Approximately 150 racers came out to see who had the fastest descending time in the Fernie B.C. Cup Finals on Aug. 28 at Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR). This year featured times that were more than 30 seconds faster than the 2015 race, according to Stephen Exley, the organizer of the Dunbar Summer Cycle Series. The series hosts three of the six B.C. Cup races, stopping at Panorama, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and FAR.
Exley attributes the more than a half-minute time difference to the conditions. The 2015 race was very wet, with continuous rain making for a very slick and slippery track. This year’s event was dry with dusty conditions that allowed racers to carry more speed through the course. Another factor which would have helped the fastest pro’s time compared to last year was the minor reroute for the less experienced riders near the top of the course. The reroute allowed for more dirt to stay in the steep chute for the pro riders and reduced a barrier to entering for some of the newer riders by offering a less steep reroute for the non-elite classes, according to the marketing coordinator for FAR, Karen Pepper.
“We only changed the route for the non-pros, anyone who is expert and elite ran the steep route we did last year and then all the other categories went on a different route that was still steep and challenging but not as steep and challenging,” she said. “The steep and challenging one last year was a bit of a barrier to some people racing so we deliberated with the race organizers and decided to come up with this plan to encourage more riding and to get more racers who are not pro to come out and race while accommodating the high end riders who want the challenging course.”
Exley told The Free Press that the reroute had a lot of participants talking prior to seeing the course.
“There was a lot of turmoil going into the event before anybody had ridden it. On social media there was quite the uproar. But, by about 3 p.m. Friday everybody had calmed down and was really excited about the different tracks and being able to ride and keep the dirt down,” he said. “It allowed for the chutes to be more rideable, all weekend long. That allowed for, I think it was 98 per cent of the field to finish their race run which is what we wanted.”
The dates of the six series are determined by location, explained Exley.
“It’s a six stop series and we choose the destinations and dates which make the most sense for travelling. We find people take time off for Crankworx and then for Fernie. There is almost a three-week gap between B.C. Cups so people can travel out here from Vancouver to make the journey,” he said.
Exley and Pepper were in agreement that the 2016 downhill finals went off smoothly, and both hope to see the series return to FAR next summer.
“I think everyone is having a great time, they are enjoying the sun and the downhill race action. It is always exciting to watch the high-end riders,” said Pepper. “We love the B.C. Cup and we hope to have the finals back next year.