'Angels' by the hundreds hit Whistler trails

Fun factor high in massive, two-stage women's race

If there's any question as to just how many women there are hitting the trails in the Whistler area, look no further than the weekend's Charlie's Angels mountain bike race.

The all-women's wheel-up hosted by WORCA saw nearly 250 riders of all ability levels suit up for one of either Team Kelly, Sabrina or Jill - named after characters of the famous fictional trio - during action Friday and Saturday (July 27 and 28).

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Whistler's Katrina Strand claimed the individual title, thanks to her first-place finish on Friday's downhill leg in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and a seventh-place showing in the cross-country stage on Saturday.

But for Strand, the highlight was less about the victory and more about having the opportunity to ride in such a "totally unique" and "super inspiring" race.

"The event wants more ladies to be involved in the mountain bike world and just get out there and ride," said Strand, who rode for Team Jill. "I wonder if this could happen anywhere else but our corridor from Vancouver to Whistler. It's mind-boggling; 240 ladies is huge."

Aja Philp and Simmone Lyons were second and third, respectively, behind Strand on the downhill stage, which featured trails on the Orient Express, plus B-Line and Heart of Darkness.

Brandi Heisterman finished first in the cross-country ride with a time of one hour, 37 minutes to give Team Jill a second individual victory, but it was Team Sabrina that came out on top overall when calculating the results of all participants.

Chrissy De Vall claimed the runner-up spot on Saturday while Robin O'Neill finished third, putting both in the top seven for the event overall.

Consistent finishes by Sylvie Allen vaulted her up into second place overall, as she placed fourth on both stages - and did so in style.

"It's definitely one of the funnest events out there for women who ride mountain bikes," said Allen. "My goal was to have an awesome time and do as well as I could. If there was a costume division, I might have been able to advance my spot.

"I think there was equal effort put into my costumes as there was my training."

De Vall and Carrie Meltzer tied for third place overall, with their stage finishes both coming to a sum of 15. In the Threesomes team event, which saw one of each 'Angel' make up squads, the "Dream Team" of Strand, Meltzer and Fanny Paquette took top spot.

Race director Tony Horn said the event raised at least $12,000 for the Howe Sound Women's Centre on top of providing a great time for participants. Horn said he heard lots of good feedback from riders about the cross-country course on Saturday, which shifted over to the Lost Lake area and trails south of Green Lake after last year's Betty vs. Veronica was staged on the Westside trails.

"I think people were stoked," said Horn. "There was a bit of trepidation about it at first, but I think people loved it."

Strand was certainly among those who loved it.

"It was so good," she said. "It had a little bit of everything. I loved it and I'm excited to ride it again.

"I'm just stoked there's a Tony Horn in this world," she continued. "It was a really, really fun weekend and I would have said that regardless of how I did. It was awesome to see that many ladies out there shredding and working hard."

But Horn said he can't take all the credit for the event, lauding the event's hard-working group of volunteers.

"The 'Bosleys,' as they were called - not only did they make the race really fun for the girls, they cheered on the first girl to the last girl like crazy," said Horn. "The way they were cheering for people was amazing.

"Those guys really came through and it made the event really special."

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