Give a poet a microphone and who knows when they'll stop talking. "We are mountain bikers. We eat pain for breakfast,” Cumberland's town crier shouted out, welcoming BCBR'ers to the start line Monday morning.
BC Bike Race STAGE 3: Cumberland
Presented by: BC Ferries
Distance: 26 kms
Elevation Gain: 833 meters
He went on, of course. But most racer's were listening to their inner voices, chomping at the bit to get after Stage 3. At 26 km long, on paper Cumberland's second stage looked easy. But looks can be deceiving. This serpentine course winding up and down through historic coal mining country offered up plenty to chew on - 850 m of climbing that would also give riders a second serving of Vanilla as well as a tasty sample of newer singletrack snacks like THC (yup it's legal in Canada) and Amore, as well as old local favorites like the ripping XC/DH delights of Rhizome and the head-high burms of Wood Cutter. Low overcast and dry skies made for some super-tack, optimum racing conditions, but greasy residue from yesterday's rain showers would keep racers on point.
In Solo Men it was looking more and more like a game of inches between frontrunners Geoff Kabush (Team Yeti-Maxxis) and Felix Burke (Rocky Mountain). A battle of wily experience and youthful exuberance. An equally entertaining contest was unfolding among elite women, with Courtenay McFadden (Team Pivot-Maxxis) and Jenna Greaser (Rocky Mountain) out to prove that the Queen's crown was far from secure. But behind the smile of repeat yellow jersey holder Katerina Nash (Team Clif Bar) is a killer instinct. Her depth of experience is unquestionable, whether crushing an uphill climb or carving up a loamy descent like a knife to butter.
From the top of Rhizome, yahoos echoed across the treetops. It was the sound of good times as riders on the first lobe of the stage soaked up the seriously sick, entire Vanilla descent.
YouTubers and shredding couple Syd Schulz and Macky Franklin (Syd and Macky) flatted out on the chunder of Stage 2's grinding Davis Lake Main and had to claw back more than a hundred riders. They were hoping for a mechanical free-stage today, and they got their wish.
"Roads are not really our thing. We're good on the technical climbs and the descending. We're from New Mexico so we're not used to wet roots and rocks, but we're loving it. The descending so far has been technical and fun, but not technical and scary," said Schulz, after he and Macky improved on yesterday's 3rd place in Teams of 2 (Open Mixed) to snag 2nd on Cumberland's short course. This category has so far been dominated by the Stars and Stripes, with Kaitlin Keough and Stephen Hyde (Cannondale) maintaining an iron grip on the yellow jersey.
Meanwhile Tricia K Spooner, whose training grounds are the rolling Gatineau Hills around Ottawa, was proving once again that she has the chops for BC gnar. In fact she enjoys Cumberland dirt so much, she's decided to move cross country and relocate to this Vancouver Island fat tire Mecca. Yesterday, she fell on the Davis Lake Main ascent after tangling handlebars with another racer. However a scraped, bruised and aching forearm didn't slow this experienced shredder down.
"Today's course was pretty slippery. People thought it was going to be easy because it was short, but it wasn't," Spooner said, celebrating another top podium finish in Solo Masters Women, well ahead of 2nd place finisher Adriana Robles of Mexico.
Spooner's got game. In her first BCBR foray in 2017, she finished first. But last year she dropped to 4th. Lucky 13 is setting up to be Spooner's return to the top.
70 minutes in, the leaders were already on the second lobe, gobbling up hero dirt as they approached the Nikkei Mountain ascent. It was Burke dropping first into Rhizome, followed so close by Kabush he could count the teeth on the young Quebecer's cog set. But the unexpected drops and surprise woodwork of Rhizome commanded focus.
Kerry Werner (Team Kona-Maxxis-Shimano,) Payseen McElveen (Team Orange Seal – Trek) and Benjamin Sontag (Team Clif Bar) followed closely in a tight trio. Australia's Jon Adams was also riding strong but would be unable to crack the top-3. After railing down the 50 to 1 washboard switchbacks, again it was Kabush and Burke sprinting to the line for a photo finish.
"It would have to be a pretty violent attack to make any big gains, but I haven't seen any weakness in Felix. He's definitely comfortable on these trails," Kabush said, after reclaiming the yellow jersey with 1-second, stage-win margin over Burke. "I'm focused on keeping it smooth, but a lot of the guys are twisting the throttle on and off, trying to take advantage of their technical skills."
In Solo Women Katerina Nash (Team Clif Bar) shows no signs of relinquishing the yellow jersey - or fatigue - smiling her way acrosss the finish line for another stage win. McFadden and Fernie-based crusher Greaser, battling in 2nd and 3rd, have a small mountain to climb if they want to chip away at Nash's lead.
Things tightened up slightly in Teams of 2 (Open Men,) but Belgians Jef De Cost and Cedric Parys still have their eye on the prize.
As the sun set over the Strait of Georgia, it was goodbye to the roots and rocks of Vancouver Island and hello to some loamy Sunshine Coast loveliness. Racers boarded buses for the Little River ferry terminal and the 90 minute crossing to Powell River, a town with a big heart and even bigger network of trails to showcase. Every year the Powell River Cycling Association rolls out the red carpet for BCBR participants, complete with the wail of bagpipers to serenade them ashore.
Tomorrow it's hump day. Racers know it because the old taint is starting to talk. On the plus side, racers get to sleep in for a 9 a.m. start and a relatively lazy morning to enjoy BCBR's stunning oceanside base camp at Powell River's Willingdon Beach campsite. But there's nothing relaxing about the day's itinerary. Stage 4 is a massive half century odyssey that lacks soul-crushing ascents but still has a vertical kilometre of ascending. After climbing road from the seashore, racers will nosh on a fulsome meal of some of Power River's best dirt, including Suicide Creek Trail, the legendary Aloha (Tiki Bar included) and the stage's feature trail - Death Rattle.