Last weekend whilst a bunch of smelly Euros, loutish Brits, and a few brain dead downhillers were sliding down a glacier in France, and the whole of the North American MTB industry relocated to a tiny mountain town in the Sierras, another far more local event was taking place. Whilst most of mountain biking's eyes were on the Mega and Downieville to see who would be crowned the best mountain biker, the real test was taking place in that tiny and not so famous British Columbian mountain town, Whistler. The 4Queens is a four day all round mountain bike challenge with a format unlike any other race, and arguably the most relevant and realistic format for uncovering the true mountain biking hero. Throughout this hilarious ordeal I kept a diary of the happenings on my blog 2FLAT. Here is the first of four entries which cover the fun and games. Enjoy.
Even if you're not much of a racer most mountain bikers usually have one or two events that they like to keep noted in their calendar. For the real core of Whistler riders (I'm talking about the guys who don't use mountain biking as training for road biking) there is only one solid date in their calendar, the 4Queens.
Last year, race director extraordinaire Tony Horn introduced a new format of racing to really find out who was the bestest biker in Whistler. Someone who has Jedi bike handling ability, the fitness of a Greek God, and the bloody minded determination of a caged cougar. They called it the 4Jacks and it hits the exact right tune to spark the imagination of the whole town. Matt Ryan took the overall win and many riders took their red marker to the second weekend in July 2010 and put Matt Ryan's mugshot on their dart board.
Tony Horn, the evil genius behind the event, tries to find a way to destroy riders and bikes in four days. Last year no one actually died so this year he has stepped up his game. For four days riders have to show their all round riding ability over five courses of varying insanity. The catch is that the rider must complete it ALL on exactly the same bike and tyres. So consider this. The extreme ends of the gnarly spectrum that is the 4Queens, you have racing down the same course they hold the Crankworx Garbo DH race on and then an epic Pemberton AM mission that includes, but is not restricted to, riding up to and down a trail that is considered the most gnarly big bike trail in the whole Sea-to-Sky Corridor (for those that don’t know that corridor also includes Whistler, Squamish and Vancouver North Shore!!!).
Simply put the 4Queens is four unique day stages. One rider. One bike. One set of tyres. It’s pretty simple really. The Queens is a four day mountain bike adventure designed to test every skill, and twitch every muscle, in a rider’s arsenal in an attempt to crown the best overall riders around. This race really could be the truest test of man and machine in mountain biking.
So, Day One of the four day super duper epic mega race, The Four Queens. The first stage was the Westside Wheel Up course which goes something like this:
Mega hill straight out of the gate, the kind of hill that isn’t that long so you go HARD out the gate only to be blowing phlegm within minutes, then a bit of medium tech trail (Whistler medium tech which may equate to the gnarliest trail in most areas) which goes up and down, then a screaming brief downhill into Beaver Pond which always makes me want to stop and take in the view, then Danimal but at mach race speed, then up up and up to reclaim the altitude, then super drifty flow all the way down, then back up and down and over in the rooty heaven of Bobs, then the no flow of Get Over it, then a sprint to the finish where there is someone who is waiting to hand out beers.
I pretty much blew myself out of the gate after working all day coaching in the baking heat then thinking for two silly minutes that I had the same level of fitness I had last year on this stage. It took me a kilometre to reign myself and my thudding heart back in. I calmed myself and just took to having going as hard as I could on the climbs but still leaving plenty in the tank for the descents where the fun and adrenalin would fuel me up for the next section of up. My favourite section was when the Crowe tried to overtake me at the top of Bob's Rebo. He had clawed me in on the climb but there was no way he was going to stop my skid fest on the only butter piece of trail in the whole Whistler valley. He had to contend with following in the tracks of my dirty brown snake all the way down, but once the trail headed up again I let him past and off he pedalled in a silver streak of smoke. That dude has ridden the trails here for more years than many and it was rad to watch him pound himself in this crazed event. I wouldn't see him till day four where his yogic breathing would but fear into me on the climb to the moon.
Kiwi Chris Johnston took first place, followed closely by Dylan Wolsky, Mike Boehm, Dave Burch, and Chris Clarke. Joanna Harrington took the ladies fastest, followed by determined Fanny Paquette and last year's all round queen Sylie Allen. This first stage showed everyone's physical form and who had the Eye of the Tiger in them, but it really doesn't prepare anyone for the days to come. The first day is like a gentle warm up compared with the craziness that is to come, but it is a good fun way to get everyone together on a sunny evening to compare notes and ponder at some people's bike and tyre choice. Tony Horn maybe a sadistic bastard but he knows that laughs are what keep people coming back for more torture, so this year he asked that all competitors turned up with a moustache (it was the Queen of Clubs: Freddie Mercury Stage no doubt). There was some weird faces and it was pretty hard to recognise your good friends at first. Plenty of people looked like off duty policemen which was very off putting at first. I went with a weird hybrid tashe, the French-Swedish Conquistador Twizzler.
That night I consumed my protein shakes, pasta, and glass of concrete for the next day's stage – the Garbo DH.
Day two report coming next. Obviously [duh].
Photos by Matthew Mallory/CycleComponentNetwork.com unless otherwise stated.
If you thought the spelling and grammar was terrible on this post then go have a look at some elementary school literature on my super blog 2FLAT.