It’s a Friday morning in Whistler. Anka, Kelli and I finished EWS #6 this past Sunday and we’re still in a cycle of recovery: stuffing our faces with all of the food, getting amongst our friends in the crowds of Crankworx, coaching with Lululemon groups and trying to enjoy as much riding as our bodies will allow us. The temperatures in Whistler are soaring and the best way to ride is either at the crack of dawn or as high into the alpine as lifts/bikes can take us. Today, we’re headed up to a new heli drop known as “Mt. Barbour”, which accesses the fabled Tenquille Lake trail, just north of Pemberton, BC.
To characterize the mood of my team going into this ride and finishing the last race as “tired” would be a serious understatement. We give a lot of effort and emotion to the races that have become part of our job, and it all takes a toll on one’s body and mind. Anka and Kelli have been talking a lot about their plans to retire from the EWS and I have my own future plans in mind. We grapple with the idea of moving away from a discipline and a stage of our careers that we’ve come to love, but we’re collectively driven to try new things on our bikes, visit new places and tell new stories. It’s the beginning of the end of a part of our careers, but the start of something great ahead of us.
Just because we’re “pro athletes” doesn’t mean we have the luxury of taking things like helicopter rides for granted. This day is special. Whistler’s Blackcomb Aviation has worked tirelessly to install these new bike-specific racks on their machines and people are turning up to try Joyride Bike Parks’ new Mount Barbour trail in droves. I’ve never ridden the Tenquille Trail, although it has been regarded by so many locals as a “must do” ride in our region – it also used to involve a two-hour slog up to get to. We all feel pretty damn lucky to get the chance to fly away from the chaos that is Crankworx and Whistler on this day and spend a day in the alpine with our friends (Gary Perkin and Seb Kemp in tow/the lead).
The ride is relaxed and it’s the ideal setup after a week of beating the crap out of our bodies and our bikes. Mount Barbour’s new trail is fast and flowy and crosses some incredible vistas. We stop to eat while the sun begins to set on Tenquille Lake and exchange gossip, war stories and our dreams for the coming months; there is so much going on and it’s so rare that we get the chance to sit together and talk in such an amazing, quiet environment without the noise and stress of a race or project going on.
As Gary gets works to capitalize on the light of the setting sun, Kelli, Anka and I laugh with Seb and enjoy each other’s company. We pass through the old, burned trees that Tenquille is now famous for and negotiate a trail most of us haven’t seen before. After a couple of photos are taken while the light still works in Gary’s favour, we are set free to open up the final kilometers of trail without any obligation. Seb had teased us by calling this final bit of trail some of his favourite terrain in the valley and as we experience it firsthand, I can hear my teammates and friends yipping and shouting as they encounter every new corner and drop off along the way.
We finish our lap and the sun has disappeared behind the mountains. We exchange high fives and stories of surprises, twists and turns on our ride and Anka subtly says: “this is what I live for: I’ve wondered if I’ll love riding without racing, and then I get a day like this and know that being on my bike with friends on a new trail is what it’s really all about...” And she couldn’t be more right…