“I didn’t feel like gunning it from the get-go, so I just sort of hung out with a bunch of people in the forest. I wanted to go faster but I was happy not to. It’s like you’re riding with a bunch of buddies out there.” ~Dave Elphick, Veterans Solo Men, Ontario.

Waking up to the rhythm of waves lapping the shores of the Salish Sea has to be one of the best alarm clocks you could hope for. Or maybe you’re the type who prefers the sound of a rubber chicken squawking through a megaphone as is the tradition of the BC Bike Race. The racers slept under a nearly full moon on the Willingdon Beach in Powell River, and woke to begin cataloging what parts of their bodies suffered the most from the previous day’s efforts. This was the first morning of testing the muscles, examining bruises, and recalling the origins from the previous day. The attendance at the yoga provided by Lululemon for racers grows each evening as the bodies of riders transform from the daily push and pull of riding trails that refuse to let bodies be static for too long.

A less technical stage than the day before combined with a beachside awakening; the Powell River stage gives riders a chance to gather their wits and get on with finding their rhythm. The trails of the surrounding forest are crafted by locals to be more about pedaling for pumps than dropping off gnarly rocks. More roots in place of rocks meant everyone had to aim true for smooth crossings of the braided forests floors. Fortunately, riders only had to deal with dust and were spared the extra challenge of the slick wet roots from years past.

If you talk to the riders you’ll hear constant comments on the positive vibe of the BCBR atmosphere along with amazement at the level of organization throughout the week. That ease of movement between days and relaxed atmosphere is no accident. One of the organizers’ main goal is to remove as many roadblocks for riders in their search of living for the moment. Crafting space for easing one’s mind seems to be the speciality of the BCBR organizers. Forget managing the petty daily details like finding food and sleeping. All your energy can be put into riding your bike and finding that perfect space where flow comes easiest.

For 4th place Women’s Solo racer, Carey Mark, that mental space is much more critical in a mountain bike stage race than the Adventure Races she used to do years ago.

“Self talk is so huge here in these kind of races. Gotta keep the focus on what’s ahead of you and what the goal is. Let the groove flow rather than thinking about the roots, or the things you can’t do.”

The Racers

Today was about introducing the riders of the BCBR to the isolated trails of the North Sunshine Coast. Like a remote island with species who have adapted to their environment, the trails of the Sunshine Coast evolve in an environment of freedom to build as their surroundings and vision dictate. Each pocket of builders is free to build to their version of flow with fewer voices preying on their vision.

Wendy and Graham Cocksedge (siblings) are locals to Powell river and racing their first BC Bike Race together. Despite Stage 1 being Wendy’s first mountain bike race ever, they won their Open Mixed category for the second day in a row. Both are heavily involved in the local mountain bike culture and work to continue to pass the culture on to the next generation. Graham works with the local high school mountain bike team, and both spend time promoting the culture they are involved in.

From being part of the Powell River official welcoming committee as the racers’ ferry arrives, to being a racer or support staff, there are so many different perspectives to view the event from. Each role you take opens up new insights to the layers of the mountain bike community. The BCBR works with communities to promote a shared vision of a culture we all want to live in.

The result is an event that exposes the positives sides of community and the power of communication.

“I love how great everyone is when you’re on the trail. People move when you ask, and people are so polite when asking. We loved the number of cheer stations on the trail.” Wendy Cocksedge.

The Race

Open Women

Once again there are two battles shaping up in the Women’s Open Category. Clif Teammates Maghalie Rochette and Katerina Nash exchanged places several times today. It was a similar story in the battle behind for 3rd and 4th place between Dutch rider Hielke Elferink and Canadian Carey Mark.

Rochette took the early initiative and latched on to the leading men’s group. “I kinda went strong because when the guys are at the front it’s kinda free speed when you’re in their wheel, so I just thought I’d hold on as long as I could.” Nash lost contact with Rochette early but pulled herself back to her teammate and they went into the woods together. A bobble in the trails by Rochette allowed Nash to make a separation but the gap was closed after an inspired effort and the younger rider pulled herself back up to Nash’s wheel. They stayed together to the line and Rochette took the win after Nash gave her the nod to take it for a days work done well.

Carey Mark and Hielke Elferink also exchanged places a couple times today with Elferink making a late surge and rolling past Mark in a group on the final stretch of dual-track. Mark had a comfortable lead and let her mind wonder from the task at hand. A couple moment’s of relaxation resulted in a collision with a tree early and the slacking of the pace in the final kilometers. “Today was a day of focus. It was a really good learning day for myself. Day by day, I’m learning more about who’s around me, who’s going to help me, who’s going to slow me down.”Carey Mark

Open Men

Geoff Kabush (Scott Sports/ Maxxis) wasn’t able to create the same separation between himself and the chasers today. Entering and exiting from the Suicide Creek Trail there was still a group of 11 men together with a strong chase group following close behind. That main group was led often by Quinn Moberg (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) and Corey Wallace (Kona Bicycles) seemed to dangle lazily off the rear.

By the time the group dropped into Death Rattle, the day’s “Feature Trail”, it was only a group of three with Kabush leading Stephen Ettinger (Focus Bikes/ Shimano) and Wallace to the bottom. The rest of the group was quickly splintered and no longer a strong collective. Riders were now on their own to find their way home. Wallace had closed his gap to the front before the final climb to Death Rattle figuring that would be where the race would play out.

Despite some surges by Kabush, he was unable to drop the two and it came down to a sprint finish on the beach. Ettinger made an early move that was countered by Kabush, but when it came time for Wallace’s surge he found his door effectively shut by the experienced Kabush. The riders shared the finishing time, but it could be said that it was Wallace who won a victory today with new found legs that proved he was going to be able to add his ante into the race’s pot.

Masters Men

Today’s winner Garett Heitman (Clif Bar) recovered from a less than spectacular day one finish almost 9 minutes back and charged hard today to take back all of the time plus some. It was yesterday’s winner Edward Larson who had a tougher time shaking third place finisher to cross the line only 16 seconds ahead. The second through fourth Masters Men all finished within a minute of each other and must have had their eyes nervously focused on each other for signs of weakness.

Masters Women

Tricia Spooner (The Cyclery) put another stamp on her lead with almost a 25 minute extension of her gap to second place. Naoko Forderer (Dynamics’s Racing Team) made big strides and edged her way into 2nd place today after a 6th place finish yesterday. Kimberly Beck was consistent with a third after a second the day before. It was Caroline Lecompte who lost the most time dropping down to 18th after a 3rd place finish on day one. It looks like this race for second through fifth will be decided by consistency for the rest of the race.

Veterans Men

Ted Russo (OpenRoadautogroup/ Obsession Bikes) added another win to his scrap book, but with only a seven minute gap, he isn’t invincible. It’s Rob Phoenix (Team Whistler) who would probably want most to break the winning streak of Russo. An overall may be mostly out of sight, but to stand on top of the podium would be a first step to breaking the grip Russo has on the BCBR yellow Jersey. Andy Keayes and Jesper Bodskov are in a heavy battle for third place, exchanging positions between the two days, and look to be ready to light up their race within-the-race.

Open Women’s Duo

Yesterday’s first and second place teams dropped a significant amount of time today and slipped two spots back. The Desert Rats team of Christine Jeffrey and Kata Skags had a huge day and put 16 minutes into yesterday’s winners of the Stark Sisters, Karen and Sarah.

Featured Trail

Choosing one trail from the many classic pieces of singletrack in the Powell River woods is no easy task. That’s why each year the BCBR takes the opportunity to talk up one section. Death Rattle is a classic drop from the highest point of the stage that dips and dives off of roots of old growth trees and compresses you into pockets that set you up for the next rise and fall. This purpose built trail was not designed as a climbing trail and you can tell by the steepness of the sections that drop you into fall away switchbacks all the while trying to gap tree roots without being launched into the adjacent drainages lining the track.

Day 3 Preview

Tomorrow’s stage of Earls Cove to Sechelt is the Queen stage of the week. After an early morning ferry, the riders will tackle 57km with 1710m of climbing, riders will have to dig deep in the heat to find the proper pace to get them successfully through Day 3 and save some for the second half of the week. Despite the length, the rewards are great as riders take the final plunge into the southern Sunshine Coast town of Sechelt.