Westside Wheel Up to benefit disabled ski association 

For the first seven years, the annual Westside Wheel Up bike race was just that – a bike race, by locals for locals.

Then last year, after race founder Les Claire was injured in a fall from a roof, the Wheel Up became a fund-raising event, bringing in $5,500 to help Claire and his family through rehabilitation.

This year, the proceeds from the race will go towards the Disabled Ski Association of B.C.

"We want to make it possible for disabled people to get involved in ski racing without being held back by the cost factor," says Phil Chew, the organizer of the Sept. 8 Wheel Up and the head coach for the B.C. Disabled Ski Team, which trains in Whistler. Since his involvement in coaching disabled skiers began in 1994, Chew has helped six B.C. athletes to make it to the national team.

"With the 2010 Olympics coming down the pipe, it’s conceivable that some of the young people to participate in this program could be competing for Canada in the Paralympics one day," Chew says. "It’s about trying to recruit as many disabled people into the program as we can right now.

"I’m disabled, Lester is disabled, and we thought the ski program was an appropriate recipient of the what we raise."

The Westside Wheel Up winds through four West side trails. The race starts at the entrance to Function Junction, and proceeds to the Lower Sproat Trail. Beaver Pass is next, followed by Rebob and A River Runs Through It.

Last year, and for the second year in a row, local Matt Bodkin was the first Whistler rider to cross the finish line in, one hour and eight minutes.

"It’s a good warm-up for the Samurai of Singletrack (Sept. 15) and the Cheakamus Challenge (Sept. 22)," says Chew.

There’s a $20 entry fee to compete in the Wheel Up, which includes food, drinks and raffle tickets for almost $4,000 in prizes – including a dual mountain pass donated by Whistler-Blackcomb.

Registration takes place on race day – Sept. 8 – between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the entrance to Function Junction.

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