“If in that moment you think you can’t, just start everyday. And everyday you’ll see, bad feelings don’t last forever, and good feelings don’t last forever. Downhill doesn’t last forever and uphill doesn’t last forever. You have to go for it.”
The BC Bike Race is known as a seven day trail experience yet it’s still a cross country mountain bike race which will be a punishing experiment in stamina, both mentally and physically. Riders show up with a wide variety of expectations of what they are getting themselves into and relatively few nail their predictions the first time. Some think it’s way harder than they expected while others were hoping for it to be even harder. It’s amazing how completely opposite people will interpret the same available information. Some want to know all the details before pressing the registration button, while others cut off their period of contemplation in order to step over that edge. That’s what is called “going for it” which as we know has a variety of outcomes. The filters we create in our minds when tackling the unknown are often the only thing that allows us to move forward. The result is every rider has a story about how they ended up here and how they are now managing their expectations.
Very few people show up to the BC Bike Race and find themselves sitting out after the first day, but cancer survivor Jose Solorzano decided during the first stage that he was unprepared and way over his head. So now he’s switched to being part of the crew and having an unexpectedly satisfying race experience. Solorzano got stoked up on the media he saw and registered not really thinking about the reality of the what he was getting into. His goal was to “go for it” and deal with what ever happened. “After surviving cancer my whole perspective changed. Life is short so I’m still having a great time. Next time I’d come more prepared though! I asked my friends if they wanted to come and they all said no way it looked too hard.” The question is what made Solorzano, who has less than a dozen mountain bike rides under his belt, not see the same things his friends saw. This was an experience he wanted to be a part of and did some selective filtering of obstacles in his way. Pressing the registration button was the easy part.
Similar to Jose there are the people like Naoko Forderer who thinks the race is “way harder than ever imagined” but her understanding of what is hard is different, as evidenced by her 3rd in the Solo Masters Women’s category today. “Every morning I don’t think I can ride today. I just don’t know how to believe in myself. I start riding and pace myself and I’m able to finish everyday so far. I surprise myself.” Naoko is having a great race yet came into it exploring a similar unknown as Jose with different race results but both have figured out the key to enjoying the whole journey. “During the hill I’m like why am I doing this then afterwards everything is beautiful. I mean I get to do this!”
It is usually day four when you see the most people make a mental switch to acceptance of the difficulty of the task they have undertaken. People will still have days where they physically fall apart due to poor nutrition but at this point riders have mostly settled into their pace and the reality of who they are, what the trails will be, and what they have to do each day to have a good time. If there was grumbling before, that has quieted mostly into a relinquishing of control and a dropping of expectations of themselves, the trails, and the other people around them. Having a positive mental attitude is the key to success in difficult challenges and it’s day four when that state of calmness settles over the race.
“As the week goes on you develop a system with the group your are always riding with. Who to give some space to and who to get in front of.”
The group dynamics between teams and the riders who find themselves around similar faces really begin to solidify by stage four. The climbers learn that it’s more fun to get out of the way of the descenders and try and follow on the downhills and the descenders are happy to let the mountain goats burn themselves on the way up. Communication becomes the key to these successful interactions as you see the same people each day, it becomes awkward quick if you can’t make some friendly chatter and respect of each other’s particular talents.
Chadwick Spencer of Reno, Nevada brought his big trail bike to the party and quickly realized he was going to have to figure out how to make space in order to enjoy the descents when a triathlete beats him to the top of the climb. “We already know where the winners are going to come from, so just have a good time, give some space, wait and jam on the way down.” These concessions are a relinquishing of control and expectations. A multi day stage race will humanize the people around you and humble ego in the process. Being hot stuff at home, in your environment may not translate to this international pond of motivated fish.
One member of the many parent/ sibling teams at this year’s race is mother Lori Davis who says she’s always wanted to do the race and when her three sons were young, offered them a trip to do it as a team when they turned 18. None of them were in the right place in life at the age of 18 so she has had to wait several years to get one of them to join her on a team. “When BCBR came along I always wanted to do it, I followed it, and read so many peoples’ blogs. I wanted to do it so badly, I really wanted to do it with any of my sons, and Justin was up for the task.”
Both Davis and her son Justin Galbraith put in the time to train for this event despite being separated by the distance of Ontario to BC. Tackling challenges together can thin the skin and leave feelings raw. Difficult shared experiences will quickly reveal a new dynamic between people but Lori and Justin have figured out their level of communication needed to get along smoothly. A blend of mind reading, trial and error, and open communication has them humming along nicely after four days. Lori knows just how much to push it up the climbs while not stressing Justin out, and in the process Justin has given his mom a new pace that has been beneficial.
“It’s actually been really helpful knowing he doesn’t want to climb as fast, because I would blow myself out. It’s really hard for me to want to let people get ahead. I had to chill a bit and he helped me with that a lot.” Davis.
Today was the second point to point stage of the race and began under almost ideal conditions. Comfortable temperatures and a cloud cover helped keep riders from overheating and the flat light made it easier for riders to see the details of the day’s technical trails. At 48km and with 1408m of climbing, it was going to be another tough day, but the course profile put the riders into the woods more often and finished their day with w 7km descent back to the finish line.
The CLIF Bar duo of Maghalie Rochette and Katerina Nash, once again crossed the line at the end of the day together. This time Rochette nipped her teammate at the finish line. They now share equally the number of stage wins going into stage five at North Vancouver. The shorter but more technical stage on Seymour Mountain will create a distinction of rider specialty. It may be that we see today’s third place finisher Hielke Elferink (Rocky Mountain) put the pressure on to try and take a stage win. Elferink spent today testing her legs against the duo and put in a strong early experimentation to see how long she could hang with the CLIF riders. At the 20km mark she popped off the back and recovered before finding her rhythm to finish the rest of the day still in 3rd. Carey Mark finished 8 minutes behind Elferink and Briony Mattocks had another strong ride to finish the day in 5th.
The men continued to put on a show in the fight for the 3rd-10th position while Geoff Kabush (Scott Sports/ Maxxis) and Stephen Ettinger (Focus/ Shimano) battled to the finish, proving their strength to be on another level from their competitors this year. Kabush put three seconds into Ettinger at the line which gives him a total of only 39 seconds in the overall. A good or bad day from either of these riders will determine the final result of this hotly contested podium spot.
Rising up to have his day on the podium was Troy Wells (CLIF Bar Pro) who attacked early but seemed to settle back into the group before putting in another effort that say him riding solo for much of the end of the day. Chasing hard towards him was Quinn Moberg (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) who finished the day in 4th, while Sam Schultz (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) squeaked out a 5th on the day.
Moberg and Schultz are only separated by a 1:44 going into stage 5.
Solo Masters Men
Garret Heitman took another stage today and has added another brick to his fortress in first place. Now 20 minutes ahead in the overall, his chasers better start looking at the spots around them to see if there is easier fruit to pick. Edward Larson and Guy Sutton are only separated by 1 minute for 3rd and 4th overall as Luke Beuchat has a comfortable but not invincible 7 minutes hold over them in 2nd.
Solo Masters Women
Tricia Spooner has a comfortable hour lead over 2nd place Kimberly Beck. But, Beck is only an uncomfortable 1:30 over Ellen Blome in the overall results. Naoko Forderer and Nia Wegner are holding on to 4th and 5th respectively.
Open Mens Duo Team
A five minute gap is all that separates first place team Race For Movember and second place No Team Name. This should be a good battle to watch with three days to go.
Open Womens Duo Team
Desert Rats team of Christine Jeffrey and Kata Skags are leading the field this year. In second is the team of Pneus Baloune (Marie Coutre and Sophie Ringuet) with the Whistler team of Tricia Sinclair and Chrissy Da Ball (Whistler Wildcats) still in third.
Rio Grande is a trail that’s been around for a while, is relatively short and not exactly considered single track but if you actually set your wheels down on it’s steep and soft surface you’ll quickly understand why it stands out amongst it’s peers. There may be multiple lines, but it’s the openness of the sightlines that let you connect dots in surprisingly unexpected ways as you let off the brakes and hit eye watering speeds. If you find yourself in the area, connect into the Rio Grande and get your grins for the day.
Day 5 Preview
It may only be 18km long but the difficulty of the climbing and the technical terrain put this at much higher level of intensity that it may seem on paper. Riders will get to explore some of Seymour Mountain’s finest trails with plenty of dust to keep the rocks slippery even without rain. The key for this stage is to save enough energy on the climbs to be able to physically handle the full body workout, both mind and muscles, that the shore demands of riders. Lose focus here and you’ll be off your bike in a hurry.