BC Bike Race – Jo Rowell

BC Bike Race – Jo Rowell

 

 BC Bike Race – June/July 2015

 

The BC Bike Race described as the ultimate single track adventure. It certainly lived up to this tag line. A seven day mountain bike stage race completed in seven different locations around British Columbia, Canada with over 600 competitors from 26 countries. The website boosts that 70% of the riding was on single track and I reckon that was pretty bang on. As you would expect the scenery was jaw dropping but it was hard to appreciate when the trails kept you focused on the next few metres. Beginning in Cumberland on Vancouver Island we hopped on ferries and sea planes to explore the trails of Powell River, Earls Cove, Sechelt, Langdale, North Vancouver, Squamish and completed our amazing race in Whistler.

Although I’ve been mountain biking and racing since 2009 this race was my first stage race and I knew the trails would test my technical skills to their limit. So my fears were how would my body hold up racing over 50km with around 1500m of climbing each day, and would my skills be good enough to get me to the end in one piece!

Usually at races I feel reasonably skilled and even get some compliments of my single track riding. Well on that first stage in Cumberland I felt like the weekend gumby, pulling off the track to let guys and girls with better downhill skills pass so I didn’t hold them up.

 

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My objective was to finish this race in one piece and I quickly realized that there was really nothing I’ve ridden in Australia to compare to the BC trails. All the trails were hand built. Winding through thick pine forests, so think roots, rocks and amazing wooden bridge structures. I struggled to get any flow as I found it hard to read the trails. One minute you’re heading down through the trees, with 6 inch dips in the trail after each root you cross, the next minute there’s a drop off, then you need your granny gear to climb out to the next section of trail. When I considered the trails too high crash risk I hopped off! but I got braver as the stage progressed. Day one was a real awakening!

Powell River has some pretty amazing trail fairies. Sweet, flowing single track today for 52 km…. and I managed to ride it all, no scary bits and I my confidence perked up. There were plenty of roots and rocks, bridges and wooden structures but it all seemed so much easier than Cumberland. What’s more my legs felt great right to the end.

Earl’s Cove to Sechelt Stage 3 BC Bike Race was as tough as everyone warned. I had a special start to the day and got to fly from Powell River to race start in Earl’s Cove a small water plane. How many races give you that opportunity! Due to the travelling logistics the race didn’t start until 11.30 and BC was enjoying unseasonal hot weather. This stage also had a lot of sharp, punchy climbs, out in the sun then the trail ducked you into beautiful shady forests trails. It was on one of these climbs that I dug a bit too deep into my red zone and had to back off for an hour until I’d recovered. Annoyed at making such an amateur mistake because I should have had an advantage during this stage because I train in Queensland!

Day 3 wrapped up in the early evening and backing up for stage 4 was mentally and physically tough. Getting back to basics I got my heart rate in check, fuelled well and the day turned out to be my best stage. The trails from Sechelt to Landale continued to exceed my expectations. Not only did I ride all the single track with confidence, I passed heaps of people on the final long climb and then had the biggest grin as I flowed along the 12 km sweet single track downhill though the forest to Langdale.

 

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Back in North Vancouver for day 5 and the super hard bike trails of the North Shore. A little less scary because we’d had no rain and the trails were dry. I now know why the Canadian’s are such amazing mountain bikers. The North Shore trails are wet probably most of the year. So the locals get very good at riding slippery rocks and roots. Relieved to be racing here in dry weather because these trails are the gnarliest single track I’ve ever ridden – or attempted to ride!

The mountain town of Squamish was stage 6 and the single track continued to change. Squamish’s feature trail ‘Pseudo Tsuga’ was fast, superb berms that went on forever as did my grin. Further into the Stage we hit the famous Hoods in the Woods a rooty climbing trail that became technical downhill. The roots make it hard to pick a good line and it’s amazing how when you don’t have time to think too much you just ride stuff.

And then it was Stage 7 in the mountain bike mecca, Whistler. Luckily for me we were not riding in the Bike Park. A shorter stage but the trails really tested your skills. The infamous ‘Comfortably Numb’ and the Lost Lake Zappa Trail network served up a punishing 800 m climbing in a 20 km stage. Most of the climbing was through twisty, rooty single track. I confess there was not much umph left in my legs but with great support from the locals, and camaraderie of my fellow racers I climbed some boulders that I didn’t think my bike wheels would grip, descended some serious rock faces and after 300 km of sweet BC single track me and my trusty Santa Cruz made it safely back to Whistler.

A wonderful adventure. I met so many great people. The locals who build these amazing trails, the volunteers and race organisers who coordinate the huge logistics of moving over 600 bikes and gear to a new location each day, and of course my fellow racers who came from wide and far. There was even a Spanish soap opera star with his own film crew! Bizzare. A huge thanks to my amazing husband, Darryl, I couldn’t have done this without his support and love. Anna Beck for coaching me to complete my first stage race ever, without whose guidance I wouldn’t have made it! Cyclinic and Erin at NRG Cycles for the work you guys did on my bike – it may be old and a bit beaten up but my little Santa Cruz was perfect – climbing steep trails I never thought possible and super fun on the downhills. Looking forward to my next adventure.

 

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