Wheel Up celebrates 10 years of mountain bike racing 

Although nine years doesn’t seem like a long time, in the world of mountain biking it’s the olden days. But while the bikes and styles may have changed, some things do stay the same.

One of those things is the West Side Wheel Up, the second-oldest race in the area, junior to only the venerable Cheakamus Challenge Fall Classic. It was orginally founded by Les Clare to give the growing and increasingly competitive local mountain bike population something to chew on, while showcasing the trails on Whistler’s west side.

Before the 2000 race, Clare was injured, falling off a roof while helping a friend to build a house on Saltspring Island. He is now a quadriplegic, but remains actively involved in the race.

That year the funds raised, some $5,500, went to help fund Clare’s recovery.

Always positive, Clare and Phil Chew, a local disabled ski coach for the B.C. Disabled Ski Team, turned last year’s event into a fundraiser for the team’s activities. They hope to do the same thing with the Wheel Up this year.

"Because of Lester’s disability and my involvement, we decided that the B.C. Ski Team was an appropriate group to give the money to," said Chew. "The money now sponsors programs and camps for athletes, everything that has to do with disabled ski racing in the province. The money is needed, and is spent quite quickly."

The ninth annual West Side Wheel-Up is scheduled for Sept. 7, starting at 1 p.m. Although the construction in the former BC Rail Lands has resulted in the closure of some of the west side trails, the developers have given the race organizers permission to use their roads to access Beaver Pass trail.

The race begins at the entrance to Function Junction, and rips down the partially flooded Millar Creek road to the railroad tracks at Alta Lake Road. From there it proceeds uphill, turning off on the Lower Sproatt trail.

After some difficult climbing, the riding begins in earnest. At the development, cyclists follow the road to the Beaver Pass trail, which they continue on until descending to Alta Lake Road once again. From there, cyclists continue north on the road, and do a circuit of Bob’s ReBob.

The last section of the trail is a complete circuit of A River Runs Through It, one of the most popular trails in the Whistler area, before winding up in the Rainbow Park area for a barbecue, party, and the awarding of prizes.

The grand draw prize this year is a season’s pass donated by Whistler-Blackcomb. Dozens of other prizes have been donated by local businesses.

The cost of entering is $20, and Chew is expecting a good turnout.

"Last year 110 people came out to support us, and we are hoping for more this year. It’s a good race and a good cause," he said.

Registration opens at the start line in Function Junction at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 7. The race starts at 1 p.m.

If you are interested in volunteering to help out with this year’s race, or wish to contribute prizes for the event, contact Phil Chew at 604-932-2110.

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