By Kristen Gross
BC Bike Race Day 4 Vitals:
Day Four began in Sechelt with a beautiful rendition of "Oh Canada" in celebration of Canada Day. That was followed up by a sasquatch with a mean guitar solo, showing that truly, anything can happen at the BC Bike Race.
Thus refreshed of stoke, racers again shared a mass start, rolling neutral through a tough asphalt section before dropping into the day's first of many sweet, sweet singletracks. Roots, rocks, exposure, drops, berms and even a bike park–you name it, and Day Four delivered. The heat once again became a factor for many slogging it out on the grueling fireroad climbs, but as promised, BCBR offers "no unrewarded climbs" and that could not be more true of the day's final descent which covered almost one full fifth of the course. The combination of Hwy 102, Sidewinder, the Sprockids Bike Park and Lunge helped end the stage in mountain bike glee at the Langdale Ferry Terminal.
On board the ferry, heaps of racers, red mini bags, helmets and BCBR numbers had accumulated on every deck. With three days left to go, the week is taking its toll. But under tired eyes and kinesio tape are the telltale grins of the 'ultimate singletrack experience.' We press on.
One of the racers we found lounging on the ferry deck was Jen Siah, from Perth Australia, and also, lately, the world. He signed up for the BC Bike Race two years ago after major life changes pushed him into a new direction.
"I grew up in a world full of logical, analytical thinking, engineering, commerce," said Siah. "Once it was just me, I thought 'What do I want to do?' My life now is one of flexibility, traveling, creativity, and a lot of dance and music."
Siah took stock and let his love of nature, the mountains, the ocean and mountain biking point him towards Vancouver. As a catalyst for the transition, he signed up for the BC Bike Race, one year in advance. "That was basically my commitment to get to Canada," he said. "I did a bit of traveling, got a visa, got to Canada, but then I had a training accident."
Unable to compete due to his injury, Jen decided to get involved as a volunteer instead. "It was one of the highlights of my summer last year to get involved, see how it operates, and be a part of the crew," he said. This year, he's back racing his heart out on his deferred entry.
"This is my first race, and my first stage race of course, and I'm quite amazed at what the human body is capable of," mused Siah. "Over the last few days, I've noticed what my strengths are, and how they compared to other people because you have the same riders around most of the time."
"I really enjoy when we hit the singletrack downhill sections, and you ride with someone or a few people at the same pace and you share that experience, and you kind of bond in that way," said Siah. "At the end, you bump fists and you say 'good one, guys'–there was a few like that today."
Siah is having a great race that has allowed him to feel stronger each day. With Day Five taking place in his adopted back yard–North Van–he's wrestling with whether to leave it all out there, or use his course knowledge to pick the key moments, conserving for the final two days in Squamish and Whistler.
It's also Amber Adams' first race, though in a different role. Amber is here to support her husband, who is racing with his friend to celebrate their 40th birthdays. "They wanted to do something epic for this milestone," said Adams. "Everything from the scenery to the passion around the event, to the number of athletes, the representation from around the world–it is awesome. Everything that we read, saw, talked about–this is above and beyond."
A first-time visitor to the area, Amber has been making good use of the time her husband and friends are out on the course. She begins the day with the racers at the start line, and then sets out to take care of errands (laundry can make you a hero at the BC Bike Race) and explore.
"Waiting for him to cross the line, I do worry a little–did he have a mechanical? Did he crash? Did he make it through?" said Adams. "That's the hardest part of the waiting, but I've been checking out the local scene, getting the flavor of each little town."
A support crew is optional, and certainly an added bonus since the BC Bike Race crew takes such amazing care of its racers, but you do see a few of them around. "We're our own community," said Adams. "We're often on the same ferries or hotels, and we joke that it sometimes feels like a travelling circus."
The BC Bike Race is just one week, but for most racers like Jen and Amber's husband Bjorn, it's a commitment and way of life lasting over a year. "It's really inspiring, and I definitely underestimated the emotional intensity of the whole thing–it has been amazing watching him tap into his inner athlete, and it has been so cool to see the transformation physically, and that transition to the athlete mindset," said Adams. "I didn't expect that."
Day Five has been on many racers' minds. The "Gnarly North Shore" awaits, and the BC Bike Race will clatter through its famous terrain beginning at 8:30 a.m. Total mileage for the day is 39km–the shortest of the week–but jam packed with 1,524m of climbing–the fourth-most elevation gain of the week.