By Darch Oborne

 

“I’ll be back next year.”

That phrase was said by virtually all of the racers who completed the third annual “Merritt Crown” this past Saturday, September 26th.

Organized by dad-and-son duo James and Darch Oborne, local bike enthusiasts, this fantastic yet soul-crushing race attracts the best of Western Canada’s riders.

The race is a serious test of physical endurance and navigational know-how—and over 60 cyclists were up for the challenge. 118 kms, 3200 vertical metres, in 12 hours or less. “Getting lost is part of it,” says James. “It’s not meant to be easy.” The racers enjoyed some of Merritt’s finest trails, including Windy Canyon, Ridge, Godey, and the very new James’ Joyride. All trails are kindly maintained by our local Merritt Mountain Biking Club. 

Of course, the race looked a little different this year, designed to comply strictly with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. All riders and volunteers wore masks and start times were staggered. What else stood out was the amount of female racers tripled from the previous year, a change the Obornes encouraged through their race promotion communications.

The 2020 King of the Crown is Brian Cooke of Kamloops at 6 hours, 58 minutes—beating last year’s record time by almost 2 hours. The 2020 Queen of the Crown is Julie Kelly of Fernie at 9 hours, 15 minutes, similarly beating last year’s record for the female category. The only local rider, Robin Humphrey, gave it his all, completing two-thirds of the racecourse in 12 hours. An impressive feat, considering he’s only been riding for a year. He’ll be back next year.

(Above) Local rider, Robin Humphrey, gets his game face on at the Merritt Crown start line. (Below) Riders line up to begin the 118-kilometre ride through the Nicola Valley trails in Saturday’s annual Merritt Crown Race. (COLIN FERGUSON/Syltography)

 

Sponsors for the event included Extra Foods, Interior Savings, Best Western Plus, Tourism Nicola Valley, Hack Electric, Clif, Conosur, and Ethical Bean. All proceeds of this event go to the planning and development of the KVR Rails to Trail from Merritt to Spences Bridge through the Thompson-Nicola Regional Trail Society.

Darch and James plan to hold the race again in June 2021. Can you see yourself on the throne? Start your training now. Not up for the 120km? There’s also a 50km half, or relay option, and the event always needs more volunteers.