Saturday, December 2, 2023

New UTMB Whistler race reasons uproar in path neighborhood


On Thursday, UTMB/Ironman introduced that the primary Canadian addition to their UTMB International Sequence can be held in Whistler in September 2024, the month when Gary Robbins historically hosted the generally revered Whistler Alpine Meadows tournament. UTMB Whistler organizers couldn’t have expected the popular reaction of concern that despatched shockwaves during the trail-running neighborhood and collected pace on social media over the next days.

In February of 2023, Robbins introduced on Instagram that it had grow to be “crystal transparent there used to be no trail ahead” for Coast Mountain Path Working (CMTR) to proceed to carry Whistler Alpine Meadows (WAM) a well-liked tournament with various races, from a vertical kilometre to a 100-miler. The development used to be completely cancelled. Whilst Robbins didn’t give specifics, many athletes speculated that Vail Inns, the group that owns Whistler Blackcomb (ski lodge), had made it unattainable for WAM to proceed. According to UTMB’s announcement on Thursday, Robbins wrote a weblog publish, titled ‘What In point of fact Went Down in Whistler with the WAM Races’ and the Web erupted.

Gary Robbins
Gary Robbins. Picture: Brice Ferre

Robbins is the director (with spouse Geoff Langford) of CMTR and their races have attracted most of the giant names in ultra-trail, together with Courtney Dauwalter, Dakota Jones and Mike Wardian. Identified for greeting each and every unmarried runner at his occasions with a hug or high-five on the end line, Robbins and his races constitute the entire absolute best portions of path working to many athletes–popular neighborhood involvement, improve for native companies and a focal point on sustainability.

Canadian path icon Ellie Greenwood (and previous Western States 100 direction report holder) used to be one of the crucial first to proportion her dismay towards UTMB, whose title previously few years has no longer best represented the preferred 171K extremely in Chamonix, but additionally stands for a mega-buck trade partnership (as of 2021) with Ironman.

Ellie Greenwood
Ellie Greenwood on the Buckin’ Hell 2017, a part of the Coast Mountain Path Sequence. Picture: Scott Robarts.

“NO. We had an alpine playground prior to you, UTMB,” Greenwood shared on X (previously Twitter). “Our native devoted race administrators (Coast Mountain Path) had a perfect VK, 25k, 50k, 110k and 100 miler however were given driven out remaining yr. Excellent good fortune getting locals to volunteer, we’ll be serving to on the different tremendous CMTR occasions as an alternative.”

Greenwood’s reaction has been echoed all over the neighborhood, from common runners to the most productive within the game. UTMB direction report holder and 2023 winner, Jim Walmsley, shared a Strava job titled “So what will we race subsequent yr then?”

UTMB and CMTR aren’t strangers: they met on a video name in September 2022, after the general version of Whistler Alpine Meadows, to talk about the potential for UTMB obtaining one in all CMTR’s races. Either side are tied in an NDA, however Robbins says that he shared some non-negotiables throughout the assembly with UTMB: “our neighborhood improve methods, our volunteer appreciation methods, and so on.” Robbins used to be instructed that the ones problems had been a dialog for once more and wrote that he had no longer heard again from UTMB since June.

Robbins says he’s now thankful the dialog with UTMB didn’t growth. “I used to be giving them the advantage of the doubt, however in my middle I all the time knew higher,” he wrote. “I’m embarrassed to must admit that I virtually let a fox within the chicken space.”

Whistler to get Canada’s first UTMB race in 2024

Robbins cites a serious loss of verbal exchange at the a part of Vail Inns as a part of the issue, in addition to unreasonable requests referring to allows meant to make it unfeasible for Whistler Alpine Meadows to proceed. In a commentary to Canadian Working, Vail recognizes the breakdown in verbal exchange on their finish however sticks to their line that the verdict to cancel WAM used to be totally the number of CMTR. “We weren’t keen to transport ahead with the 2023 race with out an good enough protection and clinical plan, and WAM used to be unwilling to paintings with us in this,” they stated.

Robbins says Vail Lodge’s new necessities had been unattainable to satisfy. “The brand new allows integrated such things as a steep new working charge, technical and protection necessities totally unrelated to a path working tournament, and a bunch of different pieces that’d by no means been there prior to,” he stocks in his weblog.

UTMB is adamant that they didn’t got down to compete with Robbins, and UTMB and Vail have each said that negotiations best started as soon as Robbins made the general public announcement that he used to be cancelling WAM. UTMB Whistler race director Christine Cogger believes there’s house for multiple tournament throughout the neighborhood. “I believe Gary has executed a super task. We didn’t get up having a look to wreck the Canadian path working neighborhood,” she instructed Canadian Working.

Paul Huddle, director of world path working operations for UTMB, says the neighborhood response used to be unexpected however no longer sudden. “I do know Gary may be very passionate and places on wonderful races. A race is your child, it’s numerous paintings,” Huddle stated. “His belief [is] that one in all his young children used to be stolen and placed on by means of anyone else–I am getting that.” 

Revered names within the path neighborhood, like former obstacle-racing champion Amelia Boone, have urged the location with UTMB must encourage a brand new trail ahead within the game. On X, Boone known as the talk “a broader dialog of what we wish for the game of path working.” She added: “If we don’t need a UTMB/IM type, then we wish to trade the inducement construction, which comes at sponsor stage.”

Robbins and CMTR aren’t taking the hit flippantly, and feature introduced a brand new race to be hosted at the similar weekend as UTMB Whistler, in September 2024. “I would really like to make the effort now to mention that we are formally saying our intentions of launching a BC race in direct pageant with this tournament, in September 2024,” Robbins stated. His announcement has garnered the improve of athletes on social media, and Dominic Gross and Andy Pearson, hosts of the ultrarunning comedy podcast Between Two Pines, have created a Move Fund Me, comically titled ‘Lend a hand Gary Robbins Purchase UTMB.’

UTMB answered to CMTR’s race announcement. “We would like all path races to be successful. For that race and all of Gary’s races, we wish them to achieve success,” they said. 

Whilst it is still noticed how September 2024 will spread, the path neighborhood seems to be overwhelmingly unified of their improve of CMTR and grassroots racing occasions. “I may just no longer be extra happy with our neighborhood presently,” Greenwood commented on X. “We can combat to the top for what we like, for what we now have labored so arduous for and for what we now have supported for see you later.”

“We’re beaten by means of the reaction and the fantastic improve from our neighborhood, each in the neighborhood and at massive,” Robbin’s spouse, Linda Barton-Robbins, shared with Canadian Working. “Path runners, hello? They’re one thing else. It introduced tears to our eyes such a lot of occasions the day before today. We’re in order that thankful.”


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