Feature: BC Bike Race–Campbell River

The longest, uninterrupted ribbon of rad on earth

By Vernon Felton

This is what most racers will remember about today--nearly 21 miles of uninterrupted singletrack in lush forests. Ever so flowy. Photo by Todd Weselake

"So, you remember that gully yesterday? The one at the bottom of that last big climb? Well, I was off my bike cleaning my glasses and this girl comes out of the gully–"

One of the Australians at the breakfast table pipes up and interrupts the storyteller.

"That really haggard-looking slag?"

"No, no," the storyteller insists, "This girl was amazing. She was…," he tilts his head up to the ceiling, looking for the right word "She was…. special."

His friend is skeptical. "Mate, I was with you. Total slag. You only think that because you were delirious and dehydrated."

"I dunno. There was something about her, but yeah," he admits. "I was in a bad way."

He wasn't the only one. If there was a take-away from the first day of racing it was this: Drink. Water. Lots of it.

Hydrate or die. Seriously. Racers took heed after yesterday's long, hard day in the sun. Most racers are refilling their hydration packs twice during the race. Photo by Margus Riga

Countless riders went out hard, only to crumble two-thirds of the way into the first day of racing. It's unseasonably hot, the trails are tough…and today is just day two of a seven-day race. Consequently, the hot topics at breakfast this morning are electrolytes and pacing—that art of balancing between going fast enough that you can live with your finish time, but not so fast that you burn out—people want them, even if not everyone is sure where and how to get them.

Stage two of the BC Bike Race coincided with Canada Day. Tahnee Juryn sang the Canadian national anthem to a hushed audience. Photo by Margus Riga

Stage two of the BC Bike Race began and finished in Campbell River. The race rolled to a gentle start with a middle-ring fireroad climb before funneling riders onto Box Lunch, a trail that alternates from steep descent to rolling traverse, but is always technical. Riders flailed about in their stiff soled shoes for several miles, doing a lot more stumbling than riding. By the time racers hit the first rest zone, many of them had that hollow-eyed, walking-dead look.

Box Lunch took its toll on both riders and their bikes. Just one of the roving BC Bike Race Ambassadors (Simon Stewart) personally fixed seven chains, one shifter, helped a rider with a collapsed lung and was forced to convert two bikes into single speeds in order to get their owners out of the bush.

There was, however, truly a method to the madness. The carnage on Box Lunch served to spread the riders out—giving each racer the breathing room necessary to actually enjoy what came next: nearly 21 miles of uninterrupted singletrack that wound through lush rainforests, along lakes and up and over a hell of a lot of terrain. This is the kind of trail that people dream about. As the race wound down, one frequent refrain was, "This was the best day I've ever had on a bike."

"Yeah, I know Box Lunch slapped some people around a bit today," says Martin Ready, the designer of stage two, "but last year we had too many people crammed together on the course throughout the day, dumping them into the gnarly bit right off the top split the racers up. Besides," concludes Ready, "you've got to have some technical sections in it if you're going to call it the BC Bike Race."

While a lot of riders will go home talking about how challenging Box Lunch was, much of stage two was composed of insanely buff and flowy singletrack trail.

Box Lunch also happens to be one of Ready's favorite sections. "It's a gnarly, old-school descent with some technical traversing and some short climbs in there to keep you honest. There are off camber roots and some really sharp rocks, so you really need to power up and attack it. That's part of the experience of riding out here. If you like that trail, we have hundreds of kilometers of that stuff—as well as the fast and flowy singletrack. Campbell River is a pretty amazing place to ride."