The 11th edition of the BC Bike Race has officially launched 600 racers down the main street of Cumberland, British Columbia and into the forests surrounding this mountain bike mecca. Blessed with warm winds and clouds to keep the strength of the sun at bay, riders got their first taste of the “BC Rhythm.” BC Ferries may have delivered riders from the mainland to Vancouver Island, but the trailbuilders of Cumberland handed them their first taste of the “Flow State” the BC Bike Race hopes everyone finds during their 7 day journey.
With an opening climb that could potentially separate the riders before they hit the first descent, the freshly buttered Further Burger, the race was bound to get fast and hot despite the cloud cover and moderate temperatures. With at least four Olympians, a former overall winner, multiple stage winners of the BCBR, and multiple National Champions from over 30 different countries, the race is set for another year of hard battles in the woods.
Besides the riders with the long resumes are the rest of the pack who are looking to achieve their own definitions of success as they dip into the unknown, the personal challenges of trying to complete a seven day endurance race. Pulling them through the dense woods and multiple miles of dancing through roots and rocks is the goal to finish in their own fashion. More than a race, this is a journey that ticks the check boxes of your typical pilgrimage. These riders have spent many Sunday’s in the woods, and once again they will be jamming on their pedals looking for a transcendence from the daily routines they have left behind.
The BC Bike Race is more than a ride to punish one’s self with hard miles and elevation stats. It’s a journey that brings riders to the product of the world’s leading trail builders where flow isn’t a type of trail, it’s a state of mind.
BCBR 2017 Stage 1 Presented by BC Ferries
Distance: 43km/ 27 miles
Climbing: 1159m/ 3800ft
Featured Trail: Vanilla
Riders of The BCBR
Most riders show up to the BC Bike Race with many stories to tell about their motivations for making the trek to this seven day journey. There are parents riding with their kids as well as several couples using the power of shared experiences to strengthen their bonds. Alex Miller and Ruth Crawford from the UK are planning to get married three days after the race in Whistler with a few friends and family flying in to celebrate with them.
Locals like Alice Grasby, who’s husband builds local trails and is course director for the Cumberland stage has joined the congregation of riders for the first time this year with her father. After years of watching the race come through her town she has finally slipped on her kit and gone down to the join the pilgrims in the middle of main street for the start of year 11.
There are groups of friends who have peer pressured each other into finally signing up after years of sidelining from their computers. Five friends from Texas, four from Mexico, 10 from South Africa, four from Belgium, and the list goes on. There are always the last minute fill-in’s for friends or partners who had unexpected difficulties making it to the start line. Sometimes it’s for simple reasons and sometimes it becomes a ride motivated by the need to send trail prayers to the missing partner.
Whether they are just chasing the flow or hunting down some deeper purpose we’ll follow some of these stories throughout the week to see how their journey is goes.
The BC Bike Race has once again managed to have one of the most diverse group of racers line up in the lead corral. There is the current BCBR champion, Olympians from different countries, a few international enduro specialist, and several international cyclocross stars in the solo divisions.
Men Solo Elite
After the opening climb up the Davis Lake Main forest road Geoff Kabush (Scott Sport/ Maxxis) and Stephen Ettinger (Focus Bikes/ Shimano) broke away from the pack and dropped into Further Burger with the intent of making space between themselves and the rest of the pack. By the bottom, and all the way to the day’s “Featured” trail, Vanilla, they held a solid 30 second lead on chasers Cory Wallace (Kona Bicycles) and Quinn Moberg (Rocky Mountain). That lead steadily grew as the deck shuffled behind the four riders. US Olympian Sam Schultz (Rocky Mountain/ Kitsbow) was hanging on with the locals for awhile before a sliced tire delayed him briefly on the trail. Last year’s fifth place finisher Frederic Gombert of France (CycleTyres.com) chased hard with Canadian Mathieu Belanger-Barrette (Pivot Cycles) trying to minimize the gap that was growing the longer the race went on.
In the end Kabush overcame the pressure of trying to win on his mom’s birthday and managed to turn up the heat on Ettinger and cross the finish line with a 34 second lead. Cory Wallace came in 6 minutes further back and Quinn Moberg slipped across the line another 30 seconds back. Gombert matched his finish from last year with another 5th place at the BC Bike Race.
Women Solo Elite
Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team) and her teammate Maghalie Rochette put the pressure on early and rode together most of the race. They managed to drop the other women and most of the men. Both have the advantage of racing the BCBR before, the last time Rochette was 19 years old and on a team with another Olympian, Catharine Pendrel. This year, she is solo and on a hunt for a podium finish. Her competition may be tough but at least the company is good and the previous experience gives her confidence in the pace she can maintain for seven days.
New to the BCBR is Dutch National Champion Hielke Elferink who was worried about the technical challenges of the course. She managed to overcome her early trepidation and began to find the BC Flow towards the end of the the stage. By the end of the day she squeezed past Canadian provincial Cyclocross and Marathon Champion Cary Mark to take 3rd place and finish less than a minute up on Mark but out of sight of Rochette. Kristien Achten of Belgium (Swooth MTB Team) made it onto the podium with a fifth place on the day.
Men’s Masters and Veterans
Ben Jones of the USA took the Men’s Master’s win ahead of Canadian Edward Lawson. Only five minutes separate the 2nd through 6th place in the Master’s category, so look for a tight race amongst these seasoned riders.
Ted Russo, defending Veteran champion, of Canada took another stage at the BC Bike Race by eight minutes. It’ll be tough for any of the other Veterans to match pedals with Russo who has come back to win his BCBR category more than any other participant. He has found a unique connection with this race that brings him back year after year and his competitors may once again be looking for a bit of that magic to find the the best within themselves.
Women’s Masters and Veterans
There are 22 Masters women in this year’s race with Canadian Tricia Spooner leading this strong group of athletes. She has over 20 minutes on second place Kimberly Beck with another two minutes on Caroline Lecompte. Again it’s the 4th-8th place riders who only have 4 minutes between them and will be the ones most likely to have the internal shuffling as the week progresses.
Staci Palermi of the US is leading the Women’s Veterans category and would put her in the top ten of the Women’s Master’s category.
Vanilla Trail was originally built by the United Riders of Cumberland as a connector trail for riders of the BC Bike Race to climb. After a couple of years of the locals choosing to ride it mainly as a downhill, this year the BCBR decided to go with the local vote. The result is another classic descent in the Cumberland riding zone. If you make it to the area be sure to do as the locals do and drop in on this rollercoaster through the woods.
Day 2 Preview
Riders will depart at 9am from the Willingdon Beach of Powell River on the shores of the Salish Sea for the forests surrounding this northern end of the Sunshine Coast. Racers will be exploring the hand made trails of the Powell River Cycling Association in the lush forests of vibrant green, where even the sun has a difficult time penetrating the canopies of this isolated terrain.