 minutes.

Two of the riders dropped out because of an illness. One rider, Pete Hammons, quit after he broke two bikes within five minutes of riding. He cracked the frame of his own bike, then proceeded to rip the rear derailleur off a bike he borrowed from a friend.

Tony Horn, who organized the race with Ru Mehta of Teppan Village, was amazed that so many people finished the race, and so quickly.

"I’m sure the top guys were just amazed," said Horn. "(Will) Routley thought he wouldn’t be able to do it in under six hours, and he was more than 45 minutes faster than that.

"I think we had 11 people who were faster than six hours. We’ve definitely made the race longer and the times were up, but people are just amazing. It was hard, but people keep on stepping it up."

Horn thanked Evolution for the mid-race barbecue, and Beach or Bust and Ruby Tuesday for hosting the post-race area at Lost Lake.

According to Ru Mehta, when he and Horn started the Samurai three years ago, they only expected between 60 and 70 riders out of a field of 100 to finish.

The first year 91 out of 96 riders completed the 43 kilometre course, including sections of 19 mountain bike trails. Last year 97 out of 102 riders finished a 55.5 km course.

Although they’ve tried to make it as hard and as long as possible – a true test of Samurai spirit, this year’s race has Horn and Mehta scratching their heads.

With the last riders coming in close to 13 hours, an hour after dark, and after a sunrise start, they can’t make it much longer. And after last year’s ride, which included some of the most technically challenging trails in Whistler, they can’t make it much harder.

"People were actually scared going into this year’s race, and then it turned out that a lot of people were an hour faster than they thought they’d be," said Mehta.

"I don’t know if we can make it that much harder. All we can do next year is to string together another bunch of trails in the best way possible and make it long enough to keep it challenging."

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