May 29th, 2012 :: By Terry Evans
Saturday May 26th was an epic day of bike racing in Pemberton, BC. The weather was hot, skies clear and trails in mid-summer condition, as 378 racers joined us at North Arm Farm for the start of the 3rd annual NIMBY Fifty.
Sponsors arrived, tents went up, banners were slung, and a village of sorts emerged near the start line at the local Mayor’s farm. Racers lined up to collect their plates, while Red Bull pulled in with ‘Sugga’ and sound waves filled the air. After some tunes, the mic went to Brett Tippie. At this point the vibe at the farm was ablaze, much like the sun above, and it only intensified as the day went on.
Meanwhile, things were moving on the mountain side just north of the farm. A small army of dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly, ensuring all the last nooks and crannies of the course were marked, raked, and ready for racers to ride as hard as their bodies and minds would allow.
It was all running smooth, like well a lubed drive train, when we encountered the first serious emergency of the day. We were out of toilet paper. Hundreds of rolls had been consumed in a matter of hours and the race had not even begun. Volunteers jumped into action and restocked supplies. Organizers and racers alike were relieved.
The next and, thankfully, final serious emergency occurred only a few hours later as temperatures pushed 25+ degrees celcius. With more than half the field already through, water supplies at the Paraglide launch (Feedzone #1) were out and some seriously thirsty riders were on their way. Some had just been through and received the bad news. Much like when you round a corner on a climb, thinking the top will be right there, but instead are greeted by more up. Disappointed, you persevere. You push your limits beyond what you perceive possible. You dig deep and sometimes you cramp – a lot. Especially when it’s hot. Those riders ascending to the paraglide launch faced a similar situation; but they had to descend, and refill their water below.
Thanks to some very dedicated volunteers, a Jeep was quickly loaded up with 300 bottles of water and two cases of Red Bull.
Leaving the party at the farm behind, race co-organizer Terry Evans pinned it to the sun baked hill (Reid Road – Feedzone #2) to greet those last 100 riders with some well deserved hydration. This enabled many of them to solider on and challenge the “savage” Mosquito lake area trails up ahead – the last third of the course, the only thing separating them from the burgers and beer awaiting them at the finish line.
At the front of the pack, were some of Canada’s best. With a field of over 50 Pro/Elite riders and many others challenging one another for a spot on the podium, the race was on and so was the pain.
Incredibly, amid the diverse field of 378, was reigning World Cup Champion Catharine Pendrel. Lucky for us, she came out for a weekend of trail riding fun with her husband Keith Wilson (who also raced and placed 28th overall).
Much to everyone’s surprise, Catharine was not the first female across the finish line. Twenty eight seconds ahead of Catharine who finished in a time of 2:34:08, was local rider Brandi Heisterman of Whistler in a time of 2:33:39. In third place overall, current TR3 Champion and two time TR7 Champion, was Victoria’s Mical Dyck in a time of 2:37:51. Catharine rode incredibly well, but suffered two flat tires. One near the Paraglide launch and another on the last descent.
Pendrel also placed second among her competitors in Red Bull Downtime, a timed descent down Overnight Sensation. Seven seconds ahead of Pendrel, Pemberton local Sylvie Allen – former Canadian Downhill Champion and National Team Member – stopped the clock at 6:53. A time that would put her top 20 in the men’s division.
On the men’s side, 2011 Canadian National Champ Max Plaxton came out to race as well, just a week after placing 9th at the World Cup in La Bresse. Plaxton absolutely crushed it. He set a new course record with a time of 2:03:43.
Plaxton’s time is all the more impressive, since a new trail was added to the course this year, replacing 1km of fire road. Aptly named “Fifty”, the trail was built by race organizers Russ Wood, Dean Linnell and Terry Evans with the help of their boys Peter, Jack, Jordan, Rowan, Ethan, and Finley. It has some subtle yet punchy climbs, tight corners and plenty of loam. It finishes off with a flowy, mellow descent that leads right onto the road toward Overnight Sensation.
Plaxton, riding his ~23lb Specialized Epic 29er, on carbon wheels and pinner tires (2.2 in the front) placed 8th in Red Bull Downtime with a time of 6:16. Winning Red Bull Downtime, was Nomad rider Chris Johnston with a time of 5:37. He was followed by teammate Arthur Gaillot (5:41). 3rd place went to Whistler’s Jesse Melamed (5:52).
Until crashing on Overnight Sensation due to being unable to see with all of the dust flying up in his face, 2011 winner, Neal Kindree was on Plaxton’s wheel the whole way with a gap of several minutes on the next pack of riders. Kindree crossed the line in second place with a time of 2:06:48 (ten minutes faster than his 2011 time).
When all was said and done, the Overall race winners were as follows:
2012 – Overall Men
1st – Max Plaxton
2nd – Neal Kindree
3rd – Ricky Federeau
2012 – Overall Women
1st – Brandi Heisterman
2nd – Catharine Pendrel
3rd – Mical Dyck
- Full Overall & Category race results on WebScorer.com
- Combined (male & female) Overall race results on WebScorer
- Red Bull Downtime Results – Men
- Red Bull Downtime Results – Women
By mid-afternoon, the scene at North Arm Farm was going off with a little help from Papa Josh’s cranking tunes. Beer and Red Bull were flowing while Tippie chatted with racers and listened to their stories. Whistler’s Rob McSkimming only had one word for Tippie when he asked him how he felt after crossing the line – “shattered”.
The feast of single-track, pain, and pure adrenaline was over for many, but a culinary one of sorts had ensued. Delicious burgers, falafel, salads, and fries were prepared by The Pony and devoured by racers.
By 4pm, it was time for the Brett Tippie show as riders relaxed on the lawn and gathered in the shade generously provided by our sponsor’s tents. With the majestic Mount Currie as the backdrop, Tippie had us all laughing and listening as he announced the age category winners. When it came time for overall winners, something very special occurred. A moment that for us, anyway, will be remembered for a long time.
When Tippie called Catharine to the podium to stand in second place, he reminded everyone of this… The World Champion, the fastest female in Canada – in the World, was right there in front us. She had just raced her bike among us. With people who love mountain biking and competition. People who “get” the joy, pain and suffering it brings, and who can truly appreciate what she’s accomplished on the world stage. Everyone cheered and applauded with intensity. The applause lingered, as Catharine smiled and raised her arms in appreciation.
We wish you all the best in the Olympics this summer Catharine.
Once the awards were done and beer was consumed, most riders headed out, too “shattered” from the day’s events to continue. Indeed, their friends, family and ultimately – the couch – beckoned.
As the sun set, a few local volunteers, friends and “pro” party racers stuck around for a bonfire, absorbing the last of the remaining kegs of beer and energy that remained ablaze at the Farm – the remnants of a truly epic day.
You’d think that most of the people who participated in such an immense event – many until the late hours of the night – would sleep in the next day. But not this crowd. We all woke up to bear witness to an even greater event over in Europe. A historical one for Canadian Cycling: Ryder Hesjedal winning, by a mere 16 seconds, the Giro D’Italia in Italy. As Max Plaxton Tweeted later that day, “Canadian Cycling is BOOMING”. It certainly is Max, thanks to you, Catharine and everyone reading this very blog.
A huge thanks goes out to all our sponsors and the amazing team of volunteers who helped make NIMBY Fifty 2012 happen.
Happy trails and see you next year!