Barr set high in Peak to Valley Race

Former ski racing stars tear up world's longest GS course

Davey Barr broke the five-minute barrier on a full Peak to Valley Race course for the first time in 17 years, leading his team to the fastest time overall in the classic Whistler favourite.

Not bad for a retired guy.

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Barr, who left the Canadian ski cross team at the end of last season following a great career, skied the world's longest giant slalom for the first time Saturday (Feb. 2) and finished in 4:57.

"It was always a tough one to be here for because we were always on the road," said Barr, who with Julia Murray - another recently-retired Olympian and Peak to Valley first-timer - Luke and Clay Dolan had the quickest total team time in the two-day race.

"For both Julia and I, we've wanted to do this race for a long time, and it was the right year now that we're retired from the tour."

Barr said he was just able to take advantage of great conditions to tame the 160-gate course on Saturday. It was the first time anyone had gone under five minutes since Chris Kent did it back in 1996.

"I didn't really know what to expect from myself," laughed Barr. "We do top-to-bottom runs all the time, just maybe with not quite as many turns."

Barr said the Dolans recruited him and Murray "about two days after we announced our retirement" for the 29th annual race. The foursome finished in 21:26 atop the 149-and-under age group (combined ages).

Kent was right behind Barr with the second-fastest time on Saturday, finishing in 5:06 to lead a similarly stacked team of current and former national team skiers. He and Madison McLeish, Rob Boyd and Aleisha Cline formed the Spicy Agedashi Tofus (21:45), and won the 150 to 174 division by just six seconds over Hoopla - consisting of Ryan Oughtred, Phil Beauregard, Astrid Grandi and Jayme Smithers.

Each co-ed team of four had two racers on course Friday and two on Saturday. Cline had the fastest women's time on Friday at 5:54, while McLeish was the quickest female on Saturday at 5:13. Stan Rey, another to leave the Canadian ski cross team this past season, finished with Friday's fastest men's time, clocking in at 5:14.

The Toes First team of Tony Callen, Maureen Vlases, Matt Macartney and Bill Vlases finished in 25:01 to take top honours in the 175 to 199 group.

Barry the Rooster made another appearance at the top of the leaderboard by claiming victory in the 200 to 224 division, as Steve Fleckenstein, Liz Thompson, Dave Johnston and Kent Wills were all under six minutes with a 23:02 total.

Team Spirit (24:16) used great runs from Brian Cameron, John Townsend, Geordie Trusler and Kary Firstbrook to win the 225 to 250 group.

Another perennial division winner came in the 250-plus class, as the Wild Eastern Flyers - Lloyd Henderson, Lou Fenninger, Joy Fera and Bob Deeks - recorded a total of 25:16 to take first.

Whistler Blackcomb events supervisor Cate Webster was thrilled to be "blessed" with two sunny days for the second year in a row. Seventy-one teams came out for this year's test of endurance.

"Despite the fact that when they cross the finish line, they're all screaming 'I'll never do that again,' they always come back, which is wonderful," said Webster.

One who won't be coming back is Bridget Duckworth, who skied her 13th and final Peak to Valley on Friday.

Duckworth, who turns 80 later this month, had the honour of being the first racer on the course this year, but got the same nervous feeling she's had at the top each year.

"It's great fun, except standing in the gate at the beginning," she laughed while sharing hugs and congratulations with friends at the finish.

Duckworth had decided in advance this would be her last Peak to Valley, but wasn't too miffed at finishing short of her 10-minute goal.

"Some people take it very seriously," she said, "but our team's name is Going Slowly Downhill."

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