Our Endurance Team is deep into the 2017 spring season and this weekend are in Grand Junction, CO for Round 2 of the Epic Rides triple crown. They’ll be putting their Hei Hei DLs to the test across the rugged terrain of the Grand Mesa. Leading up to this weekend, team rider Spencer Paxson clues us in on a fantastic event held close to Kona’s home in BC, with some special heritage dating back to Kona’s founding individuals. Stay tuned for more action from the Endurance Team as this weekend unfolds.
Words by Spencer Paxson. Photos by James Lissimore and Scott Robarts.
Before there were trails at Vedder Mountain, there was pizza and mountain biking. The year was 1984 and it was the first “unofficial” Canadian MTB Championships, comprised of a group of cyclists from Deep Cove and the BFJCC, including the eventual co-founder of Kona Bicycles. The winner was Alex Stieda, who would go on to become a 2-time Olympian and, in 1986, the first North American to lead to Tour de France. The route began in Yarrow and finished near Cultus Lake with après celebrations planned at Beethoven’s Pizza off the Columbia Valley Highway.
Today there is still pizza and mountain biking at Vedder Mountain. Beethoven’s has endured and the trails have evolved. In fact, the mountain bike community in the Fraser Valley (Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association) has grown in the last three decades to create a trail system that may be as timeless and pleasurable as a hot slice of pizza pie. And so on the weekend of May 6-7, 2017, hundreds of cyclists and their friends flocked to the lakeshore for two days of mountain bike racing. Day 1 was the Vedder Mountain Classic, a historic marathon cross-country race birthed from the original event held in 1984. Day 2 was the Fraser Valley Enduro, a multi-stage downhill trail race and part of the more recent BC Enduro Cup and North American Enduro Tour.
During the post-race interview on Saturday, I was asked what is special about racing in this part of world. My on-the-spot answer spoke plainly to the sense of fun, community and great trails that are so abundant in BC. After the interview I had a further thought. I’ve only been racing mountain bikes since 1998, around the time when the Vedder Classic went on a 16-year hiatus. That said, I’ve raced all around the world since then, and have grown up with this sport and lived and breathed its evolution as a core participant. What’s special about racing in this part of British Columbia is that there is no nostalgia around it. The heritage and the heroes are still there, some are still fast as hell, all are still stoked, and some even share podiums with their children. There’s no pretense to riding or racing here, no matter your skill level, and no need to waste time on reflecting on how it used to be, because in BC, mountain biking and racing just is. It’s a f*@#% good time!
So, thirty-three years after the first event, it seemed fitting that a few of us representing the now globally recognized Kona Bicycles brand could collect a few accolades. I took the win in the marathon XC ahead of rising star Rhys Verner in 3rd, long-time Kona Legend Kris Sneddon smiling from mid-pack, and second-generation Kona Employee and core newcomer Seth Cox. On Sunday, young Rhys showed us all how the new-schoolers get it done with a top-10 overall in the enduro, while I donned my goggles-and-a-half-shell to earn second fastest overall time in the XC + Enduro combined. It was worth a few extra slices from Beethoven’s, and with specks of Vedder’s loamy trails and pizza grease on my face, I headed home happy and ready for more.