Fifty-seven riders from as far away as Vancouver, ranging in age from 9-66, took to the trails in deep Errington Sunday for the first instalment of the 19th annual Hammerfest mountain bike race series.
Sunday was the cross country (or XC as its known) installment — the two-race series wraps up June 3 with the legendary Hammerfest Downhill.
Played out under ideal conditions, Sunday’s race was also the fifth stop of the eight-race Island Cup XC series.
“It’s always a favorite of a lot of the racers,” said longtime Island Cup co-ordinator and race administrator Colin Wilson from Cumberland prior to the start.
“It’s old school,” he said, “a lot of nice technical, some nice views at the top, and it makes you work for it.”
The host Arrowsmith Mountain Bike Club, he confirmed, “are by far one of the longest standing hosts for racing on the Island, even before the Island Cup series got going.”
The cup, he said, started up around 10 years ago.
“It’s great,” he said, “we actually have more races on Vancouver Island almost then there are in the rest of the province.”
Keep in mind many of this country’s top riders have taken on Hammerfest — names like Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal who finished seventh two years ago at the Tour de France, Steve Smith from Nanaimo, currently racing the World Cup downhill circuit, World Cup XC competitor for over a decade, Geoff Kabush from Courtenay, XC World Cupper Max Plaxton from Victoria, and of course closer to home, Nanoose downhiller Remi Gauvin who is currently racing semipro and competing in World Cup DH events.
And because the Island Cup series has an early start Wilson pointed out, “we get a lot of great riders. We’ve had Catharine Pendrel who just won the World Cup XC race in Germany. I mean all these guys got their start on the Island.”
Back in the saddle for his first Hammerfest XC for his first time in over a decade was Mike Laxdil, 31. He made the trip up to Errington with his dad from their home in Crofton for the inaugural Hammerfest XC back in 1994.
“I remember I was so excited on the way up, but they didn’t let me race — I was a bit too young (12ish).”
“I was crushed, but I came back the next year, and every year after that until ‘99 when I moved to Vancouver.”
Laxdil was all smiles on the course and finished 10th in the 21-rider field of Expert Men.
The Expert Men and Expert Women divisions did three laps of the 8k course; Intermediate Men and Women did two laps, and the Beginners one lap. The juniors did their own, shorter “less climbing” lap.
Thomas Skinner, 30, from Victoria, won the Expert Men with the fastest time of the day, a 1:34.07.
Andrew Speed from Errington carved out an eighth in the Expert Men; Nanoose Bay’s Garth Loughhead was third in the field of 19 Intermediate Men, and Errington’s Laurie Kalf was fourth among Expert Women.
Oceanside’s Theo Faust-Robinson, 13, and Ben Curet, 14, finished one-two in the Beginner Men. Sophie Denton-Kadlubowski, 13, from Qualicum Beach, was the first Jr. Female, and Parksville’s Riley Pinter was first in Jr Men. Guy Gauvin, (aka Remi’s dad) earned the badge of honour as the oldest rider to complete the course that day.
Also earning props for his efforts out there was Nicholas Knight, 9, who finished second and 30 seconds back of first in the Jr. Men.
Former Canada Cup XC standout Carter Hovey of Victoria was back in the saddle and came in second in the Expert Class with a time of 1:37.56.
Organizers of the upcoming Hammnerfest DH are putting the call out for volunteers. Anyone who would like to help out at one of B.C.’s most storied downhill events can email Kebble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE ISLAND CUP XC #6 was played out in Cumberland on Sunday, and the series resumes May 6 in Powell River. The 2012 Island Cup DH series started on Sunday in Cumberland, and IC DH #2 goes May 6 in Port Alberni.