By Kristen Gross
BC Bike Race Day 5 Vitals:
Day Five of the BC Bike Race is in the books, and racers are well over the hump now. The North Shore delivered 39km of hearty climbing, burly singletrack and a feature trail for the books: Expresso. The hot and dry conditions have continued and transformed the lush, loamy terrain made famous in pictures around the world to rare, dusty form. "I've never seen the North Shore in such bad shape," said Margus Riga, one of the photographers covering the event and North Vancouver local. "Dusty, loose, rocks everywhere–it was dangerous out there."
Of note, the logging companies in Cumberland, the host town of Stage One, have closed the doors behind the race, shutting down access to trails because dry conditions put the forest at too high a risk for fires. Water restrictions are expected this week as well. Certainly, the 2015 BC Bike Race will be remembered as a hot one.
Freerider Geoff Gulevich is here for a change of pace from a busy schedule of filming and travel. He's been trying to attend for a couple of years now, but this is the first time his schedule has allowed him to join in.
"There have definitely been some crusher days that really tested my spirit," said Gulevich. "But overall I'm feeling super positive about the whole experience–it just feels like there's such a camaraderie out there with everybody. It's cool to see."
Back before shuttles and friends being allowed to drive, for Geoff, like most riders, getting to ride your bike down hill meant first pedaling up. "Trail riding is what really got me into biking," he said. "This is what I love doing–but I would probably have a couple more breaks on a casual day."
Gulevich rides for Rocky Mountain Bicycles, and he is also a Lululemon ambassador–both are sponsors of the event. The athletes and crew from Lululemon, including another featured rider in our coverage, Olympic bronze medalist Alex Deibold are holding their own unofficial "WolfPack" race within the race.
"I'm in the WolfPack competition, but it seems like every day I try to push it, something happens; Yesterday, I lost a bolt in the cleat of my shoe," said Gulevich. "I had to pedal up that gnarly fireroad climb to the aid station with my feet just in the middle of the pedals. Luckily they had some bolts for me and got me sorted at the Shimano tent."
During Day Five, many racers, including Gulevich, were set back by a rumored saboteur who apparently removed course-marking tape, sending them way off course. "We had to detour and go all the way back down to the aid station to check in, then back up Old Buck," Gulevich explained. "That was a bummer but if you let it bother you it's just going to affect you the rest of the ride. So we got our hustle back on, and kept going."
Gulevich is hustling on a 2016 Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt, BC Edition. It's got a couple little perks, including a bigger fork because he knew he'd be enjoying the downhills a little more. For today's feature trail, Expresso, it all came together for Gulevich. "Wade Simmons had pre shot-gunned some beers for me, so when I got to the top of Expresso, we cracked it open. I got in behind Elladee Brown and I was cracking a couple jokes," he continued. "She recognized my voice and was like, 'What are you doing behind me? Get up there!' and let me pass. It was clear trail from there so I absolutely loved it. It was great."
After the race, Gulevich is planning an impressive amount of nothing he hopes will last at least a day and a half. Eli Relke on the other hand, is going straight back to work on Monday.
Relke is from North Vancouver and is enjoying the race elbow-deep in bike grease and sunscreen. One of 12 mechanics working for Obsession: Bikes, this crew does the impossible day after day, smiling, and delivering. On the BC Bike Race, you are responsible for two things: Bike and Body. If you need help with your body, there is a full staff of medical professionals including doctors (we enjoyed some IV vitamins post-race in fact), chiropractors, physio therapists, massage therapists and a naturopath. If you need help with your bike, you go see the traveling mechanics, hand over your steed, let them know the trouble, and pick it up good as new in the morning–probably blissfully unaware that someone was working on it at 3:30 a.m. for two hours.
Though only 22, Relke has been wrenching on bikes for the past six years, right out of high school after a short career as an auto mechanic. "When I was working on cars, I was driving to work every day, and eating off a food truck," he said. "Working on bikes, every single time I service a bike, I get to go out and ride it, and it just keeps me in better shape, and happier."
This is his second year with the race. And despite the long hours and hard work, he was eager to get back. "As early as 5 o'clock in the morning, the racers start showing up with problems, or asking to borrow tools," said Relke. "They leave for the race for the day and when they come back, there are more problems."
Professional problem solvers, the Obsession: Bikes crew makes mechanicals and repairs as stress-free as possible for racers, always sure to have a bike waiting at the start line the next morning.
"You have to get very creative," said Relke. "Two days ago, I was working on a bike and I couldn't find the main pivot bolt for the shock. But I did find a bolt with the right diameter so I cut it, filed it down, just made it work."
"There are days where I see a lot of one problem; days when it gets stressful are when it's really hot and dusty, and peoples' suspension gets stiff and their seat posts aren't working, and forks are getting blown out," said Relke. "We start working on them about 8 or 9 o'clock and that goes on through the night. Some two-hour jobs, some one-hour jobs, some really quick fixes. Yesterday, we had 85 bikes to work on."
When we caught up with Relke, he had been up for over 24 hours. The longest he's slept since the race began was three hours (in a row!) on Day One. "Racers come in and we accumulate their bikes from about 2 until 7 p.m.," he said. "Once racers stop showing up, we can start working on the bikes."
To keep up with the grueling pace of the race, the mechanics combine caffeine with beer and good music (they take turns playing DJ), plus a little help from one another. "We're a really good crew here and we support each other," said Relke. "If someone doesn't know how best to do something we'll trade jobs–it's all about sharing the bike love."
Day Six delivers racers (and their well-loved bikes) to the five-year favorite, Squamish. Racers with GC ambitions will need to make the most of this big day: total mileage is 55km and comes with the week's highest elevation gain, 1,944m.