My report on the 2011 BC Bike Race is a little late. In fact, it almost a full year late, but like a good wine, a little aging allows you to experience the subtle parts and brings out the best bouquet. It will also allow those signed up for the 6th edition to get an early glimpse of what is to come.
Last year’s race was the 4th time that I have participated, and by was by far the best one yet. Dean Payne and Andreas Hestler have worked out the little glitches and have continued to improve the product year after year. No more is there day after day of point to point races which often contain subpar single track. Now the race visits specific venues where local riders can deliver input and allow for the showcasing of their very best trails.
Without a doubt, this race now has more 5 star single tracks than any other MTB race on the planet.
My partner was Andy Aufshnaiter, one of the alpine guides from Mike Wiegele Heli-skiing. Andy was raised in Kirchberg, Austria and came to Canada in 1986 to travel and explore Canada. He met Mike Weigele in Banff after a stint working at Expo 86, and became the man in charge of the dining operation at Mike Wiegele for many years. More recently, he has become a heli guide. He met his wife at the operation and calls Blue River his home. As the combined team of Steed Cycles/ Mike Wiegele Heli-skiing we hoped to bring home the glory in the 100+ team division.
Andy is in pretty good shape as you might expect for a man who skis 100+ days a year. He is also one of those individuals who always seems to look at the bright side of any situation. In other words, he may be the perfect partner.
The week of riding as always was fantastic. The weather was in general perfect, despite the very wet spring the west coast had had. Highlights included the incredibly technical descent back into Cumberland on day 1, the really fast and flowy single-track in the middle of “new” day 2 in Campbell River, and the hard core low gear slow speed North Shore slippery rocks and roots throughout Day 3 in Powell River. The campsites in Campbell River and Powell River were right on the waters of the Strait of Georgia and the beauty of the sunrise and sunsets blew many people away.
Day 4 and 5 returned us to the Sunshine Coast where over the previous year the local trail builders had once again improved the trail network. These trails have been part of the race since the very beginning, and year after year continue to impress. Day 4 is time wise the longest day. It is invariably a suffer fest, especially when the sun is blazing as was the case last year. Day 5 finishes our time on the Sunshine Coast with the classic Hwy 103 trail. This trail pops you right out in the ferry terminal in Langdale where you catch your ride up to Squamish. While waiting for the ferry, I can never get enough of watching riders wheel into the finish with huge smiles from ear to ear. Listening in to the comments being bantered back and forth is always a big hit.
By this time in the race Andy and I were battling away for 2nd place in our division with another team from the USA. 1st place appeared to be sewn up by Pierre Harvey and Daniel Auclair. Pierre was a Canadian representative at both the 76 and 84 Olympics in road riding and the 84 and 86 Olympics in XC skiing. His son is one of the current stars of the Canadian XC ski team and in 2011 was the U23 world champion in the 30km pursuit. Pierre is also a member of the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame. While it appeared that Andy could match their climbing abilities, I could not. I suppose all that training that Pierre has done over the years has to stand for something; his engine was really something to behold.
Day 6 brought us to what I consider my home turf, Squamish BC. I have raced the course there in various incarnations many times and I seem to know every stump, root, log and stone. Unfortunately, Andy did not and a split second decision on his part resulted in a very serious problem. As we were riding through Crumpet Woods, he made the decision to ride a plank leading to a bit of a launch, rather than use the ride around. As he exited off the plank instead of launching the bike forward, he tried to roll off it and got his chain ring caught on the end. It immediately bucked him forward off his bike right onto his face. He didn’t even have a chance to raise his hand in defense before he was in the dirt. The result was a very nasty de-gloving of the flesh on his chin, and of course, a fair bit of blood. I thought our race was over, but after a couple of minutes discussing the situation, Andy continued on, not only finishing, but putting me in the hurt locker in his urgency to get to the finish. The picture of his bike at the finish tells a great deal of the story.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the hospital.
The last day of the race was in Whistler and I was not sure Andy should even be attempting to race. It was pretty clear to me that he had suffered a minor concussion. In the end, after discussions with his wife, we decided to race with the proviso that Andy would not ride anything technical in nature, and if he felt at all unwell we would bail out immediately. As it turned out, this forced him to run a good part of the day’s course as we were treated to the final descents of Whistlers Comfortably Numb. Going into the day we had 15 minute lead on our nearest competition and despite Andy running probably half of the course, we still finished with a 9 minute margin to claim the silver medal overall.
That is the beauty of this type of race. You never know what the next turn will bring. Each second brings on a new challenge.
Hats off to the BC Bike Race organizing crew for once again improving the product. Dean, Andreas and the team continue to raise the bar. When one looks at the logistics involved in the organization of this race, what with the ferries and all, it never ceases to amaze me that it comes together so fluidly. I also really like that fact that the atmosphere is so chill. Even the big name racers seemingly put their egos in their pockets and ride purely for the joy of riding. I have heard it said that amongst the pros being able to claim a win in this race carries as much cache as wins in World Cup races.
BC Bike Race keep up the good work!
And for those about to embark on this year’s adventure; Good Luck!