Kieran Lumb leads the men to a first place finish at Red Bull 400 in Whistler, Canada on July 30, 2016

Red Bull 400 is a running race. Most cyclists will go to great lengths to avoid running, until absolutely forced to by a cyclocross race. So why is Canadian Cycling Magazine not only covering the event, but sending one of our own to compete? Having to share an office with Runners and Triathletes we constantly hear what impressive athletes they are and how hard they consider their chosen sport to be. Red Bull 400 is a chance beat them at their own game by showing them what happens when a cyclist leaves the bike behind to take on the most lactic inducing distances in track and field. Oh yeah, and it runs straight up the 2010 Olympic ski jump ramp

The Competition:

After sending one of our writers out to participate and share what the Red Bull 400 is all about we sadly had to abandon the coverage when nearby forest fires to the south caused the event to be cancelled. Throughout the year talk stirred and their was some heated conversations in the office about which magazines athletes could take the victory in 2018 (Running, Cycling & Triathlon). We decided to put our money where our mouth was and put our theories to the test.

Gripped Publishing recently did a call out to Canada’s top endurance sport athletes in specialties Running, Cycling and Triathlon for a unique challenge. The goal of the contest it to pitch its three magazines; Canadian Running, Canadian Cycling and Triathlon Canada against each other to determine who’s the top in endurance sports. The Red Bull 400 is our middle battle ground between cycling, triathlon and running. While a runner may have an advantage in terms of time spent on their feet, a cyclist and triathlete are arguably more accustomed to steep inclines and hill climbing. None of the three athletes are perfectly prepared for an uphill race like this, which makes it the perfect opportunity to test their pure strength, grit and tenacity.

Straight up – Red Bull 400 in Whistler, B.C. July 30, 2016

The Battle Grounds:

The Red Bull 400 is the ultimate test of speed and endurance. The race climbs up a ski jump, at a 37 degree angle, for 400 metres. July 14, 2018 will mark the third edition of the Whistler. B.C. event.

Don’t let the short distance fool you, the Red Bull 400 is a test of full-body strength. For context, the world record for the flat 400m is 43.03, and the world record for the Red Bull 400 is 3:48. That’s over three minutes longer to cover the same distance with an average record pace of 9:30 per km. Competitors will be pushing their lactic threshold to absolute max using their feet, legs and hands to race up this steep 400m.

The defending men’s and women’s champions are IAAF World Cross-Country team member Kieran Lumb, and triathlete Rachel McBride, one of Canada’s most decorated athletes in the sport.

Michael Van Den Ham at the Waterloo, Wisconsin stop of the UCI World Cup. Photo: Andre Cheuk

Our Cyclist:

Name: Michael van den Ham

2017 Canadian national champion in cyclocross, Michael van den Ham races with Garneau Easton p/b TLC. When he’s not between the tape at a cyclocross World Cup, he can be found at racing on road during BC Superweek, on gravel at the Dirty Kanza 200, and even at select Canada Cup mountain bike races. The multi-talented rider is adept at quickly learning, then excelling at new disciplines, making him our first choice to represent cyclists at the Red Bull 400. We asked Michael to tell us why he’s confident heading to Whistler to take on two previous winners at the unique and demanding event. Here is his response:

Michael van den Ham: A couple weeks ago I was asked to run the RedBull 400. Easily lured by the chance to spend a night in Whistler, I rather foolishly agreed without bothering to figure out what the heck the RedBull 400 actually was. Well, it turns out it’s a running race and a rather steep one at that. So steep, in fact, that this sprint up – either on or beside, I’m still not entirely clear on that – the ski jumps at Whistler is being billed as the steepest 400m race in the world. To top it off, I’m supposed to be competing against a triathlete, Rachel McBride, and a 1500m runner, Kieren Lumb who, I may point our, actually run as a (primary) part of their respective sports.

Now, at first glance you might be thinking to yourself, “this bike riding chump doesn’t stand a chance!” To you, I say, not so fast! Here, my friends, is why.

Running up steep slopes? Check. It’ll be a breeze without the bike and cycling cleats.

1) Running Uphill = Cyclocross Run Ups

Now, I know what you are thinking. Here I am going against two people who spend a lot of time running and somehow think I’ll come out top. But here’s the thing. They may be runners, but they’re flatland runners! Sure, I don’t run as often, but when I do run it’s almost exclusively up a steep slippery incline with a bike on my back. Lose the bike part and that’s basically the Red Bull 400. Anyone can clip along at a quick pace on the flats, but only a true ‘crosser knows what it’s like to run up a near wall week in and week out all fall.

2) I’ve been tapering

If I’ve learned one thing from my years of being cycling coach at Cycle-Smart, it’s that overtraining might just be worse than under training. That right there might just pose a problem for those Triathletes and Runners out there. I’m sure Kieren and Rachel’s weekly workout plans have been full of “Bricks” and “Wind sprints” and “Tempo Runs” – whatever the heck those things mean – while mine have been filled with precisely two 5-10 minute jogs before gym workouts. That’s right, I’m as fresh as a daisy in spring while the other two will be dreading just the idea of lacing up their runners for another outing.

3) Criterium racing is the ideal prep

From what I can tell, the RedBull 400 is a mass start event and, as a result, there might just be a little jockeying for position off the start. That might be a problem for those runners and triathletes out there, but I will have spent all week whizzing around various Lower Mainland towns at 60kmh with 100 other guys as a part of BC Superweek, so moving down to a casual climbing pace will be nothing!

So there you have it. Two convincing (and one not so convincing) reasons why I’m heading for Red Bull 400 glory.

Feeling the burn. Red Bull 400 in Whistler, B.C. July 30, 2016

From the editor: Why Michael has the best chance of winning the Red Bull 400 in Whistler?

Michael sounds confident in his dark horse billing going up against two previous Red Bull 400 winners, and we couldn’t agree more. If you’ve ever watched the start of a cyclocross race you’ll know the first lap is a 10 minute all-out, full-power sprint for position. He may not be 100% clear on where the course is, but once he’s in the start gates he knows how to find his way to the front end of a race. As Canada’s cyclocross national champion, van den Ham has the red-line pacing experience necessary to carry speed through the final 100 m up the ski jump, backed up by the explosive power of a cyclocross’ constant sprinting efforts. Excelling at a discipline that requires racers to mix running into the middle of a cycling race, often scaling steep, muddy hills in cycling cleats, van den Ham has ample time on his feet to be confident on the start line in Whistler.

Geoff Kabush, an Olympic mountain biker and multiple time Canadian cyclocross national champion has set precedent, beating runners at their own game to win the similarly styled Grouse Grind Mountain Run in North Vancouver, B.C. in September 2017. When the lactic burn starts to set in during the Red Bull 400, van den Ham will be comfortable pushing the pace. Especially knowing he won’t have to keep that effort for another 50 minutes like he would at a cyclocross World Cup.

Our Competitors:

Canadian Running Magazine: Kieran Lumb

Triathlon Magazine Canada: Rachel McBride