Whistler BMX club working to create track 

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In less than five years, the Squamish BMX Racing Club has grown to include hundreds of members, with pro-level facilities that hosted the nationals in 2011.

Pemberton BMX successfully obtained tenure to a piece of land adjacent to the recreation centre last year, and after a fundraising campaign they've started construction on a new start hill and expanded track that will meet requirements to host sanctioned events.

The missing piece of the puzzle in creating a regional series is Whistler, but with the creation of a Whistler BMX Club last summer there could soon be three tracks connecting Sea to Sky's growing BMX community.

Brian Finestone, one of the founders of the club, said people in Whistler are aware something is happening but now is the time to officially get the word out. If all goes well the club will have a track and start gate in place this summer — everything needed to start hosting races.

"Right now we have a few kids that travel from Whistler down to Squamish, or to Pemberton a few times last year, to race, and just seeing what BMX does for people's bike skills, and how bike crazy this community is, it just seems like a perfect fit," said Finestone, who is currently the track director for Whistler BMX.

Cycling Canada and other organizations say BMX — hugely popular in the 1970s and 1980s — is once again one of the fastest growing cycling sports in the country. New clubs and tracks are popping up at the local level, while on the international stage the sport obtained Olympic status for the first time in 2008.

Finestone explains the appeal for families and kids:

"Getting little kids onto mountain bikes and onto trails is sometimes difficult, but with BMX kids can develop the kills they need to mountain bike with mom and dad at a faster rate and have fun at the same time," he said. "They can pull up to the track and start riding and having fun right away. The learning curve is fast."

Most kids also know that a lot of top mountain bike downhillers and freeriders got their start riding BMX, said Finestone, and riders of all ages see BMX as a way to improve their skills on every type of bike. In Squamish, it's become a family sport with both parents and children taking part in weekly races and club events.

He also said that tracks are built in such a way that they provide a challenge to pro level riders, but can also be ridden by kids as young as three and four on run bikes.

"When it comes to BMX people have a mental picture of a big guy on a small bike, but most club tracks are small and everyone can ride them, both little kids on run bikes and pros," said Finestone. "The kids like that they get to ride on the same track as the pros do, watching and learning as they get faster and faster."

But while the case for BMX is there, finding a space to put a track has proved to be more difficult. Finestone's most recent application to the province for tenure was sent back for more information, but he hopes to have the application amended and back in provincial hands by the end of May. He already has the approval of BC Hydro, which has a right of way on the land, and the municipality has been supportive.

Finestone said BC Hydro is generally supportive of BMX, and has allowed tracks under power lines in Squamish, Langley, Surrey, and other places.

A standard 350-metre track can fit in an area the size of a baseball diamond, Finestone explained, but the land has to be flat and accessible. Until negotiations are further along Finestone does not want to reveal the site of the proposed track, but said the piece of land he's looking at is even on the bus route.

If Whistler BMX gets the approval of the province, Finestone said the actual construction could probably be completed in a matter of weeks. Fundraising efforts should get underway this summer, while other club supporters — including a few board members — have already pledged labour and materials. Judd de Vall of Alpine Bike Parks, is helping out with the paperwork and track design. Other board members include president Jason Coleman, vice-president Adam McLaughlin, David Iles and Martin Gautrey.

The club will likely accept a donation of Squamish BMX's older gates and repair them until they can afford a set of pro gates, which cost roughly $70,000.

Like Pemberton and Squamish, Whistler BMX will seek sanctioning from Canada BMX, one of two main sanctioning organizations for the sport in Canada. Under that sanctioning they would be able to provide members with insurance and race numbers, and host local races.

"Ultimately we'd like to be able to host a national event here, and once we have a track we have a three-year plan for that," said Finestone.

Finestone is encouraging everyone who is interested in finding out more or supporting BMX in Whistler to join their Facebook group (search for Whistler BMX Club), which also includes updates from the clubs in Pemberton and Squamish.

"It's a huge community," said Finestone. "There are rivalries with other clubs and tracks, that's what cycling and competition is all about, but the community as a whole is very supportive of each other."

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