Words by Harlan Price
British Columbia Bike Race (BCBR) has returned to the fabled North Shore of Vancouver for the first stage presented by BC Ferries. Without the North Shore, the BCBR was missing the one obvious stage that represents a huge part of mountain bike history. Keeping up its reputation for being a wet course, racers tackled trails that mixed high-speed flow with berms, roller-coaster drops, rocks, root clusters and tight corners.
Second place finisher Barry Wicks (Kona Bikes) summed up the day by saying, “Being able to showcase the North Shore is rad. We did it four years ago and it was before they did the flow trail kind of thing and it was just so gnarly. I think it’s rad to bring it back and be able to showcase the new trail building and infrastructure.”
The opening stage of the 35 kilometer (21.75 miles) loop started with a lap on Seymour Mountain and finished on Fromme’s Espresso trail. It was an exciting return to The Shore, after the last edition of the BCBR in 2010.
“For me, today was a dream come true,” BCBR President Dean Payne said. “We wanted a stage here and the way that the local trail building community has rallied to get the trails ready for the course is amazing.”
Sunshine Coast local and trail ninja Kris Sneddon (Kona Bicycles) found himself on top of the podium, followed by his American teammate Barry Wicks, and Tristan Uhl (787 Racing), respectively.
The 2013 second place overall finisher Spencer Paxson of Kona made an early move after the steep switchbacks of Circuit 8, creating a gap in the main body of the men’s field. Sneddon closed the gap on his teammate on the technical lower sections of the Bridal Path trail, before getting paced up the steep climb of Old Buck to the top of Forever After–arguably the most technical trail descent in the stage. Paxson took a tumble and Sneddon was able to maintain a tense gap on everyone else from that point on. The Texan Tristan Uhl bridged up to Paxson on Forever After and took off, only to be caught on the next climb up Fromme.
Eventually the group of Barry, Uhl, Paxson, and last year’s third place finisher Erik (The Viking) Skovgaard Knudsen, from Denmark, came together at the bottom of the last climb. Barry and Paxson decided to not chase down their teammate and Paxson rode a steady tempo up the climb to the day’s stage on Espresso. It was a sprint finish between the group, as they couldn’t shake each other on the final decent down Espresso and through the upper neighborhoods of North Vancouver. The fight for the second spot became a sprint, with Wicks winning, while Uhl, Paxson and Erik crossed the line in respective order.
With the top three riders of 2013 in attendance, the race for the podium has the potential to set some fires as the competition stiffens. Tristan Uhl seems ready to challenge the more experienced riders and won’t let his freshman status hinder his quest for a spot on the podium.
Lea Davidson (Specialized Bicycles) took day one’s top-spot after leaving 2012 winner Sonya Looney (Topeak/ Ergon/ Canyon) and last year’s winner Wendy Simms (Kona Bicycles) on the first major climb up Seymour Mountain. Bike setup was key for Davidson’s assault on the BCBR, as she “North Shored” her bike with a soft-rubber 2.3-inch tire on the front and added a dropper post to her cross-country ready dual suspension.
After five months recovering from hip surgery, Davidson has returned to the race circuit.
“I was a little bit terrified coming in,” Davidson said. “I think it was perfect today. They filled it in and it was the perfect mixture of challenging track and features.”
Sonya Looney also returned for her sophomore BCBR experience with a self-confessed, much more appropriate bike. In 2012, she raced a 26-inch hardtail and ended up breaking her wrist. This year she brought a 29-inch dually to smooth out the trail. Her second place finish on day one might be proof that she’s on a mission for redemption.
Wendy Simms always seems to come to BCBR while juggling a side project that takes priority over racing. This year she received her reading list for her new PHd candidacy a couple days before the start. She played the day like a senior and bagged the 3rd spot on the women’s podium.
BCBR has run into a problem with the timing chips on the number plates, so they have defaulted to thier backup plan, manual recording. This has delayed the results, but they should be available soon.
Racers will wake up in the small village of Cumberland before heading out for a lap around the brand new course. The change was enabled by an explosion of trail-work that resulted in new course opportunities.
According to Andreas Hestler, BCBR’s front man, “It’s a really well balanced course in how it intermingles the road and singletrack. Kudos to course designer Jeremy Grasby, who woke up one morning from a dream that showed him how to connect all the trails together.”