Through rain, mud and darkness, 410 riders completed lap after lap of a 14.5 km course in the first annual Golden 24, and several local riders earned places on the podium.
Higher Ground Sports entered four teams, two four-person men’s teams and two five-person women’s teams. Their women’s entries finished fifth and ninth in their age categories while their male squads dominated the top of the podium, finishing first and second.
The foursome of Pierre-Alexandre Couture, Mathieu Pelletier, David Gagnon and Peter Knight took home the top prize in the four person open men’s event, completing 20 laps in just over 22 hours.
“I think we had the home advantage by knowing all of the trails. It’s definitely a benefit,” said Gagnon. “Golden trails are quite challenging…so I think that made a difference because we knew this terrain.”
Overnight, with the rain continuing, the team made the decision to have everyone do double laps, giving the rest of the squad some extra time to sleep.
Gagnon says that the difficult conditions made the course even tougher.
“The mud definitely elevated the technicality. A lot of mud makes the riding very hard and you’ve got a lot more resistance on the wheels and it’s harder physically,” he said. “It’s also more technical because you start to slide everywhere, so you’ve got to be on your game and very aware.”
“It was sopping wet and cold,” said Shannon Hood of the Golden Gods, another local team, who finished 5th in their age category. “Probably…the muddiest conditions I’ve ever ridden in…but it was really fun.”
“Everyone was in awesome spirits,” added Ron Ainsley, also with the Golden Gods team.
“I think (the rain) adds an element of adventure and adversity.”
Ainsley had one over the bars crash, but said he’d be happy to race again in 2017, a sentiment that was true for numerous racers who competed in the debut event.
Adding to the misery – or the excitement, depending on your perspective – were some technical difficulties.
Several overnight riders had their lights fail, forcing them to ride in the dark.
“We had one rider whose lights ran out just before his second lap finished so he was in the rain and had to walk to the finish,” Gagnon said.
Other local teams competing in the 24-hour event included Team Whitetooth Brewing (6th in their category), Derailed (1st) and Kicking Horse Bike Park (2nd).
Gagnon, who owns Higher Ground, believes the race will have an exceptional impact on the local mountain biking scene.
“I think it’s one of the greatest things to draw people into the our town and appreciate the trails that we have. It’s our backyard…I think it’s a good thing for people from outside of the community to come here and experience what we have,” he said.
For a full list of results from the race, visit golden24.ca. For more photos visit The Golden Star’s Facebook page.