Wow what a week! Absolutely unbelievable! Amazing organization, amazing riding, amazing people, amazing weather, amazing scenery, should I keep going? This week is becoming legendary in mountain biking lore.
This year I raced as part of a two-man veteran’s team with Steve Beck in memory of my 2011 partner Andy Aufschnaiter.
Andy and I finished second in our division two years ago, and 6 months after our race ended, he was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. Go figure, how does a physical specimen like Andy end up with lung cancer? Andy passed away on April 8, 2013 after a grueling yearlong battle. He will be missed dearly by me, and his many mountain biking friends at both the BC Bike Race and the TransRockies.
This year’s partner Steve hails from Santa Cruz, California and can only be described as a single track addict. The man loves to rip technical trails so what other race in the world would suit him better. (Post-race conclusion… Steve should do Trans-Provence, he would absolutely kill it)
Each and every day this year was loaded with its own exciting moments and we could feel Andy encouraging us on to the finish line in Whistler. Here is the brief synopsis.
Day 0 – Registration – done, Racer briefing – done, Bikes checked and loaded – done, Ferry reservation – done, let’s go to Cumberland! Final item; move car in driveway blocking exit and CRASH…… one toasted car, one broken bike rack, and one crushed rear bike wheel. Is this race over before it even begins? Quick check of bike frames, throw on spare wheel set, scramble to move injured car…. Make ferry reservation with 1 minute to spare. Nice start!
Day 1 – Cumberland – Weathers’ changed, sun is out, man it is super-hot! Trails are primo; heat is drying them out and making the surface super tacky. Steve comments at the end “It can’t get any better than this, can it?” Oh is he ever in for a big surprise! Competition is intense; there are clearly several very fast old guys here. Best moment of the day: clearing the first enduro section despite being forced off the line by walking riders. Worst moment of the day: Climbing to the top of the second enduro, with nothing in the tank, seeing double! Andy: there will be no podium this year, but we will make you proud!
Day 2 – Campbell River – New start, new finish. So hot! Thankfully, most of the riding is in the shade. Great variation in trails, some super techy, some super flowy. As usual, we are starting to get to know the riders around us that we will see for the rest of the week. It seems sort of strange that these races always sort themselves out such that you spend the week with the same people. Steve is riding so strong; clearly I will be the limiting factor in our performance. Steve`s comment at the end of the day; “Hey that was as good as yesterday, does it actually get better every day?” Hmmmm!
Day 3 – Powell River – Caught the ferry last night so our morning was spent chillin and relaxin; much better preparation for our bodies that early the am rise and rushed ferry crossing. Local BOMB squad (Bitchin Old Men Builders) are dope! The trails get better every year here. What I remember as an upper body beat down with roots everywhere three years ago is now fast and flowy. The first enduro is on a brand new trail and is so sick. This trail requires a complete array of rider skills. Everyone leaves with a huge smile. Keep it up BOMBers!!!! Equipment issues start to pop up. Steve has a blown wheel bearing in the am requires rebuild. He then flats with 3 km. to go and after finishing, bike check reveals broken spoke, and fractured carbon chain stay. Repair shop saves the day and provides frame repair overnight. Better trails yet Steve?
Day 4 – Earls Cove to Sechelt – Hump day. This day is the ultimate sufferfest. Bang out of the start; long hard uphill on very tired legs. Late start time; so already riding in the heat. Many miles on exposed power lines; very little shade. This is the longest day in terms of distance and climbing; body breakdowns are occurring everywhere around you. Suffice to say, for both Steve and I, this was the toughest day of the week. Interestingly, when you compare it to the first year of the BC Bike race in 2007, this was probably considered one of the easier stages. How things change! To top this day off, I catch up to Steve at the start of the last enduro, maybe 5 km. from the finish and he is holding a crank arm in his hand. Is it repairable on the trail??? One piece is clearly missing, the bolt that compresses the crank arm on the spindle as it passes through the bottom bracket. The decision; I ride on thinking if he cannot finish, we’re out. If he has to walk out, we take the penalty for being separated. If he repairs it, he comes blasting through somewhere in the last 5 km. The result; he rips the enduro with a jimmied crank, catches me with 2 km. to go and leaves me sucking dust all the way to the finish. I like this guy! Way to hang it out there!
Day 5 – Sechelt to Langdale – Finally Steve is showing some discomfort. Off the start he says his legs feel tense, like they are about to explode. Do you think I might have some respite from the daily beat down? Nah… two hours in and although my ego feels a little better, I am still barely hangin on. But, when it comes to the final descent, he is off the front, and absolutely killing the enduros’. Steve sports a huge smile in the Langdale ferry terminal. Why? The Sechelt boys have been secretly working on Hwy. 103. Big berms have appeared. So much flow! And the benefit of an early finish; we get an afternoon nap and a sleep tonight in our own beds!
Day 6 – Squamish – I consider this my home turf; I am so looking forward to this day! Watching all the riders around me hooting and hollering makes me so stoked on riding! If you polled all the racers that have competed over the last 7 years, I would wager that this day wins hands down as their most favourite day. It has everything to offer from the perspective of trails and terrain, but probably most important is that all the racers are finding their groove. So many will have learned and mastered new skills, and now they are putting them to good use. Five days of body abuse has hardened even the softest of body habitus, and THERE ARE ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT. If there is any testosterone left in any racers body, it is COMPLETELY SQUEEZED out by the finish. Lines many have never previously seen are absolutely, totally, and completely shredded! So many smiles at the finish, the energy is just simply contagious! And Steve… “That was the best day yet!”
Day 7 – Whistler – The last inning of this ball game. This is the BC Bike Race celebratory sprint. A quick little uphill to spread out the field, and then a quick taste of everything that Whistler has to offer. A little park, a little flow, a bit of technical, a few bridges, lots of fan support, and then the big finale as you cruise into Whistlers Olympic plaza. Could you ask for a better finish? I think not; and I have experienced quite a few of them.
BC Bike Race 2013 – My 5th BC Bike race, my 22nd multi day stage race completed. Unbelievable organization, great weather, stellar single-track riding, amazing people, wicked venues; so worth the effort! Thank you Dean Payne and Andreas Hestler for thinking this thing up! Thank you Steed Cycles for your unrelenting enthusiasm.
Andy Aufschnaiter, Steve and I will remember you and this week forever. You were clearly smiling down on us and all the participants.
And a little bit of advice: Remember the bucket list, life is too short!
And finally: Carey Mark – you are a beast! (A beautiful beast) Steed Cycles on the top step of the podium!