2012 BC Bike Race Report: Days 3 and 4

The rain gods take a break and the racing heats up

Words by Harlan Price

Day 3 Powell River: 48km Epic Course
Cory Wallace solos for stage win: top three men within 2 seconds overall.
Simms wins, but women’s overall is shuffled.

The warmth of today’s sun finally treated racers to the beauty of the Sunshine Coast under clear skies. The entire BC Bike Race operation left Campbell River this morning to take the second BC Ferries trip across the Georgia Strait to the town of Powell River. Riders were greeted by the sound of the Powell River community ringing cowbells and cheering their arrival. If that wasn’t enough to lift some damp spirits, the surrounding trails kept the heavy mud at bay and planted the biggest smiles of the week on racers faces.
The Sunshine coast is accessible only by air or ferry and it’s amazing how well the trails are maintained despite the small community of riders and trail builders.

Mens Race
Riders started day three from Willingdon Beach in downtown and immediately started working their way to the trails of Rolling Thunder. With a bold move five kilometers into today’s 48km race Cory Wallace of Kona bikes won his first stage in 17 attempts. A three-race veteran and frequent runner-up, Wallace finally had his day of glory after riding alone in front of the favorites for over two hours. The pack of GC leaders crossed the line 45 seconds later with Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bikes) taking the sprint finish against Barry Wicks (Kona), followed by Neil Kindree (Specialized/EMD Serono) and Matt Hadley (Xprezo-Borsao Factory) in that order.

Cory emerged first at the bottom of the first Easton Gravity Enduro section with a 45 second gap and a lot of singletrack left. The rain had slowed the trails down but mud was surprisingly kept at bay. The contrasting brown stitch of trail winding its way through a bearded electric green forest had to make it difficult for Wallace or any rider to keep his eyes on the trail.

Out of the last section of trail through the final Gravity Enduro Section, Wallace was still holding a 45 second gap. The chase group had whittled down to Sheppard, Kindree, Wicks, Hadley, and the Team of Two Duo from Jamis. Guido Thaler (Craft-Rocky Mount) had come off the pace in the last singletrack, but his skills on the BC trails had improved enough to keep him with the lead group for most of the day. Daniel Gathof of Germany had an off day, an unfortunate series of flat tires and lost 40 minutes on the day.
Day four in Earls Cove is the queen stage of the BC Bike Race and there are sure to be some motors sputtering as the pace heats up on the 2100 meters of climbing. The general classification has never been tighter than this year with Wicks, Kindree, and Sheppard all within two seconds of each other. Hadley, Wallace, and Carter Hovey are all within nine minutes of each other.

Women’s Race

The story of the women’s epic race is quickly shaping up to be about the fight for the second and third steps of the podium. Wendy Simms (Kona) has wrapped her fists around the leaders jersey even though she put the least amount of time on her competitors today than the previous two.
Due to a corrected mistake that put Melinda Jackson (Team KiwiRoo) in the wrong category on the results, she has now taken over second place in the general classification. A New Zealander on a month trip around the Pacific Rim, Jackson was third on the day by a second to the rejuvenated Sonya Looney (Topeak Ergon). Soonya is now 4th on the overall, but Wednesday’s stage is sure to suit her big-mountain Colorado legs. Alex Robinette (Bicycle Sport Shop 2) isn’t likely to let her 3rd place go easily, so watch her to fight to the end to stay the first US female solo rider.

Men’s Duo

Thomas Turner and Jason Sager of Jamis Bikes made it two of three today with a commanding lead, finishing with the lead solo riders. Bad luck struck Rocky Mountain Factory Team 1 when Colin Kerr cut his hand enough to need stitches at the end of the stage. Kerr and his partner Greg Day didn’t abandoned the race, but the injury slowed them enough to fall to third on the day but not change their overall.
The Clif Bar team of the brothers Heitman (Garett and Jake) took 4th, ahead of the other team of brothers, Nic and Simon Lamond (Lamond Bros). Michael Colwill and Scott Martin of Team Monz split the two teams for a fifth place on the day but maintained 4th overall.

For accomplished South African stage racer Nic Lemond and his brother Simon “The BC Bike Race was on our bucket list the moment we heard about it.” “I’ve been to BC before and I had to come back.”
Women’s Duo gets a new stage winner.
The dominating ‘Moab Maidens’ who had won the first two days came apart a little today in the trails of Powell River. Quick to show they could fill the top spot, Team ‘Mo Crazy’ cut the finish-line first with the Maidens in disorder.

The biggest tussle shaping in the woods is between the current third and fourth place. The ‘Canmore Crazy Chicks’ have a mere 47 seconds lead over team ‘Frisky Business’. It’s a fight for Canadian pride to sit on the last podium spot and with only three days down and four to go it’s a story yet unwritten.

Men’s Master Solo
The BC Bike Race international field is represented well by Namibian rider Mannie Heimans. Heimans is an Olympian, former World Cup race and winner of the Trans-Alp, and Cape Epic.
Second place also made a long journey to ride the trails of the BC Bike Race. ‘Peiking Man’, Chad Forrest of China is only a couple minutes up on Canadian Craig Gillett.
Easton Gravity Enduro
The two stages of today’s Easton Gravity Enduro were owned by the local North Shore Olympian Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain Bikes). Josh Carlson (Giant) was second on the first stage but fell back on stage two where Matt Hadley got his first Gravity Enduro podium.

BC Bike Race 2012: July 4th
Day 4 Earls Cove to Sechelt: 62km Epic Course
Riders treated to Sunshine Coast gold: Half-way mark is behind the riders.

Stage four of the BC Bike Race began by boat or floatplane over the spectacular Jervis Inlet and finished with grass under the riders’ feet in a field only blocks from the ocean. It was a refreshing finish after completing the day's longest stage. Riders were able to grab a meal at the catered food truck and flop onto the green carpet exchanging stories of the day. Crossing the threshold of the halfway point in a seven-day stage race changes the atmosphere and a mixture of joy and calm is washing over the riders.

Variety and climbing distinguished the course as riders left from the BC Ferries Earl’s Cove terminal and immediately climbed towards the Sunshine Coast Trail. It was a great day of ducking in and out of trail that varied from roller coaster dual-track, to ripping high-speed berms in forest-cuts, to singletrack lined with ancient old growth forests. The previous days of rain made perfect corners where it was usually dry and loose. Ribbons of dirt pierced that special green canopy that riders have become intimate with, in the BC rain forests.

The Racing
By day four, riders from 1st to 500th are settling into their own grooves and discovering themselves riding with similar people every day. The media is talking about who’s leading the pack but the riders are finding themselves engaging with the riders closest to them. New friendships and fun rivalries have begun to develop as hours are spent sharing hand built trails deep in the BC forests. Those are the other races within the race and one of the unheralded parts of stage racing.

Men’s Solo Epic
As predicted, day four was a game changer. After three stages the top three men were separated by only 2 seconds, so it was inevitable that on the queen stage someone would be looking to send a message COD. Team Kona rider Barry Wicks wasted no time at the post office and sent it in the first kilometer. Soon after the start, Rocky Mountain Factory Team rider, Chris Sheppard was caught off-guard. “I looked down at my wheel and when I looked up they (Wicks and teammate Cory Wallace) were 10 seconds up the road.”

After pulling for his teammate, yesterday’s stage winner Wallace flatted early and Wicks continued on with a blistering pace. By the time Sheppard and Specialized rider Neil Kindree caught Wicks, both had burned any reserves they might have had to counter later attacks. Wicks and Kindree dropped Sheppard on the final climb. Kindree was next to lose contact; this time on the descent to home base when he bobbled once then blew a turn. Wicks took the opportunity to slice through the ribbons of brown all the way home. Kindree finished a minute and a half back while Sheppard took a four-minute stake to the heart. The chase pack of Carter Hovey, Benoit Simard, Matt Hadley, and Wallace crossed the line within two minutes of each other to keep their race for the last podium spots tight.

Men’s Team of Two
From top to bottom the results sheet shows small rivalries between teams fighting for places on the general classification. Jason Sager and Thomas Turner of the Jamis team have continued to finish at the front of the race, but it is the game being played between the two Rocky Mountain Factory Teams that has the local twitter-sphere cramping their thumbs. For the second day in a row Kevin Calhoun and Keith Stark of Factory Team 2 took time out of Colin Kerr and Greg Day of Team 1, who have suffered from unfortunate circumstances.
The other developing dual has Team Rocky Retro 95, Wade Simmons and Mike Hunter chasing down the Lamond Bros. The question is if Simmons and Hunter will close the gap or ‘huck to flat’ in their quest.

Men’s Masters Solo
Mannie Heimen from Namibia took another stage win today, but second place Chad Forrest was a slim minute-and-half back. The race within the race might be between Chris Birch of Canada and Al Killick of New Zealand. After four days they are less than a minute apart and wrestling for one more spot.

Women’s Solo Epic
Wendy Simms (Kona) looks to be cruising to the finish line with her feet kicked up as she slid across the finish line today, a little dirty but with a relaxed smile. “I rode with a really good group of guys that I was with for a good chunk of the race and it was really fun. It was part Van (Vancouver) a couple island boys, yeah it just kind of flowed and was really fun.”

A race with-in-the race in the women’s category is definitely developing between Melinda Jackson of Australia and Sonya Looney (Topeak/Ergon). “Today it was intensely steep. Sonya helped me so much. We were just talking so much. I think all the dudes are really confused because we just talk to each other all the time. We’re riding hard but girls just like, you know exchange words quite often.” The two are already joking about doing Cape Epic together. Looney moved to third overall while Jackson still has a solid hold on her 2nd place.

Women’s Team of Two
The race could be slipping from the grip of the Moab Maidens as the ladies of Mo Crazy take another win, tying the Maidens with two stages each. Still the Mo Crazy team would need to close a 24minute gap over three days of racing. Crunch time is here and who-ever can keep their team running with the fewest physical or mental breakdowns will be the victor is whistler.

Easton Gravity Enduro Day 4
It seems as if Andreas Hestler of the Rocky Mountain Factory Team is going to chip away at the overall Easton Gravity Enduro till he has sculpted his own trophy. With two wins today and his previous stage wins Hestler is looking to be the king of his own domain. Josh Carlson is likely to have the greatest chance of challenging the man from North Van, but time is ticking and he’ll have to step on it if he wants a chance.