A gruelling test of endurance is only halfway through for riders of this year’s BC Bike Race (BCBR).
The ultimate singletrack experience, now in its sixth year, blasted through the trails of the Sunshine Coast Wednesday and Thursday in day four and five of the epic seven-day race.
All 500 participants started July 1 in Cumberland on Vancouver Island. The 2012 route offers the same smorgasbord of great venues as last year, but will see an all-new final day in Whistler and some additions and tweaks to the other six days.
“We never rest on our laurels. Having our course designers who are core mountain bikers and trail builders means new trails are added every year,” said race director Dean Payne.
Now with the addition of two timed sections for the first six days, BC Bike Race boasts 12 enduro-style sections.
Last year, in a continual pursuit to evolve the event, BC Bike Race included two days with two separate timed sections per day. The “Race within the Race” was launched, tried and tested to ensure that the expanded timed sections in 2012 would be a success.
BC Bike Race organizers’ goal is for everyone to have the best time possible shredding the amazing singletrack that is on offer.
“People have different styles, so we want to ensure that everyone has a chance to showcase their unique skill sets,” said course director Andreas Hestler. “Enduro racing essentially means that riders, instead of pinning it all day, will be able to ride around the body of the course and really focus in on a few very fast moments.”
The challenge course is also undergoing some changes, and with a growing number of participants, the BCBR team is working hard to make all events as rider friendly as possible. Both courses will see adjustment to ensure less merging of the challenge and epic groups, keeping the riders’ experience in mind.
BC Bike Race has always had an amazing field of athletes from top pros to everyday Joes; this year is no exception. But there is one unifying concept — the course — and each and every one of the 2012 participants either challenge or epic will tackle an amazing course and revel in an awesome singletrack experience.
Local favourite Kris Sneddon, who has won the event with partner Barry Wicks several times, is not competing this year, leaving the field void of any Sunshine Coast participants. But that doesn’t mean the Sunshine Coast is not represented.
For weeks leading up to the race, Sunshine Coast course director Rod Camposano and his team have been out in force preparing the course, fixing trails and ensuring that the Coast portion of the race is world-class.
“The riders are in for a tough day. Some of the trails are a little bit wet, but we’ve had a couple of days of dry already, so they’ll still suffer a bit, but probably not as much as they have in some of the previous days,” said Camposano on Wednesday afternoon. “The leaders are averaging what I expected, 20 km/hour pretty much. The big race is for the lead today.
Camposano said the course has been modified this year to allow for a bit of an easier stretch for the riders.
“I took out some of the climbing. Last year the riders went up pretty high, so we took a lot of that out and made it a little shorter,” he said. “I took about eight kilometres out and maybe a few hundred feet of climbing. We wanted to make it more fun, make it so it’s not as hard on some of the less experienced riders.”
Thursday’s stage from Sechelt to the Langdale ferry terminal took riders through the trails in Roberts Creek and the new Chapman bridge.
“We just managed to pull it off and get [the bridge] finished last week. The District of Sechelt was phenomenal to get that in place,” Camposano said. “On the trails there were probably 40 to 50 people working. All the user groups came together, which was really nice to see. Our volunteers always come through — without them it’s hard to have a race. This race runs because of volunteers.”
Wicks, who was riding in the solo elite men’s category, won day four and took the overall lead from riders Neal Kindree and Chris Sheppard, who finished the stage second and third respectively.
Media spokesperson Dave Howells expected a really close battle between the three riders as the race finished up.
“It’s fairly tight, but usually around the hump day, which is today day four, things start to separate a bit,” Howells said. “Today will be probably one of the most interesting stages that we will see. It’s longer, it’s tough, it’s a point-to-point versus a loop, and I think if anyone is thinking about making a move, today is the day.”
Howells said the first few days of the race brought some rough conditions, but the sunshine in Sechelt really lifted everyone’s spirits.
The competition this year is fierce and Howells said it’s anyone’s guess who will win.
“I think mountain bike stage racing has been around for a few years now and all the riders continue to improve,” he said. “They understand the strategy that is needed to win a race like this. Over seven days of mountain biking and thousands of kilometres, there are so many variables that can go wrong — physically, mentally, mechanically — everything has to come together.”
For more information and all the results, check out www.bcbikerace.com.