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Going out with a bang

In the Sea to Sky corridor, September is definitely the month for mountain biking, especially if you're into racing.

In the Sea to Sky corridor, September is definitely the month for mountain biking, especially if you're into racing.

For those looking for their last pre-winter, leg-burning, endurance-a-thon, look no further because the Cheakamus Challenge is knocking at your door.

The classic race, now celebrating its 20th season, comes as the last grand two-wheeled challenge in the Sea to Sky mountain biking scene, which culminates a crazy September season of racing, riding and ripping. After the 24 Hours of Adrenaline on Sept. 4 , there was the Samurai of Singletrack a week later (both in Whistler), followed by the GK Ripper in Squamish on Sept. 19, and now the Cheakamus Challenge on Saturday (Sept. 25), which runs from the Squamish Airport to Whistler Village.

"The Cheakamus Challenge is the oldest and most challenging cross-country mountain bike race in the country," said race director Grant Lamont.

The course begins at the Squamish Airport at 10 a.m. in a mass start format with over 500 riders racing to Whistler over the 72.5-km track which includes more than 2,100 metres of climbing along the way.

In its 20-year history, the Cheakamus has been the springboard for a huge amount of British Columbian cycling talent that have gone on to incredible careers in World Cup and Olympic competition.

Riders such as two-time World Champion and five-time Cheakamus winner Roland Green of Victoria, three-time World Champ and Olympic Medalist Alison Sydor of North Vancouver, U.S. National Champion and three-time Cheakamus winner Kirk Molday of Vancouver, World Men's silver medalist and Cheakamus winner Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria, World 24-Hour Champion and two-time Cheakamus winner Leslie Tomlinson of North Vancouver, and three-time Canadian Champion and Olympic Team rider and Cheakamus winner Andreas Hestler of North Vancouver have taken part in the race over the years.

"This year marks an important stage in the Cheakamus Challenge as we are adding some new ingredients to the course which will add to the fun and challenge factor with the addition of "Tunnel Vision " which is a Black Diamond descent off of the Microwave Tower Climb," said Lamont.

The total race distance for the 2004 event covers 72.5 km, with the course remaining unchanged up to the McLaurin's Crossing Bridge at the top of the Riverside Trail in the Whistler Demonstration Forest. At this point, riders will then turn left and race down the "Far Side " trail to the base of the "Microwave Climb" where they will be greeted with a leg shattering 4-km climb up to the entrance of "Tunnel vision" that will add an added dimension of technical descending to the race.

Riders will then exit onto the Kadenwood climb to the top and then up "Big Timber" down to the Whistler Mountain road then up to "Northwest Passage" and then over to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Once in the Park racers will descend down "Easy Does It" to "Heart of Darkness" and then finish through the Village in front of the Brewhouse in Town Plaza Square.

"This year we expect over 500 racers from as far away as Japan and New Zealand to challenge themselves over this difficult course," said Lamont. "The course is noted for its demanding terrain and spectacular scenery."

The first racers are expected to finish in about three hours, with most of the other riders struggling in between the four and seven-hour mark.

For those interested in competing in this years event, entry and race information is available online at, or in person at Dizzy Cycles in North Van and Kitsilano, Tantalus Bike Shop or Corsa Cycles in Squamish or Wild Willies or the Whistler Bike Co. in Whistler.

The cost is $55 and includes a one-day Cycling B.C. licence.