This summer we here at the Whistler Museum have been working on digitizing the Whistler Question's photo collection [1978-1985]. The Whistler Question was Whistler's first official newspaper. In the midst of going through the collection, we came across Whistler’s first ever off-road bike race. The race took place on June 20, 1982.
On that Sunday morning, “seventeen keen competitors” lined up at the start line on the slopes of the Village Chair, according to an article published in the June 24, 1982, issue of the Whistler Question. One competitor, Mark Rowan, recalled the race began “Le Mans” style, which meant competitors started from a standing position. “Racers ran down the lower part of the Village Chair before picking up their bicycles in Mountain Square,” Rowan said, noting that this was roughly near where the Longhorn Saloon is today. “The racers then headed out to Lost Lake and to the power line road, which runs along the east side of Green Lake. From the Wedge Creek turnoff, they headed back via Mons and the Lost Lake trail again.”
Kona mountain bike company founder, Jacob Heilbron said the Whistler Race may have been called the Canadian Championships, but there was no governing body for mountain bike racing at the time. “As far as I know, it was the first mountain bike race held in Canada,” he noted. It wouldn’t be until 1984 and the formation of CORBA (Canadian Off-Road Bicycle Association) that the first official Canadian Championships would take place on Vedder Mountain
“There were no rules, so I switched to a road bike and picked up around three places on the section of highway heading back to town. Then I switched back to a mountain bike as we crossed back into local trails and tried to find the lightly marked trail on the way back to the finish,” Heilbron said. The first prize was $1,000 as recalled by both Deep Cove Bike Shop owner, Chaz Romalis, and Heilbron. The organizer of the race was Jon Kirk. Romalis mentioned, “he was responsible for the Deep Cove Daze, which brought thousands of spectators to watch a crit race in the early ’80s.”
“There was definitely some confusion about who had completed the entire race and what place they had finished,” Heilbron added. Romalis was in second place, but while descending the hill from the Microwave Tower he crashed out of the race. Rowan, unfortunately, didn’t finish the race either.
“I rode a cyclocross bike and my front tire caved in and I injured my face." The original Question article mentions the winner of the race, “Tony Starck, 22, from Victoria had purchased his bike only three weeks prior.” Starck was the first Canadian Champion of off-road bicycle racing. Second was Russ Maynard and third place went to Heilbron.
Written by John Alexander/Whistler Museum. www.whistlermuseum.orgblog.whistlermuseum.org/www.facebook.com/WhistlerMuseum/