The Bike magazine team of managing editor Kip Mikler and Mark Sevenoff finished off the B.C. Bike Race on Saturday, keeping their helmets in one piece and their limbs intact on the feared trails of the final 25-kilometer time trial stage in Whistler.
Well, we did it. My teammate Mark Sevenoff and I survived the final stage of the seven-day B.C. Bike Race to earn our finisher medals in Whistler. Saturday's stage seven was a mind-melting, nerve-wracking test of skills and stamina on technical Whistler singletrack. At just 25 kilometers, it was the shortest stage of the week, but the course, a mixed bag of slow, rooty singletrack climbs, twisty bridges and near-vertical rock drops, was a lot to handle for riders pushing the limits of exhaustion.
But at the finish line in Meadow Park, even the most frazzled, bruised and bandaged finishers buzzed with the thrill of completing the race, and many veterans of this type of racing—multi-day epics like La Ruta de los Conquistadores, TransRockies and TransAlps—said the challenging, technical trails of B.C. made this the best all-around test of mountain biking endurance and skill.
The final stage began with a pancake breakfast at the Cougar Mountain Adventure Center, just up the road from Whistler Village. After breakfast, we strapped on harnesses, climbed up a platform and took a zipline ride down to the start. It was a proper, stomach-churning start to a day that included other stunts that, at least to this rider, were more harrowing than the 100 kph zip line run.
After ditching the harnesses, we started the final stage team time trial at one-minute intervals. As far as the racing went, it wasn't exactly the best day for me. I had somehow managed to recover, day after day throughout the week, but Friday's massive stage six from Squamish to Whistler had finally broken me down. So I went into the finale aiming to just get through it smoothly and have a hoot on some of the most incredible singletrack I've ever experienced.
I started out OK. I was trading leads with Sevy and keeping a nice, flowing rhythm in my head as we rode wide-eyed through the Thrill Me Kill Me trail. Smooth, I kept telling myself. Easy like Sunday morning.
Then I saw another rider lying on the ground, having pitched it off one of the bridges, and shortly after that I bobbled a few times. The insanely technical trails began to slowly pry open the cracks that had been forming over the past few days. People started to pass me on the climbs. I cart-wheeled down a rock drop and added a couple more scrapes and bruises to the nice collection I had already accumulated this week.
When this stuff starts happening, it's best to just slow down, breathe, and stop looking at the damn clock. So I did, and with Sevy setting the pace, we got back in the groove. I know I must have been suffering because I drained a 100-ounce hydration pack in a race that lasted less than two hours. But I wasn't the only one; I witnessed plenty of others flailing through the rough. We encouraged each other, and before I knew it, I was on the final descent.
It was a beautiful morning in Whistler, where finishers sprawled out in a field and traded war stories. I drank a Kokanee beer with Rocky Mountain pro Andreas Hestler, and it was one of the finest beverages I'd ever tasted. We talked about next year's B.C. Bike Race, and then I had to split for Vancouver to catch a flight. I still haven't seen the final results, but I think we ended up 11th or 12th overall. If you want excuses, I've got 'em. Just check my previous blogs.
Now, sitting here in the Vancouver airport less than 24 hours after being redlined on the final day of racing, the experience of assimilating back into regular life is a little surreal. No need for the usual morning ritual of stuffing as much food down my gullet as possible (although I am downing three Tim Horton's donuts before leaving Canada). No stretching the legs to see if I can coax another day out of them, no application of chamois cream and other tubed painkillers.
My body seems to know it's finally time to let go. The aches and pains are more acute, the healing process doing its thing. I think I'll take a few days off.