Posted by Editor on 07/22/03
More News from Whistler
On Friday July 18th, the Whistler Mountain Bike Park had their best attendance ever. With a perfect day, tons of free riders, and racers practicing for the National Championship DH, over 850 riders were on the mountain. A conservative estimate is that over $3 million worth of bikes were at Whistler that day.
Take the numbers above and then talk to someone who has been everywhere, and you get an idea of the rising importance of Whistler as a bike enthusiast's destination. We were fortunate enough to have dinner with Hans "No Way" Rey, GT trials rider, adventurer racer and all around nice guy. This was Rey's first time at Whistler. For someone who lives in California and has another place in Italy to tell us that he feels Whistler is at least 5 years ahead of the rest of the biking planet is truly something. He was so impressed that he spent most of his 3 days at Whistler riding.
Other worldly riders who are impressed by Whistler are Steve Peat and Cedric Gracia. Both are looking at acquiring a home in the Whistler area.
At the end of the XC race Alison Sydor was asked how she felt about being beat by a young rider like Premont. Sydor nodded to Chrissy Redden who was right beside her and with a big grin and a joking elbow said "Why don't you ask her? She's older than me! " Continuing the good natured funning, Sydor went on to complain "Yeah, she beat me even after I showed her all of the good lines on the course."
After the XC race we spotted Alison Sydor and Chrissy Redden all decked out in armor in line for the lift up the hill. Clearly the way to relax after 2 hours of hard work on the XC course is to go free riding...
Marie-Helene Premont's star is certainly ascending. She won handily at Whistler and she would have likely been the only woman on the planet to give Gunn-Rita Dahle a run for her money at Grouse if she hadn't had mechanical problems. At the Grouse World Cup she was the only woman to run a faster lap time than Dahle, indicating the incredible form that she has developed this year. We are in full ponder mode as to whether or not she will be back with Oryx next year. There have to be a number of big teams out there who would love to sign her.
As mentioned in the men's XC race coverage, full suspension bikes had a serious advantage over hardtails. Only 2 of the big team men (Seamus McGrath and Chris Sheppard riding for Haro-Lee Dungarees) were on them, and not by choice. This wasn't the case in the women's race. Only Chrissy Redden was on an FS out of the top women. Premont's Oryx was a light weight beauty with carbon stays. Premont estimated it weighed less than 21 pounds. Premont is a small rider, so it is obviously a small bike, but it emphasizes the need that women racers have for as light a bike as possible.
Alison Sydor rode a hard tail even though she would have preferred to ride an FS. There are apparently some compatibilty problems with the drivetrain setup she would have liked to run (the FS bike would not have accepted the triple crank she needed to achieve her desired Q-Factor).
Trek VW and the Snowcovers Bike and Ski Shop in Whistler helped to make the National Championship weekend a special one for one young racer through their Adopt-A-Privateer Program. By filling out a ballot, racers had a chance to become part of the Trek-VW team for the Championship. The lucky winner was Nick Lacko from Manitoba. The 15 year old Lacko got a Trek Team Issue bike to use for his race, a full team clothing kit, a massage and then dinner with the Trek-VW team, which of course includes Roland Green and Alison Sydor. According Team Manager Eric Wallace Locke had quite the adventure. He crashed at the start of his Youth Expert (15-16) race and then started to chase up through the field. His forward progress was halted when he came around the corner in a piece of single track and came face to face with a mother black bear and her cub. Lacko waited until the bear cleared the course and then continued on his way. He has likely accumulated enough memories from this one weekend to last him for all of his cycling career. (It is also interesting to note that this is the second time we have been involved in promoting a program to sponsor a rider to the Nationals - the first time was also at Whistler. Back in 1997, the organizer (Claire Bonin) wanted to have every province and territory represented at the Nationals. PEI had no one coming, so we put out a request for PEI riders to contact Claire for a sponsored ride. We are sorry to report that the name of the lucky winner in 1996 is lost in time and space - let us know if you remember.)
We now have categories for both men and women espoir XC racers. This is the 19-22 age group. These racers started with the senior elites. The problem for us in doing race coverage is that the only way to tell the espoirs from the seniors was based on a tiny sticker on the number plate. They were given numbers that were part of the same sequence as the seniors. This caused us a lot of problems in trying to do lap reports. After a couple of laps we started to get a handle on the espoir women, but with the large men's field, it was virtually impossible for us to figure out what was going on with them. We strongly suggest to the CCA and the race organizers to give the espoirs their own number plate sequence and the true recognition that they deserve.
There was no lead motorcycle at the National Championships. Bruce Spicer, who rode the moto at Grouse, and who has done the same at Whistler in the past, was over in Europe at the TransAlp Challenge. Good luck Bruce!
We also saw a number of 2004 prototypes. Later this morning a story and photos will be posted.
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