By Kristen Gross
Photos by Margus Riga and Dave Silver
Day Zero of the BC Bike Race is in the books and we are officially underway. With red racer bags packed and loaded, riders trained and ready, bikes tuned and polished, the whole production boarded trucks, busses and ferries to land at base camp number one, Cumberland, from headquarters in North Vancouver.
If you made it this far-through the training, the financial stress, the marital stress, the last-minute injuries to bike and body, the questions, the organizing, the travel-well then congratulations. The hard part is over. Now all you have to do is ride your bike.
We'll be bringing you daily updates, featuring characters from the race, their stories, as well as highlights from each stage. Live vicariously through the racers, staff, and volunteers who will be bringing this event to life for its ninth edition.
We began Day 0 with the mandatory safety meeting in the Harry Jerome Recreation Center in North Vancouver-the first time all 600+ racers from 24 countries came together. The energy was electric; a mixture of excitement, tension, nerves, and we think we detected a healthy dose of competitive spirit, too.
The meeting covered all of the info racers will need for the week ahead, including trail etiquette, course marking protocols, tent city guidelines and transportation instructions. And then Brooks took the mic.
Brooks Hogya is the director of safety with the BC Bike Race, and well known across Canada as a sought-after outdoor adventure guide and wilderness first aid instructor. But he's well known within the BCBR community for his exquisitely timed f-bombs, colorful commentary, and helpful tips. Tips like:
"Get him naked, get him wet"
This year, the terrain is only part of the challenge. The climate will test racers just as much as any technical section, with temperatures forecasted to reach into the 30s. In those conditions, racers must check themselves and each other for heat stroke. Brooks let the assembled crowd know how to quickly and effectively help a victim: "Get him naked, get him wet."
"A happy mountaineer always pisses clear"
Even if you did nothing but hang out at base camp, you'd still be at risk for heat stroke when the mercury rises above 30. But add in seven endurance races in a row, and hydrating will be tricky. "How much water should you drink? Until you piss clear-that's how much water," said Brooks.
"Don't eat shit"
"Another way to become dehydrated is to get diarrhea, so let's learn about diarrhea," said Brooks. "You get it from eating your own or other people's poo." Basically that means not taking the time to properly wash your hands. You become at-risk for ingesting micro amounts (or macro amounts in the case of the dreaded "TP breach") of fecal matter. It's bad enough as it is, but with the heat, this is yet another way to become dehydrated. "Apply soap, water and friction for the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, or ‘Frère Jacques’ once," said Brooks.
"Hygiene is cool in Canada"
"Have a shower before you show me your saddle sore," requests Brooks. Though an expert at treating them, Brooks recommends you focus instead on preventing them. "LUBE," he bellows.
"Fight like hell"
"There are two kinds of bears in British Columbia," explains Brooks. "Black bears are kind of like big dogs. If you are attacked by a black bear, you are going to fight to win, and you are going to win." He wildly gestures the appropriate bear-fighting moves, miming bike blocking, rock-throwing and a wrestler stance before transitioning into warnings about the other kind of bears: grizzlies. "Grizzly bears don't lose," said Brooks. It's like every other situation where there is no way out, like a plane crashing or a nuclear bomb: You duck and cover. "Does it work? I don't fucking know," said Brooks. "They're wild animals, they don't follow rules." Racers also learned techniques for the two types of cougars: the predatory feline and the kind you find in Whistler.
Along our walk to a convenience store for cold drinks, audience members kept approaching him with accolades-his colorful style will surely keep those important tips front of mind for racers all week.
"You know, Andreas [Hestler, BC Bike Race co-founder] and I are childhood buddies," said Brooks. "We met at the YMCA playing Dungeons and Dragons; we were in a Dungeons and Dragons group actually. And we still play board games together, today."
Story goes that Hestler asked his childhood pal to be part of the first BC Bike Race, then called ‘Seven.’ He invited Brooks to a meeting in Whistler at a "debauchery" house with a grotto and a heated driveway. Many of the same people at that meeting party are still behind the race today, nine years later. And it's the people and personalities that convinced Brooks to sign on, and keep coming back.
"It's like adult summer camp for us," said Brooks. "We come here, we work really hard through super-long days with complex logistics. My team members are all medically qualified, but being medically qualified doesn't necessarily make you a good member of the BC Bike Race medical team. It's sort of a Monty Python-esque existence. It's super-professional but super-silly at the same time. We are dealing with healthy people getting injured and it's a whole different mentality, and different way of interacting than when we're in our normal lives. It's also really refreshing. So people who work well with our team get that."
The BC Bike Race has helped Brooks put to practice everything he's learned over the years as a guide so far, and also helped form a vision for the future. When he was 19, he started his own guiding company that morphed into teaching wilderness first aid in Canada and he also has branch in Japan. "As my company became more self-sufficient, I started to think about other things that I wanted to do," said Brooks. "About nine years ago I became a paramedic and now I'm a graduate student, taking my masters in disaster and emergency management." His goal is to take what he has learned from the immensity of the BC Bike Race, years of logistical planning experience, guiding, and his medical background to places like the United Nations or World Health Organization. "I want to try to make a bigger impact on the world-try to do something about climate change, and the path we're going down, and I think I'm a uniquely positioned person as a business owner with medical skills and logistical capabilities. I think that I can make an impact."
Brooks-whose presentation on fighting off bears and ‘cougars’ clearly shows us his silly side, is not goofing around when it comes to his goals. BC Bike Racers should rest easy knowing they're in excellent, capable hands. But let's hope they don't need to spend time with Brooks or his team except to offer them high fives or maybe a quick board game at base camp.
Day One of the race begins tomorrow in Cumberland at 8:30 a.m. The stage covers nearly 50 kilometers of purpose-built singletrack, with a gain of 1,163 meters, and temperatures forecast to reach over 30 degrees Celsius.