The Bike magazine team of managing editor Kip Mikler and Mark Sevenoff, the man known simply as "Moab" by the Canadian rowdies here, rebounded from a rough stage five that saw them wandering through the woods, lost and off-course. On stage six, the toughest of the week-long race, they were able to follow all the pink ribbons and crank out a solid ride from Squamish to Whistler.
Many of the smiles on the faces of BC Bike Race entrants after stage five's fun-fest in the singletrack-crazy Sunshine Coast quickly turned to grimaces on Friday. Stage six, from Squamish to Whistler, was an ass-kicker. Massive climbs, rocky creekbeds, deranged stunt sections and plummeting, ass-puckering descents made today live up to its billing as the queen stage of this week of burly racing.
The Trek-Volkswagen boys (Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk) were given a good challenge from the La Ruta/Sho-Air team (Jason First and Manuel Prado), but the Trekkies again came out on top. Word from the front of the pack is that Schalk is pinning it on the climbs, and Eatough has the skills to lead through the rough, rowdy singletrack.
So does my teammate Mark Sevenoff. This guy straight ripped it today, and I spent much of our five-and-a-half hours on this warm, bluebird day with my tongue hanging out just trying to keep pace. But I only had to yell at him once to take it down a notch, and that was because he was freight-training a group on a road section and I could barely hold his wheel. People behind me were screaming at me to not get gapped, so I told Sevy to cool it.
Sevy lives in Moab now, but he's from Connecticut and has that East Coaster's mastery of the gnarl that defines these parts. After a couple rough days of mechanicals and wrong turns, everything went smoothly today and we made up lots of time on our mid-pack rivals. We started the day 12th, and hopefully gained a spot or two.
It's weird to say "everything went smoothly" when it honestly might have been my hardest day ever on a mountain bike. It wasn't just the 80 kilometers, the 5,500 feet or so of climbing or the fast pace that made it so tough. It was that you had to be constantly on point, lest you end up with your face in the rocks, a fate that befell a few unfortunate racers.
I'm pretty much an XC guy, and my seatpost stays bolted in position, but let me tell you: today I whipped out the Allen key a few times to lower that thing, because it was saddle-in-the-sternum, ass-on-the-rear-tire steep downhills and drop-offs. I rode as much as I could, but after you've been pinning it for five hours and you've consumed energy gel after energy gel and gallons of nasty energy drinks just to keep your legs moving, it becomes time to get in touch with your limitations.
Racing these trails for a hundred kilometers or more every day is nothing, I mean nothing, like just going for a ride on them. You're on the edge. You look like a junkyard dog with all those cuts and bruises on your arms and legs. Your ass hurts so bad you're dreaming of that first day off the bike. Your psyche may be damaged depending on how things are going with your teammate. You're also, according to most of the people of I've talked to, having the time of your life.
I'd like to describe the trails of this race in more detail, but words don't do them justice. Cheakamus Canyon, Lava Flow, Trash, Cardiac Hill, Lower Sproat, River Runs Through It, Rebob—it's already a blur to me, but I know I need to come back.
We made it to Whistler. Dinner tonight was at a brewpub in the village, and now we have one more day to finish this thing in style. The final stage is shorter than the rest, but it won't be easy. It's an all-singletrack time trial on Whistler area trails, about 25 kilometers long. I expect more fear-inducing technical stuff and super-fun, ripping singletrack.