If you're looking for some good, outdoor family fun with a twist this Canada Day long weekend, check out the Bear Mountain Challenge in Mission.
Celebrating its 16th year of downhill and cross country mountain bike racing, the challenge draws some of the top riders from around the province and Washington state.
"Bear Mountain [race] is one of the original ones and there's so many bikers here," said race organizer Gary Harder. "There are so many riders here who are so good."
One of those riders is 16 year-old Holly Feniak from Vancouver Island, who's an up-and-comer according to Harder. She comes from a biking family and has recently turned pro.
Mountain biking is a sport that appeals to all ages, from kids to seniors, and there are many women who also compete in both downhill and cross country.
One team, the Mud Bunnies, is made up of women from all over B.C.
"It's girls supporting girls," said Harder.
Organizers are expecting up to 300 riders this weekend, and Harder estimates that 20-25 per cent are women racers.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws for both racers and spectators is Bear Mountain itself, standing proudly in Mission's backcountry.
"Elevation drops and big jumps . . . that's what people come to see, [racers] fly through the air," added Harder.
"Bear has got so much history."
The course record of 3: 33 by top downhill racer Steve Smith in 2005, when he was just 16, still stands. Smith now races on the World Cup Circuit.
"B.C. riders are some of the best in the world. It's one of the things that makes the course so good," said Harder.
Cross country racing goes Saturday at 10 a.m. with riders doing laps on the spectator friendly 5.1 km course. Riders range from age 10 and up.
On Sunday, it's the spectacular 2 km downhill racing for ages 13 and up, including all of B.C.'s elite riders. Racing starts at 11 a.m. but spectators can come earlier for warm-ups.
"The course makes you feel like a superstar if you're a good rider," said Harder, who knows what he's talking about after riding downhill for more than 30 years.
"It's got a bit of everything, steep sections, lots of jumps and full of trees. The whole course is taped out. It's very beautiful for looks. The District of Mission is great; they like the races and welcome us there."
One of the key spots to watch all the dramatic jumps is The Rock, a short hike up the mountain for spectators to get a great view of the top riders.
The Bear Mountain Challenge is part of the B.C. Cup Series, which travels all over the province from spring through fall. Pro riders win money and amateurs earn points and prizes.
The event is great for the whole family and there's a concession with proceeds going to the local BMX society.
"It's a whole scene; racers, families and the people who come to watch," added Harder. Riders can still sign up on Saturday at 7: 30 a.m. to race.
? For more details try www.bearmountainchallenge.com, www. fvmba.com (Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association) or Gary at bgharder@ shaw.ca.