Hi, Felicia: A Blueprint for Good Times
Cumberland welcomed BC Bike Race in the best way possible: with a rip down a collection of newly-built sections of trails in the towns ever-expanding network. Racers enjoyed a smooth ascent up Sobo no Michi (Cumberland’s heralded climbing trail) before rolling directly into the short, buit riotous flow trail, Blueprint.
Soon after, they hit the newly-opened “Bye, Felicia.” A standout of Friday’s riding, this trail is named for a towering old-growth tree the trail passes by. The views of the Beaufort mountain range were stunning, but racers had to keep their eyes on the roots and rocks of the cliff-side singletrack, especially as they moved into Race Rocks and the endless woodwork of Potuck and Thirsty Beaver. Those seeking to satiate their appetite for the iconic ladder bridges B.C. is known for were quickly satisfied.
Boxing in Cumberland’s Rafters
In the men’s race, these descents proved to be one of two decisive moments on the course. Craig Oliver and Andrew L’Esperance pushed the pace on the climbs. That left Peter Disera to pull back time on the day’s numerous descents.
“They wrote me off on the climb up Grunt and Grind, but I had them at the bottom of Furtherburger. Same on the next climb then, when I popped out on the bottom of Thirsty Beaver they were 15 seconds ahead. It happened again on Climbmax, then I sarted to see dust coming up at the bottom of Blue Collar and they were there again.”
The last 10-km was a lower-grade stretch of trails that provided a more traditional XC, or BCXC, drag race back into town.
“Once we got to that bottom xc stuff, as long as you don’t touch the brakes, there’ll be something there to catch you,” Disera said.
That’s where the winning move happened, though, on a seemingly more innocuous section of trail. 50:01 and Top Hat served up endless bumps and twists that could be finessed, if one still had the energy reserves after 30 km of racing. While L’Esperance attacked early, on Sobo no Michi, the end is where he earned his win over Oliver.
“I realized he was suffering a little bit, so i cracked the throttle a little more and I was able to run it out. Those last 10k or so were pretty chunky. It’s the kind of terrain that, if you’re on the back foot, it’s quite slow. But if you’re on it, you can hold momentum.
“He’s shown throughout the week that he’s a fairly robust individual and that he’s up for any attacks, everything we’ve been trying, he’s responded to,” L’Esperance said of taking on the resolute Kiwi. “I managed to cut the gap to him in half today. I’m quite happy with that.”
While catching glimpses of what happens in the woods, there is more that we don’t see than what we do catch on camera or POV. For the World Cup racers used to constant camera coverage on course, duking it out in remote sections of singletrack is a twist on their norm.
“It’s is such an interesting way to do this sport. It’s kind of like having a boxing match in the rafters. Just riding these trails fast is wild. Adding the racing dynamic is like, woah. It’s a lot fun, it’s super engaging.”
An Easy Formula for Hard-Earned Success
On the women’s side, Friday brought the first real shuffle in the women’s stage results. Race leader Katerina Nash struggled to separate herself from a trio of contenders.
“It’s been a super competitive field,” Nash told Dave Howells at the finish line. “Today was not ideal for me, but I was actually having a lot of fun riding with the girls.”
Nash still persevered to take the win, but it was young Albertan racer Eva Poidevin moving up into second. Sandra Walter held on for most of the day and Evelyn Dong, Poidevin and Nash were all still together going into the final kilometres of the stage.
For Nash, the key to finding consistent results on trying terrain is simple, if not easily unlocked.
“30 years of mountain biking! Keep showing up at BC Bike Race, suffer suffer suffer, learn the courses, learn the terrain.”
That’s it, folks. All you have to do is keep riding and keep coming back out for the next edition of BCBR. Or the next 29.
Come for the Challenge, Come Back for the Community
There are other paths to success, of course. Geoff Duyker and Graeme Martindale are currently leading the Team of 2 open men’s standings. Martindale, with two BCBR finisher's buckles on his belt already, is helping get his teammate through this year’s racing.
“He told me to listen to my bike and not to snap my chain,” Duyker says. “Go gentle on your machine,” Graham adds.
While Martindale’s done the event three times, this is his teammate's first time on time on the island. The BCBR veteran is making sure his teammate is hitting all the keynotes on course and apres.
“We actually just came from the lake where we had some beers with some old friends and some new friends. It was awesome.”
From finish line to the lakefront to podiums is a pretty easy race plan to be happy with, but the stoke is sincere throughout the field. The plan is working, even after hard days in the saddle. Cumberland already stands out as a highlight day. “You do these climbs and you get these amazing descents. You get such a great payoff. This is a vacation!”
Several groups are on the “summer camp for adults” program. Team Aural Widex brought 17 racers all the way from Spain to Vancouver Island. Their crew is spread out throughout the field, from mid-pack to podiums.
“The team is very happy to be here, the spirits are high!” says Tony Perez Valls. Despite being from a warm country, even the Spaniards are feeling the cumulative effects of successive warm days. “The downhills are hard, but the climbs in this heat… “
Tony has been to BCBR before, but knowing what’s coming doesn’t necessarily make the days easier.
“This year is harder for me. The first time was easier. Maybe it’s the trails. Maybe I was younger the first time,” Tony says before adding, after a contemplative pause “….it’s probably that.”
Every rider faces challenges, on course or after. But that’s mountain biking, right? It’s fun, but it’s not easy. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the rewards. Five days in, it’s been a very challenging and very rewarding week. After a few days of gnar, many riders were finding their flow in rhythm as the race moved north.
“Someone told me at the start that there are studies that show you get stronger the more days you ride in a row. For some reason I really needed to hear that,” said Sarah Holden of Brevard, North Carolina “I felt great today. I felt strong. I’m surprised, since I didn’t do as much training as I wanted or thought I should. Yesterday and today were my style. Not flowy exactly, but there were more roots and not necessarily super steep and technical.”
“She’s been crushing it the last two days,” confirms her Mixed Team of 2 partner, Zach Schneider. “I like to let her set the pace. I feel like if I give her a little room, she does really well.”
There are different ways to overcome adversity, and not everyone can be on the podium. No matter what happens on course, everyone that makes it back to the finish arch has accomplished something.
Despite running six kilometers to make it to Basecamp with a flat tire and detonated drivetrain, Beukes Vorster was all smiles.
“I had a great day, I was pacing myself beautifully. I came down the last descent and hit a bridge wrong and just went off the side. I didn’t even get a big crash or anything, but the derailleur was gone. A spoke was broken and I had a blown out back tire. But that’s fine!”
Vorster, one of four South African-Canadians here from Saskatchewan, still counts Cumberland as his favourite day so far despite what some might call a downer end to the day.
“Even with the run, yeah. I don’t care. It’s all about the experience. It was awesome. Yesterday was a bit of senseless climbing in the heat. Today was just stoke climbing, it was fantastic. What a great day.”
It’s not just broken equipment that’s feeling the effect of five days of B.C. gnar. There is a steadily multiplying additions to racer’s race kits. Trail souvenirs covered in bandages and tired muscles and joints supported by KT Tape from Wellness are adding colourful highlights on the startline. Everyone is bringing a little bit of the trail home with them, or leaving a little bit of themselves on the trail.
“This one was yesterday. No, the day before. This one was yesterday. This was today,” Jesus Bravo Leon said, indexing his minor injuries. Originally from Mexico, he now hails from Phoenix, Arizona. With two days left, he has a specific goal in mind to call his BCBR a success. “I hope that by Day7… I have some skin left!”
Flesh wounds aside, Jesus is thriving in “The Ultimate Singletrack Experience.”
“Yes, I love it. This has been on my bucket list for years.“
Before racers can check BC Bike Race off their list and walk away with the iconic belt buckle, they have two days racing left. Campbell River will provide some relief after the heavy effort over the last few days. Easier grades climbing, smoother trails, mostly, and potentially cooler temperatures await in the trails of Snowden Demonstration Forest and Elk Falls Provincial Park. While it is the week’s longest stage on paper, at 44.9km, all on the clock, it stays true to the week’s theme that distance isn’t always a good guide to effort required. With only 745m of elevation gain, Snowden is BCBR’s nod to the classic idea of cross country mountain biking. Fast, rolling terrain that will reward steady effort over climbing fitness or descending prowess. If anyone hasn’t had the opportunity to show off their strengths at BCBR just yet, Campbell River could be their time to shine.
2023 BC Bike Race - Stage 5 Results
Open Men’s Results
Andrew L’Esperance - 2:13:52
Peter Disera - 2:15:40 (+1.48)
Craig Oliver - 2:16:13 (+2.21)
Open Women’s Results
Katerina Nash - 2:47:04
Eva Poidevin - 2:49:03 (+1.59)
Evelyn Dong - 2:50:13 (+3.09)
Full Results BCBR