'Savage' Pemberton race exhausts, excites riders

Inaugural Nimby Fifty shows off Spud Valley riding for strong field

The reviews are in, and the inaugural Nimby Fifty sounds like a hit - albeit a challenging, tail-kicking one.

Dean Linnell, one of the directors of the new Pemberton race along with fellow local riders Terry Evans and Russ Wood, recounted the story of elite Squamish rider Neal Kindree crossing the finish line as he sped into third place overall in Saturday's (May 29) technical cross-country race.

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After battling through the 30-kilometre course full of relentless climbing and descents, Kindree, a top finisher in Squamish's epic 67-kilometre Test of Metal in years past, is reported to have proclaimed that was "the most savage bike race he'd ever done."

"He said it was way harder than the Test of Metal," Linnell said, adding that many of the riders seemed to agree with that assessment of the Pemberton course.

After the race, riders flocked to the online North Shore Mountain Biking Forums website to express their pleasure with how the inaugural Pemberton race was run, and their amazement at how the course rife with singletrack and intense ups and downs put them through the wringer.

"That was the hardest mountain bike race I think I've done so far The climb is one of the most soul destroying, technical, rewarding, fun climbs (yes, it gives you everything), that I've done around here," one rider wrote on the forum.

"I hadn't ridden up in Pemberton for a while, and I'd forgotten how sweet some of that singletrack is."

"It was my first time riding in Pemberton and the climbing kicked my ass. I literally had nothing left in the tank at the end of the race. That was the toughest course I have raced on; can't wait until next year," another forum poster wrote.

The challenging course was billed as a classic marathon cross-country marathon bike race due to the length of time it would take the fastest finisher to complete - two hours, 30 minutes. Winner Colin Kerr of Bowen Island ended up stopping the clock at 2:14:58.

Whistler's Matt Bodkin and Fanny Paquette were the fastest male and female local riders in the ranks, as Bodkin finished seventh overall among men with his time of 2:22:27, and Paquette powered to a sixth-place finish on the women's overall side with her time of 3:02:36.

Whistler's Dylan Wolsky and Jason Shorter finished ninth and 10th overall on the men's side, with Shorter speeding to victory in the 40 to 49 Men category just ahead of Whistler's Julian Hine. Wolsky finished fourth in the 19 to 29 Men category, behind Kerr and Kindree, followed by Whistler's Joshua Stott in eighth.

Whistler's Michael Boehm and Pemberton's Kevin Phelps cracked the overall men's top 15, finishing 11th and 15th, respectively, with times good enough for sixth and ninth in the 30 to 39 Men division, behind Bodkin.

Pemberton's Sylvie Allen and Page Bell pulled into the overall women's top 10 in ninth and 10th, respectively, just behind Linda Robichaud in Team Whistler. Paquette, Allen and Whistler's Robin O'Neill powered into fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the 30 to 39 Women division.

Bell finished second in the 40 to 49 Women category, just behind Robichaud, and Whistler's Eric Crowe rode into third place in the 50-plus Men division. Whistler's Scott Aitken and Graeme Fitch achieved finishes of sixth and ninth place, respectively, in Crowe's category.

Organizers told riders the course would contain about 90 per cent singletrack trails, beginning with Pemberton classics like Radio Tower and Happy Trail, followed by the race highlight and namesake, the 11.2-kilometre Big Nimby climb with its 101 switchbacks.

After that, the riders pelted down Overnight Sensation, a favourite Spud Valley descent, and then headed to the Mosquito Lake area for more quick climbing and descending on Sphincter, Econoline, No Err, Ramble on, Moby Dick and Dark Forest.

"It's relentless," Linnell said, adding that people said the constant, gnarly climbing and descending made the race a real mountain biker's course. "You can't go on autopilot at all, or you're going to crash."

The inaugural race attracted 230 registrants, 185 of whom made it to the start line on the rainy Saturday that created greasy trails and good, not-too-dry Pemberton riding. The strong field included the likes of World Cup medallist Catharine Pendrel, who came from Kamloops to win the women's race with a time of 2:29:31 while collecting both women's primes.

Linnell said Pendrel "was raving about the course too. She said she would totally recommend it to anyone." Many of the other racers "were saying they'd never been to Pemberton before, and they were blown away by the riding," he added.

The lure of the course was so strong that it even inspired adventure racer Andrew Dye to run the whole thing as a sweep after his bike broke on the morning of the race.

"I think the sense was that this place has a lot to offer," Evans said. He noted the participation of some riders who live in Whistler and Squamish but somehow hadn't made it to Pemberton before, alongside racers from the likes of Burnaby, Coquitlam and Bellingham, Wash.

Linnell said "the gears are turning" already for next year's Nimby Fifty, with the first try having ignited excitement among riders as well as local businesses keen to support the new top-flight bike race at the north end of the corridor.

"I think there really was a vacuum for something like that in Pemberton," Linnell said.

For full results, check out nimbyfifty.com.

In South Surrey for the Junkyard Dog B.C. Cup cross-country race on Sunday (May 30), Whistler's Trevor Hopkins and his Team Whistler teammate Ann Yew both captured second-place results in their respective categories. Hopkins blasted to the head of the Master 30 to 39 Men's pack, and Yew battled the Elite Women.

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