BC Bike Race 2014 – the Epic report

If you ever had a bucket list of things to do this is definitely a must do as a mtber. Having witnessed other major events first hand this would have to be the ultimate in organising the logistics of supporting/moving 600 competitors from town to town in a 7 day event. This race is built around ensuring that the competitors have the best time possible giving a life lasting effect to each and every one of us.
I raced this event this year as part of a Veteran 80+ team with my trail building buddy Alan Vogt who also happens to organise the Mont24 and the Kowalski Classic. Alan has raced this twice before back in 2010 with Bleeksie, Matt B and Greg and in 2012 and managed to easily talk me into doing for this year whilst we were out trail building last year.
Stacie set about setting up a training program which mainly involved hills and more riding volume which obviously made a huge difference as the weight came off and I began to actually like climbing. I’d set a mid goal of peaking for the Mont24 but the weather gods took care of that race but I was still able to race the local club races which helped keep me race fit.
Alan had a bit of a setback with his training after an accident saw him visit the hospital after a piece of Jerrabomberra north shore went through his front lip but by the time the race came about we were fairly race fit with only my climbing ability superior to Alan’s. This was fine as the pre race plan was to stick together with Alan leading at his own controlled pace with me to come to the front on the flats to drive it home.
We arrived in Vancouver and after setting up our bikes managed to make contact with Richard who was a friend of Bleeksies and he kindly invited us on a “hike” up the local monument Grouse Mountain. We thought we were going to do the Grouse Grind, a 2800 step walk but Richard took pity on us and halved the number of steps as we attacked the mountain on their illegal climb up. We used their rope and chain as a guide as we frequently went past 10 – 20m shear cliffs thinking or rather hoping that our travel insurance were to cover us if something were to happen. We gained kudos from the locals from making the effort keeping up at their pace but I think our quads were a little sore from the effort.
We met up with Richard later that day and did the second half of the race day 1 down a tame piece of north shore trail called Expresso. Tame in regards to local standards but as we descended in the rain we placed great trust in our bikes and abilities to go down 3m rock faces, turn on wet timber boardwalk  and over the wet roots and frequent drop offs. We were glad we had experienced it before the race but thought we were in for a huge learning curve.
Next morning after our jet lag sleep-in. We did the first half of the course which had even more steep sections but we had adapted to getting our arses over our rear wheels. Alan though reckoned he had such an adrenalin rush that his arms were
shaking uncontrollably – I was just amazed how well our bike set ups including tyre choice were handling the conditions.
Later that day we registered and met other competitors including the other Canberrians and had one of the funniest race briefings. Basically we were told if we were to come across a black bear on the trails to take it on and use our bike if necessary to whack it, but if we come across a grizzly bear to assume the crash position in an aeroplane as we would have as much luck. We were also warned of the cougars – the variety with the small pox scratch on their arms, when celebrating at Whistler.
Day 1, North Shore, Vancouver, 6th place
We took the start easy as we knew many would race off but this was to our detriment as we were held up on the first descent due to the “roadie factor”. We surprised ourselves and rode everything possible and made headway on the technical trails and then had the ride of our lives down ‘Expresso’ making all the serious technical stuff without putting a foot down. This was to really give us confidence in our riding ability and despite getting slight cramps from standing rather than pedalling we finished strongly into 6th place. Timing was having issues so we had no idea of where we came until day three. After a bus, then ferry then bus we arrived in Cumberland to our tent city at 10pm. Tired but satisfied we were asleep in no time.
Day 2, Cumberland, 1st place
Woke early to the famous chicken call at 5.30ish, and after a hardy breakfast we were off racing at 8.30. We had a 10km fire road climb in which I took the time to congratulate our division leaders ( Michael & Henrick from Denmark) and the veteran    100+ dudes (Greg & Glenn – mates of Richards). We were going to be spending a lot of time riding with the guys over the next 6 days so it was nice to get the formalities out of the way early.
The climb stretched the field out well and by the time we reached the single track we were able to pass the roadies quite easily on the first descents and despite the wet tracks we made good head way. We came across the aptly named ‘Buckets of Blood’, basically rock faces which was doing its job but had the ride of our lives staying upright whilst passing fallen riders on the way down. There was lots of timber work, some high and others very high but we kept on making up places until we came back to base camp before another 15km loop.
This is where we discovered that Canadians hated riding fire road – I buried myself on the flats and Al set a good tempo up the 4km climb before we did the last bit of single track – scene where our friends behind said they saw packs of riders falling off the 2m+ bridges into the creeks. It was good to recognise scenes from the videos and we raced into the finish unawares that we had ridden past our competitors who had mechanicals into first place.
So it was quite a surprise to be walking past presentations and hearing our name being called out and then asking for what place – we liked this podium stuff and were wondering if we had done enough to sneak into first overall and get a yellow jersey like Bleeksie did back in 2010 – happy to be in 3rd place but our riding strategy was to remain the same.
Day 3, Powell River, 3rd place
After a magical meeting with some orcas on the way across ( I thought sitings were like with dolphins, most Canadians had their first siting in the wild too) we set up camp in Powell River. We had around 500 locals greet us at the wharf and even offer us food on our walk to the campsite – felt like rock stars, and slept next to the water.
Today’s race terrain was more like home with its lack of elevation but was probably the most taxing mentally as you really had to concentrate riding over the numerous wet roots. You couldn’t go too fast as most corners involved riding over tree roots and braking on them was treacherous. I only had two crashes during the entire race and both were on this stage with the second involving the only rock on the race course I reckon. That said, we finished with 5kms of road/fire road and it was fun to power on home despite dropping Alan on a couple of occasions. So across the line in third and straight into the sea for a well deserved swim and cool down. That night we had a meal considered worthy of a 5star restaurant back home, there was no way we were going to come back lighter than when we started. DS_BCBR14_3_0742
Day 4, Earls Cove to Sechelt, 2nd place
The morning started with a float plane ride ( about 50 of us scored this) to our race start. Problem was, we still had to wait for everyone else to turn up and as the infrastructure had come over earlier the ferries were behind and the start was delayed by an hour.
This just meant that the waves were separated by 1minute instead of 3 and since I flated at the 8km mark on a waterbar it made for an interesting ride through the pack. We were fortunate in the fact that just after the flat there was a stout 100m elevation climb in which everyone was walking after the usual baulking occurring. Alan however decided to ride up and managed to do the whole ascend whilst I was a few bike riders behind at the start, one who of course slipped. So there I was running up behind trying to ask politely can I get through as that was my race partner riding on and that I needed to catch him – 10minutes later after running/riding past about 250 competitors I’d caught up to him.
It was the hottest and longest day but we continued to push on through riding some really technical climbs but were determined to make up our lost time. We caught 3rd place with around 15kms to go and then 2nd with 3kms to go. We buried ourselves on the fire road again and managed to come in a very satisfying 2nd place for the stage. We knew it would take its toll but good to see we could lift the intensity when required. We have a brief moment on the podium in video 4 – the videos give a good indication of the types of terrain ridden.
Day 5, Sechelt to Langdale, 3rd place
As expected we were a little flat this morning but the race started with flow track reminiscent of the old “Bob Sled” and this lifted our spirits. There was a lot of technical trails today and despite being in contact with the Danes all day just couldn’t managed the knock out punch. Alan had a few offs today and the most impressive was on a 20m log 1.5m off the ground. When we rode on to it, instantly I thought, shit this narrow but we almost made it to the end when Alan slipped and fell off. There were three of us behind track standing whilst Alan tried to get up but couldn’t so I was able to grab a trunk, unclip, jump down, help him back up and then ride off again. Luckily the ones behind were friendly and were able to unclip and walk across.
So we rode into the finish a little tired and bruised but still managed to gain another podium place. We quickly showered and got onto the earlier ferry across to the mainland again to catch the buses up to Squamish. This night we were to sleep in a hotel, in fact the local brewery and their beers were excellent to assist with sleeping as tomorrow we planned to move from 3rd overall to 2nd knowing that Squamish offered up the best single track trails going around.
Day 6, Squamish, 3rd place
We woke up fresh and ready to ride strong as everyone had said that this was going to be the best day of the trip. We managed to drop the 2nd place Danes about 5 kms in and felt good going into the first major single track called “Ruperts” which involved a section of rolling over 2m rocks – 3 in a row. There was a B line but I missed the call and managed to ram the seat into my “kiwis” on the impact but stayed upright to make the rest, coughing for the next few minutes. These trails were unbelievable, flowing yet technical drop offs and we continued to build our lead and hit the most famous trail of the race “Half Nelson”. This trail had several 2 – 4m table tops and berms the way berms are meant to be built – this was the best trail I had ridden up until our last day down hilling at Whistler, it seemed to just go on and it was such a shame to only ride it once.
This day had the most climbing 1865m and was taking its toll on Alan towards the end when the 3rd place team caught us. They had started in the previous wave so had in fact 3min on us but they didn’t know that. Alan stuck to their stronger rider as I marked the weaker of the two and once we hit the run in on the flat we tried to drop them but they caught a passing train and came back to us. So we sat in until the stronger rider went for the win – Al wanted to go with him but I held him back as we sat in behind the weaker rider. We came around him with 100m to go to cross the line in “2nd place” only to turn to the other guys and congratulate them on their effort. We’d done enough to ride into 2nd place though. First place team were always around 20mins in front so we didn’t really get to know them as they were semi pros and didn’t hang with the camping crowd.
So off to Whistler for our final stage.
Day 7, Whistler, 2nd place on stage and Overall as well
We had such fine weather for the race so far but rain was predicted to come in and spoil the party. Alan was on fire from the start and we had to climb 500m in elevation in just under 5km – basically riding up the easiest downhill trail. Unfortunately we came across a nasty accident on the first piece of major timber work – a lead competitor had his front wheel go and he crashed into a tree at high speed – found out later only a broken jaw and not neck as first thought. It put a somber mood on the first descent but things lifted again as we rode some more downhill ‘blue’ trail  and then rode the famous “Pinocchio’s” trail with the ever twisting timber work. Some more great rock rollovers and and sidewinding trail brought us home on our shortest day and we finished as we started together across the line.Whistler - Rock and Roll!
It was a strange last ride because I wanted it to end before misfortune would happen but then sad because all this wonderful riding would be finished.
Presentations were done soon after finishing and we finished in 2nd place, 1:50 down on first but 30 up on third. Unfortunately the Danes missed out on a deserved 3rd spot after Michael had been up all night with a 24hr virus after having 4 flats the previous day but they still had a great time.
We of course were over the moon with our achievement and could honestly say we felt stronger as the race progressed. Alan did so well to get stronger with his climbing and to hang in when I wanted to push the pace along. I uploaded my data once home and it was interesting to see how my heart rate came down during the week yet I felt stronger with the endurance.
Presentation night was great watching videos of the race for the first time and then we kicked on at an Irish pub of course carefully watching those cougars prowling.
The next day the rain came in, so it was good for shopping, drinking and eating excessive amounts of food with our new found friends Dave from Canberra and Mark from Adelaide who we’d chummed up with since staying at in the hotel at Vancouver.
Dave sourced out some decent DH bikes for the following day and we had probably the best days riding on the whole trip. I didn’t realise how much fun riding these bikes would be but on the terrain park riding 1000m of vertical decent over flow and technical trails was simply Awesome! We took videos but they don’t do justice to the size of the jumps. We will take away a lot more skills than what we came with and Whistler has to be a candidate for a “boys week away” 🙂
So thanks to my lovely family for supporting me during the past few months and of course the 3fidi crowd for encouraging my development as the training progressed. I can honestly say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done on a MTB and would encourage others to give it a go. We met up with some locals, 8 of them who went across for a mates 50th – who had very steep learning curves but completed all their challenges in one piece. Now there’s a lightbulb moment!