April 9th, 2018

Riley Suhan Invitational 2018 Backcountry Race Recap

Some new history entered the books after 44 riders came, conquered and celebrated at the inaugural Riley Suhan Invitational 2018 backcountry race event at Golden, BC this past weekend.

Photos by Dave Best


Friday Night Rider Meeting and Team Draw

The event kicked off Friday evening with a rider meeting and team draw at the Mountain Motorsports snowmobile dealership in town. As riders signed waivers, snacked on dinner from a local food truck and sipped a cold one, Riley Suhan talked about his vision for the event and how it came to be.


Back in late November, Suhan had taken the local snowmobile club organization (Sled Golden) gate staff on guided tour up to Quartz Creek. In a casual moment parked outside the Quartz Cabin, he shared with them how he would someday love to host a mountain race in the area,  “…something with tight trees, alpine bowls, jumps and hillclimbs that would really test the best all-around mountain rider.” Fortunately, one of the Sled Golden staff there happened to be a professional event organizer, and it was not long before plans were drawn up and a date set. Suhan and Sled Golden were literally off to the races.


Backcountry and Avalanche Safety are Number One Priority for Race

Avalanche safety was a primary concern for the event organizers. On Friday, all riders were briefed on the Avalanche Safety Plan, avalanche forecasting for the area on race day and other safety protocols. Although the exact layout of the course would remain a secret until race day, riders did receive more detail on how the day would exactly shake out.


The Team Draw

The most complex and exciting part of the evening was the team draw. The Riley Suhan Invitational 2018 would be a relay race, with a random draw for team composition. This year, Riley hand-picked 11 team captains and their names were first drawn from the hat to decide the order of start. Then the team captains drew the names of their second, third and fourth teammates. Riders from Saskatchewan, Alberta and all across BC were soon introducing themselves to teammates and getting initial plans laid for the next day.

There was a huge variety of riders who signed up for this inaugural event. From professional hillclimb racers to weekenders, 21-year-olds to their parents, this was an event that drew all comers.


Riley Suhan Invitational 2018

The host, Riley Suhan, lines up to set what would be the fastest individual lap of the day.



Riley Suhan Invitational 2018 Race Day

Race day started with a relaxed noon check-in time and no tech check to worry about. The weather was mostly cloudy with few breaks, so flat light caused the course to be shortened by about a minute at the very upper reaches of the alpine bowls due to visibility.

By noon the BBQ was cranked out at Quartz Creek, and nearly all of the teams were checked-in and ready to ride by 12:15pm. Next up, the cold lap of the course started at 1:00pm. This was the first opportunity for racers to get a look at the course. By 1:20pm everybody was back and getting organizaed for their starts at 2:00pm. The scene was really relaxed, with riders socializing in and around the Quartz Cabin, which also served as the start/finish and exchange zone.


Riley Suhan Invitational 2018

There was a great turnout of racers and spectators at the first ever Riley Suhan Invitational.


The teams started at 2:00pm on the dot, with subsequent teams following at 30-second intervals. The last starting team had just left the start line when the lead rider from the first team came back to exchange with their team’s second rider.

The timing system was set up so each rider’s lap was timed individually, then added together to form a team time. The transition period from a rider crossing the finish to handing his or her chip to the next rider was not timed so that the chaos in the exchange zone would be kept to a minimum.


Racing Strategies Used to Obtain Fast Times

The first rider across the start line, Riley Suhan’s own father, Dwayne Suhan, clocked the fastest lap and fastest climb and held it for a long time into the race. The chipped timing system provided live results to the announcer throughout the day, allowing exciting tidbits to be shared with the assembled crowd at the cabin.

Riders mostly clocked lap times between 6 and 7 minutes, and many were exhausted by the time they crossed the finish line. Riders who had completed their laps took time during transitions to provide course intel to teammates who had not yet set out. This strategy allowed some riders racing further back in the order to be better prepared for their own laps.


Riley Suhan Invitational 2018

A challenging course with a variety of terrain is part of what made the first-ever Riley Suhan Invitational a unique and exciting event.


Another strategy became apparent as many of the top riders elected to race closer to the end of the event. This strategy worked to take the stress of a hammered course off a team’s slower riders. As a result, some of the fastest times were laid down near the end, eventually knocking Dwayne Suhan off his top spot in both the climb and lap times.


Riley Suhan Invitational 2018 Results


The hillclimb segment started in Cabin Valley and climbed to a point on the Fingers. Jamie Pukas dominated the hill climb segment by 4 seconds, riding his supercharged sled. Most of the other riders raced on stock sleds. The rest of the results were very close, with only half a second separating 2nd and 5th places. Dwayne Suhan held second place, but was followed closely by Mckenzie Babstock, Jack Hickey and Riley Suhan. The hillclimb results can be found here.


Fastest Lap

For the overall fastest lap, race host Riley Suhan took home the honours with an outstanding performance, 20 seconds faster than the next closest competitors, 2nd place Mckenzie Babstock. The remaining podium position went to Jamie Pukas, followed by Travis Senkow and Skyler Hillier. The fastest lady on the day was Kayli Dentman, followed by Sana Jackson and Samantha Grey.


Riley Suhan Invitational 2018

Kayli Dentman raced to set the fastest time in the individual ladies category.



Riley Suhan Invitational 2018 Winners

The winning team was comprised of Mckenzie Babstock, Skyler Hillier, Logan Thibodeau and Jay Paul.  Jay Paul owns the Dugout and is a huge supporter of both the event and of Sled Golden. The next-fastest team consisted of Dallas Gottler, Brandon Irving, Brett Kolasa and Dakota Davis. In third, Travis Senkow, Sean Olechow, Tyler Speight and Matt Middleton put together their best efforts. Team and individual times can be found here.


All riders were done the course by 3:00 pm. In a team effort from all racers and volunteers, the course and event area was cleaned up by 3:30 pm.  Then everybody headed back to town for the awards.


Awards Ceremony, Prizes and After Party

The awards were held at the Dugout and all had a good time. With more prizes than people in the room, nobody went home empty-handed. The first-place team had their names carved on the event trophy that will stay in Golden until next year’s event. All podium team members received plaques to take home and their share of the $2500 cash purse. Riders with the fast laps and climbs also received prize plaques along with their choice of swag from the prize table.


Riley Suhan Invitational 2018

Afterwards, racers celebrated both victory and a great overall experience at The Dugout afterparty in Golden.


Stay tuned for the Riley Suhan Invitational 2019 dates. Expect next year’s event to be bigger and more badass!


– Magi