Feature: BC Bike Race–The Sunshine Coast

The Big Grunt…. over hill and dale and some more hill...and some more dale and…

Each year a couple dozen lucky riders are randomly selected to take a float plane ride to the Sunshine Coast. This does not suck at all. Photo by Dave Silver.

By Vernon Felton

Whuuuuump-whuuuump-whuuump-whuump-whump.

The propeller on our float plane slowly works itself up to speed. In seconds, we’re airborne. The plane banks and we see Puget Sound, countless islands and towering peaks stretching away in every direction. It is, I can safely say, pretty damn cool.

More non-sucking. A float plane is one of those things that you never have access to in your life, but then use once and from that point forward lust for really badly. So cool.

It’s also the age of the iPhone and every passenger in the plane now has his or her phone pressed against the window—furiously banging off shots, which probably sounds touristy and lame except for the fact that the view outside the window is stunning in 360 degrees. It’s so pretty, a blind man would take a picture if he had an camera in hand.

Is there a single stage in the BC Bike Race that doesn't include miles and miles of stellar trail? Uh, no. Not really. They're all pretty amazing. Photo by Erik Peterson.

Day Four’s stage: from the ferry terminal in Earl’s Cove to the town of Sechelt required that the bulk of the BC Bike Race hop on a ferry and make the passage over to Earl’s Cover. Each year, however, a few lucky riders are randomly chosen to make the journey via float planes (Harbour Air Seaplanes is a sponsor of the race).

Once we land, it’s time to sack up. This is the stage that a lot of riders have been girding themselves for: 38 miles of trail and 6,046 feet of climbing, much of it in the sun—after three full days in the saddle, it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Down at the convenience store by the start line, racers are quickly devastating the shop’s stores of Gatorade and buying anything that contains salt—we’re going to need our electorlytes.

One of the interesting facts about the BC Bike Race is that you also tend to ride past a lot of stunning stuff and never notice it because you're staving off cramps, or trying to pass someone or are wishing desperately that you had an economy jug of minty chamois cream on hand.... Such was the case here....I don't remember this thing at all. Weird. Photo by Margus Riga.

The race announcer brings course designer, Rod Camposano, up to the starting line to address the racers. “So, I hope everyone has a good time out there. Just remember to go easy for the first part of this race—this is a long one—if you try to push it early, you’ll be hurting.”

Rod says a few other things, but I’m busy fixating on his opening sentence. As it turns out, his advice is dead on: a lot of racers explored unknown corners of their private hurt locker that day. Then again, a lot of racers—folks who don’t know each other or even speak the same language—will also cross the finish line and high-five one another in an unspoken universal language that suggests they’ve been to war together—we survived that sonofabitch!

One of the most welcome signs racers have ever seen. After three to six hours in the saddle (depending on your relative studliness) nothing is better than a free beer. Photo by Margus Riga.

The same feeling is in the air at the finish to Day Five—a more relaxed stage during which we riders covered 22 miles and 4,356 feet of climbing while riding from the town to Sechelt to the ferry in Langdale. The stage also features one of the best finishes in creation. Once you hit mile number 18, it’s all downhill to the end. The trail rips along exposed side hills, over rock mounds, across ladder bridges, down ravines, through creeks….in total, it’s eight miles of the fastest, bermiest, bad-assiest trail ever raced upon. Yes, it’s truly that good. So good I needed to invent adjectives for it.

Our next stop—the last truly big day in the saddle—Squamish.

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