"It's the experience that keeps me coming back. I can ride these trails anytime I want." -Graham Fitch, 11x finisher of the BC Bike Race and Whistler resident
While dropping down Whip Me Snip Me, the last piece of trail above the finish of the BC Bike Race today, you could hear the sound of music mixed with the the names of people being announced as they crossed the finish line in Rainbow Park below. That voice through the woods was the first moment some riders realized they were actually going to complete this long journey. Qued by that sound, the body responds almost involuntarily with an elevated heartbeat, tears welling up, and a belief that this might actually happen. Until you cross that finish line with someone putting that BCBR belt buckle around your neck and giving you a big hug there is always a bit of doubt of the final outcome.
Riders come to the BCBR for many reasons and their preparation varies greatly. What they find throughout the week is that this is a group of people who share their passion and are ready to meet their needs, both mind and body. It's easy to see the tangibles like the mechanical support for bicycles, or medical support with the Wellness Department. Less obvious to outsiders is the community that the BC Bike Race creates to set up riders for success on their journey. It's hard to be a successful and well adjusted individual without support and influence from the greater community we live in. The BCBR Collective has made setting people up for achieving their goals an art, it's a little utopian bubble where you can get your bike fixed or your body a warm hug if you're in need.
BCBR 2017 – Stage 7 Presented by Harbour Air
Featured Trail: Tunnel Vision
It's this supportive network that allows riders to relax, turn inwards and let themselves focus on the only thing that matters for the week, riding some of the most amazing trails in the world. Here, if they aren't already, they turn into mountain bikers who learn to let defeat go and focus on new definitions of success. From pros who discover a new mental approach to the sport they thought they knew, to riders who discover what someone actually means when they use terms like "Tech Gnar."
As mountain biking becomes more popular, trail accessibility becomes easy like walking into a tennis court. Both trails and the court's existence can be taken for granted and we forget that on occasion those courts need to be resurfaced, the nets replaced and sometimes you have to squeegee the water off yourself to get them dry enough to play. Getting trails built and getting through a week of racing is easier if you have a community to support the passion. As the Whistler stage course designer, Grant Lamont, says "When you suddenly have 20 people pitching in and leveraging a project, the heavy lifting gets lighter." With a crew of over 200 people the BC Bike Race definitely does the heavy lifting.
Ingmar Hoetschel of Germany came back to the BC Bike Race this year after having come here two years ago and realizing that he was not a mountain biker. Hoetschel was fit but unprepared for the difficulty of the trails. His perspective was not broad enough to understand what "technical" meant. Ratings of "difficulty" are very much perspective based and after his first year he spent the next two years preparing himself for success. He had seen what exactly his goal was and made a plan for his return. Through skills instruction and seeking out new trails that matched his chosen challenge he came back this year a new rider.
"I would now say that I am actually a mountain biker. Day six in Squamish, Leave of Absence was absolutely beautiful. I loved that trail. I could ride everything. People were pointing out the left line is the easy one and the right one is the technical one. I was looking at it and took the right line. That was really sweet. I really loved that."
The Ingmar of two years ago would have walked most of that trail. It was the BC Bike Race that showed him a new possibility and helped him turn into a mountain biker.
Riding for Wayne
The Women's Open Duo team of Chrissy Da Vall and Tricia Sinclair, both Whistler residents, came together at the last minute when Tricia's original partner Wayne was suddenly diagnosed with Leukemia and began his battle for survival. Tricia was his coach and training partner and their bond was deep as both are heavily involved in the local Whistler community. Instead of abandoning the race, Tricia decided to continue to do the race at Wayne's encouragement, so she asked her longtime friend Chrissy to be her partner.
"We've been friends for over 20 years. We had so many supporters. My bond with Chrissy grew, but people gave us champagne at the finish, people came down from Squamish and gave us a massage. It's so cool to see the support of friends, family, and community. That's what I think is special about BC Bike Race." Tricia and Chrissy were riding in support of Tricia's friend Wayne, and it was his community that came out to support them.
If you wandered around the race for any of the week you would probably have noticed the group of riders who were wearing jerseys and shirts with a "Deb Shred" logo on it. This group from Mill Valley California came not as a race team, but as a group of riders who shared a common vision of living a healthy and active life in the name of someone who died to young.
This group reaches many points in the world as Deb was an inspiration to a wide group of people. Within the week two more people joined the group and the Deb Shred community grew to 10 at the BC Bike Race.
Deb's brother Don Parsons was given an entry by the team and was blown away by the community that his sister has created even after her passing.
"We are all here on our own little mission to just finish and accomplish it together. We talked about how much harder this would be without the group. My only thought coming through the line was "let’s do another day."
This year's Whistler course was 7km longer than in the past. This wasn't the final stage of the Tour De France, just a parade for the cameras. The trails of Cheakamus Crossing, Creekside, and Westside were technical and unforgiving to the tired bodies of racers. With rock roll-ins that started with blind horizons and technical climbs to sap any strength riders had left, today's stage may have finished in a park but it was definitely not a casual stroll that got them there.
Stephen Ettinger (Focus Bikes/ Shimano) was on a hunt for a stage win today and attacked out of the woods on the loose gravel climb to the trail Tunnel Vision. He established a 10 second lead that lingered for much of the race to Geoff Kabush (Scott Sports/ Maxxis). Quinn Moberg (Rocky Mountain) dangled off the back for awhile before eventually losing sight and minutes to the two leaders. In the end Ettinger won the day by 43 seconds and took 2nd overall to Kabush for the week. Moberg was another 4 minutes back but succeeded in securing 3rd in the overall.
Frederic Gombert (CycleTyres.com) improved his 5th place last year with a 4th this year. Troy Wells (CLIF Bar Pro) took 5th for the week.
With only 36 seconds separating CLIF Bar teammates Katerina Nash from second place Maghalie Rochette, it was Rochette's day to try and attack. Unfortunately her efforts at serving for match point did not come to fruition and Rochette had to settle for 2nd on the day again as well as 2nd in the overall.
"This year was exciting because it was competitive in our fields. That's what you want. People breathing down your neck and making you ultimately a better rider. It was a great battle with Maghalie."
Hielke Elferink took her 7th 3rd place of the week and 3rd overall in her first BC Bike Race. Throughout the week Elferink got stronger and more comfortable in the technical trails, and each day her gaps to the front got smaller but she was not able to reach that next level to overtake either of the front runners.
Carey Mark and Briony Mattocks were fourth and fifth on the day which matched their overall placing for the week. It was a hard battle for all the women in this years race with the competition high throughout the top ten.
Tunnel Vision is a classic Whistler trail with a distinctive rock roll-in that was more intimidating to look at than actually ride. The lower section used to be a double-track skidder without much flavor until this year when the lower section was rebuilt into a loamy pumper that required either a steady precision or a loose style with lots of body-english to ride with success. Built into the side-hill Tunnel Vision gives long sight-lines and a series of tight corners as it drops all the way down to Creekside before climbing back up towards the final trails of the day.