09 July, 2008

BC Bike Race

Pictures Uploaded (finally got a Flickr Account....)

I can't really write anything. Its all kind of blur. The fun pace that we discussed going in was quickly abandoned after 2 extremely hot, long and exposed days in stages 1 and 2. The race was on, and even though Nat Ross can somehow get pictures in the single track, I managed a bunch of mountain and butt shots while climbing fireroads. Must be something they teach you in "how to be Pro camp."

The reader's digest version of the race:

Stages 1 and 2 are evil necessities, moving you from the starting point of Shawnnagan Lake School, through Lake Cowichan and into Port Alberni where stage 3 started. Stage 1 actually had some trails, but it was fresh cut, and unrideable. If you check out the Flickr show, its the trail that has shoulder high ferns growing around a line of walking bikers. It also contained one of the largest, must abrupt hill climbs of the event, a 600m monster that topped out in open, scrub forest that was about 100 degrees. A lot of people simply ended there week right there on top, collapsing from dehydration and heat related issues. They were lucky, they missed out on the nearly 20k of rail grade at the end of the day. Anyone remember the Mohican 100, yeah? double the rails to trails, and do it one speed. Spin Spin Spin Spin Spin Spin.

Stage 2 was 128km of pure hot evil. Some nice views, but other than that, it was a generally flat road race on the pre-highway route between Lake Cowichan and Port Alberni. In defense of the event this wasn't the planned route, a snow storm two weeks prior knocked out the days singletrack, and we just needed a way to get to Alberni. As singlespeeders, we lost a lot of time, but rode pretty well until the constant on/off 12o RPM all day did serious damage to my undercarriage. It got a little steep at the end, which blew a lot of the roadies apart, but my core temp was way over 100, I had stopped sweating, and was fixated on the goosebumps and bleached hair on my arms as my body cooked after 5 hours in near 100 temps. At one point Chip actually rode his bike, and rolled mine next to it as my body finally shut down and I found shade with a couple other riders hanging on 15k from the finish. Port Alberni was a welcome site.

The third stage started with more of the same, some gravel roads to get to the single track. Up until the start of the race, we were promised "Bucket of Blood," a techi descent, but the locals kept telling us it was logged. Bucket truly was a carrot on a stick, and never really showed itself. Our first taste of BC singletrack was two new trails, Steam Donkey and Entrails. As newer trails, they were a little soft, and super technical, more lateral upper body demanding than flowly. We then dumped into a connection of a few local favorites, some of which gave the upper body a break before dumping into a very tough last few kilometers of core muscle and power intensive single track. Very tight, lots of roots and bumps; these last few k didn't offer much in the coasting department, but the onespeeds powered their way through and past a lot of teams through last sections.

Day 4 included a 430am wake up call, two ferry trips, some bussing, and served as the first introduction to uphill singletrack. They really do have these 7 stages down to a progression of difficulty. Now more than half way through in miles, and soon to be days, we get to climb up on singletrack and descend the stuff as well. We had some problems with traffic on this stage, but it did allow me to recover a bit when we got stuck in a singletrack train on the climbs. A little space would open up, or a less than deadly alternative line, and we'd power past a few folks and get back in line. We got a really nice view of the ocean and lower valley when we topped out in a logged section of fireroad, before bombing down towards Sechelt. More great technical singletrack finished this stage, where a took a nice slow mo nose wheelie crash. I actually went over the bars, stayed clipped in, landed back first on a log, which sent my bike launching out of site into the ferns. I saw the whole thing, that's how long it took. Brushed myself off and hit some more singletrack. I actually crossed the line with a little left, after falling 1 km from the finish and cracking my helmet laying down power around a soft corner to hold off a geared team. The legs feel a bit stronger when motivated by trails rather than gravel.

The fifth stage was promised to have some great trails. We road a slightly controlled start, led by a team of motos, and hit a brief 5k singletrack climb, some more flat gravel where we lost a few teams and then continued up into the Rat Race trails system. Fast, fun, bermed stuff, enough roots and lines to keep your attention, but definitely a welcome break on the upper body. We topped out and got to drop down a wide, fast and smoot downhill, complete with some huge kickers, tabletop type jumps, a couple nice gap lines off to the side, and essentially a mindless fun downhill. This leveled out and we made our way back to the top of HWY 102, a 13km downhill and testament to trail building. I'm sure this thing sees lots of traffic, of downhill, xc and free ride variety, but it was in perfect shape, raked, bermed, great log reinforced benching, lots of ladder bridges, switchbacks, and speed. 13km of downhill is a lot, and parts of it were super steep (and dusty, I opted to walk...as did most) my little 140mm rotor in the rear was working hard and my brakes were glazed. I attempted an unintentional uphill step up onto 2 or 3 foot log, stalled the landing, and rolled backwards, bouncing off the ground below, and off the 4 feet of benching into the woods. Chip hesitated before looking as he saw me disappear over the edge, and thought for sure there'd be bones sticking out. No bones, just another damaged helmet, which I was borrowing from the Different Bikes team.
We past Dejay and Tim, our singlespeed compadres, walking out of the woods; Tim had separated his newly reconstructed shoulder somewhere on HWY 102. We made it in just in time to catch the early ferry, and enjoyed a very relaxed pace at basecamp for the rest of the afternoon.

Stage 6 was one of the best days of the race. Lots of singletrack, all pretty fast fun and flowy, and enough white knuckle stuff to keep you on the edge of your saddle, or well behind it as the case was. It would have been perfect, except Chip flatted 2km in and we got stuck behind EVERYONE, and everyone on day 6 of a 7 day race means you are stuck behind some pretty tired folks, and have to fight your way through. No sooner than seeing few teams we recognized, my flat woes began. I sliced a sidewall on a sharp rock during a switchbacked descent, and threw tube after tube into a tire that was having rim tape issues. This, of course, was not discovered till after the day had ended, so we just assumed my boot was slipping and i was nipping tube projecting from tire. A total of 5 team flats later, and many borrowed tubes, we crossed the line, and had STILL IMPROVED BY ONE SPOT. We were having a pretty good day, and would have made a lot of time up on some fading teams, but those are the breaks. I haven't had a flat all season, and one was bound to rear its ugly head eventually.

And on the 7th day, there was no rest. We started from the Creekside gondola of Whistler, and immediately made 500m in about 6 km. It was steep, and with no more than 200m of paced start, it blew everyone apart as our lead filled morning legs were asked to put out that kind of effort so early. The rest of the day was mixed with gradual singletrack climbs and tough section of technical descents. See Colors and Puke and Tunnel Vision were both white knuckle affairs on a hardtail, but we made Aid 1 in pretty good time, ahead of our usual pacers. The rest of the day was relentless powertrack, with roots rocks, bridges, stunts and a smattering of other technical features placed precisely where you didn't want them. Every inch was a battle, including running the very famous "River runs through it" backwards, which meant a little wheelie to ride up on to its endless feet of woodwork and skinnies. At only 47km, it still felt like one of the harder days. I lost Dejay and Chip at an intersection of trails crossing over some bare granite, made a wrong turn and had to turn around very close to the finish. I could hear the BCBR announcer referencing Dejay's situation with Tim and how he joined us for stages 6 and 7, which means they were at the finish line and I wasn't. I eventually traced back, and saw a lot of people sneak by, found the finish line, and donned my BCBR belt buckle after 7 days of hardwork.

In looking back, I would definitely do this event again. With no SS category, this was to be the year of fun riding, taking pictures, and enjoying some great trail. Basically a bike vacation where we through money at the situation so we didn't have to plan anything, organize transportation, or buy food. We didn't do this. Chip raced from word go, and I suffered to keep up. I would have had a lot more fun riding with like minded folk, but I am proud of our result, so its a bit of a catch 22. There's plenty of fun racing to be had coming up in the fall, and i'll choose my partners wisely. There's some rumor of a singlespeed category next year.....but we need warm bodies to fill the category. If you want to tackle one of the hardest stage races out there, and do it while competing for an SS title, keep BCBR in mind. It think its all gonna go through Dejay, so drop him a line and put out the word. For the most part, all 7 days would have been SS friendly with a better gear choice on Day 2, but day 2 is rumored to be much more singletrack by next year, so it all changes. Part of the challenge of riding onespeed for 7 days.

As for me, i'm still recovering. Rode a bit in Whistler, but that was a joke. Unpacked the bike today and still haven't touched it. Fuzzy and Dejay are making their way through the land of Ohio tomorrow en route to Vermont for Nationals, there's been talk of loosening up the legs. After that, its down to Asheville for me, a weekend of riding and music, see the girl, visit the boys, and then i'm off to the land of Montgomery, AL for some much needed currency.

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