I raced the soon-to-be infamous Whistler 4 Kings race on the weekend. Infamous; meaning that tales of this race will soon be blown to mythical proportions, inspiring some and frightening many. There are many tales of mountain top bike failures, facial stitches, cramping bodies and fragile psyches. Above these horror stories, though, will rise the accounts of friends lending each-other bike parts to continue on with, remembrances of epic views and even grander singletrack, and fond memories of a weekend of bicycle shredding with many like minded individuals, all in the epicenter of the mountain bike universe, the Whistler Valley.
The format for this race breeds a story unto itself, so rather than waxing poetic about the weekend in general I will attempt to break down the weekend by the stages themselves, all “King” themed and very up to the “royal” designation.
King Tubby: Dub In The Dark Time Trial
Lost Lake Trails are a maze of interconnected, bisecting and undulating routes. Add to this already confusing area the element of darkness, dust, and 159 other racers, plus thumping reggae in the trees and scantily clad female course marshals decked out in glow in the dark glitter paint, and you have the recipe for a great time trial.
Once the burning sensation from dust inhalation settled to a dull ache, and the legs started to warm up, racing the twisty trails aided only by a bike light transported me into my own little world, where all that mattered was the 15 feet illuminated in front of me, and that was changing very quickly as we negotiated some fast and rocky terrain. A very unique bike experience!
Elvis: All Shook Up DH
The bike park is a very fun place to go smash downhill runs on a big DH bike. The strict bike doping rules that were in effect for the 4 Kings prevented us from changing bikes, let alone tires or anything else, so it was a “run what you brung” morning stage down Schleyer to Lower Detroit Rock City, a lap I usually reserve for my extra beefy DH bike, not my Kona Abra Cadabra, a svelte all mountain machine.
The little bike ended up being really fun, actually a bit too much fun, as I flatted about two-thirds of the way down my race run. I limped it to the finish, staying light on my overly-expensive carbon fiber rims that I had no intention of sacrificing for one run.
Richard Petty: The Yummy 500
Remember when your parents used to walk to school, and it was uphill both ways? This uphill/downhill stage felt just like what your elders had to suffer through, minus the deep snow and angry nun wielding the strap.
The uphill was a timed hammerfest up the Yummy Numby climb, a grueling singletrack ascent, followed by a short rest transition over to Foreplay, a very deceiving “downhill” timed stage. True, it did drop a significant amount of vertical, but through super rocky terrain interspersed with quick grunty climbs to negotiate. There were some shattered folk popping out of the woods at the bottom of the descent, looking forward to a beer and some rest before the really big day on Sunday.
King Kong: The Kong Endur-X
The day that was in the back of everyone’s mind, the one that was referenced in nervous, speculative conversations that centered on one’s potential to finish the day, whether one would break down in tears halfway through the dreaded Emerald “No Flow Zone”, or generally how much pain the day would inflict. The conversation would usually end with a crazy sort of smile exchange though, indicating that deep down most people were actually looking forward to the mtb exercise in masochism.
Winding for 46km from the peak of Whistler Mountain down to Function Junction and all the way to Emerald and through nine timed stages, the Kong Endur-X was a test in bike handling skills, endurance, and mental fortitude. Highlights included a raging run down Top of the World to Kyber Pass Trail, sampling brand new singletrack on the Flank, and riding/racing copious amounts of trail with a 160 person crew. The scantily clad girls were out again, this time in the No Flow Zone, marshaling a time bonus technical hill climb and doing their best to distract all the riders.
It was a good feeling to cross the finish gate of the last stage, and bobble my way down to food and drink at the afterparty. Racing can be hit or miss, but when the race focuses on celebrating everything that is awesome about mountain biking, and then sharing it with a large group of people, it’s bound to be a good time. Even if, as I write this, my aching, shattered body doesn’t agree.