Words: Ico Schutte | Photos: Margus Riga, Dave Silver, Erik Peterson & Todd Weselake
Finally, the day has arrived. I am standing on the start line for the BC Bike Race (BCBR). It is day one and we are in Vancouver, about to set off on a 35 km loop through the mystic North Shore. Compared to most typical South African races this sounds relatively short, however the BCBR is all about quality and not quantity.
29 June - North Shore | 35 km | 1,380 m elevation gain
The first climb of the day takes us up to Seymore Mountain, through the neighborhood and as we turn onto the single track it quickly becomes apparent what lies ahead. The North Shore lives up to its reputation and the trails are steep, technical and challenging. It has been four years since the race has been held on the North Shore, and only now with the new, easier flowing style of evolved trail building is it possible to bring 'the Shore' to more riders. With a record-breaking number of racers entered, the ultimate single-track experience kicked off in style.
My downhill racing background helps and I feel right at home on the steep, rocky and rooty trails. For others, it is an eye-popping experience. The second loop of the day takes us up Fromme Mountain for a long climb before we reach the first enduro stage down the renowned Espresso trail.
Having the right equipment for this race does make your life better. I opted for my Cannondale Jekyll, a full suspension rig that offers on-the-fly adjustability between 90 mm and 150 mm of travel. Adjusting the travel also changes the head angle on the bike, making it more manageable on the descents or keeping the power to the floor on the climbs. I would, however, also recommend a dropper seat post for this race, not commonly used in South Africa as our trials are just not of this standard. I also opted for 2.3 tyres, paying a small price on the climbs for all the fun I was having on the way down. After all we are here for a good time and I cross the line with a big smile. Here the festivities continued with the boys from Rocky Mountain bicycles handing out free beer and food to all the racers.
An aspect that sets this race apart from others is soon revealed itself to us, as we are loaded onto busses to make the journey to the town of Cumberland, the start of day two. From the busses we board the BC Ferries, which take us across the ocean to Vancouver Island. Chilling on the ferry, we are treated to sensational views of coast, mountains, ocean and forests. We arrived in Cumberland, a small town originally built as a coal-mining town in 1888. The town, also referred to as Dodge City, offers some great little coffee shops and restaurants for the post-ride recovery meal.
30 June: Cumberland | 48 km | 1,137 m elevation gain
The new 48 km course never used in the BCBR before is split in two loops. The first starts with a long, steady 15 km climb, but we are soon rewarded with more awesomeness in the form of trails such as Further Burger and Bear Buns. And for the enduro section, Teapot Blasting by the start village for the second loop, with another big climb and amazingly enough, more mind-blowing trails back to the village.
The afternoon was spent relaxing in the sun and doing Yoga before boarding the BC Ferries for our transfer to Powell River. While lazing about on the ferry deck, we spotted a group of killer whales passing by. A sight that has escaped the BCBR and many locals for years.
Arriving in Powell River, we receive a warm welcome by jubilant locals lining the pier. Powell River is a historic logging town on the Sunshine Coast and only accessible by ferry. Our campsite for the next two nights is set on the beach, overlooking the bay and the mountains of Vancouver Island in the distance.
1 July - Powell River | 49 km | 886 m elevation gain
Today we tackle 49 km of century-old logging trails combined with new-style single tracks built by retired loggers, hikers and mountain bikers alike. Although the stage is a flat one, it still provides loads of scenic and exciting single tracks. We find our way across many streams and there are panoramic views of lakes and forest all around. The day's enduro section was aptly named Death Rattle, a lively and rooty trail. Riders celebrated another day of great riding by swimming in the bay and enjoying ice cold drinks at the local restaurants.
2 July - Earls Cove to Sechelt | 59 km | 1,375 m elevation gain
We board one of Harbor Air's floatplanes and are flown from Powell River to Earls Cove, a small settlement at the northern side of the Sechelt peninsula, the start of this stage. Being a point-to-point stage, we are expecting open roads with little single track. However, I am pleasantly surprised by the quantity and quality of single track that the organisers have found between the two towns. They keep things interesting with some steep hike-a-bike sections, but the pain is soon forgotten when we are rewarded with 'VFR' pure downhill bliss for the day's enduro trail. After the day's riding, we wander around town and enjoy sundowners at the Sechelt Marina, which overlooks the bay.
3 July - Sechelt to Langdale | 41 km | 1,356 m elevation gain
It's another point-to-point day from Sechelt to Langdale, a small community with a ferry terminal that links the Sunshine Coast to Vancouver. This is a day for the climbers, as we make our way up some serious single-track climbs. It is a tough day, but so worth it when we hit the final 7 km descent down trails like HWY 102, Sidewinder and a tour through the Sprockids bike park. From Langdale, we are treated to our final ferry ride back to the mainland and Squamish for the final two nights of camping.
Squamish is an old logging town that had its beginnings in the 1910s with the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Highway. Today, Squamish is considered the outdoor recreation capital of Canada. On day six we got to find out why.
4 July - Squamish | 52 km | 1,830 m elevation gain
The day starts with some fun, flowing single track before we make our way up the climbing trail and over to Rupert, the first technical single track of the day. The feel of this trail is more like the steep stuff we did on day one; for some a day of riding ecstasy, for others a day of uncertainty. The trail boasts super gnarly rock drops and technical wooden features. This is followed by a climb up to Half Nelson, a famed and flowing pump-track-style ride; Squamish showing off its diversity. For the enduro section, we race down Pseuda Tsuga, a fast and flowing ride. Today just keeps on giving back. From here we head up to Powerhouse Plunge, another rock-ridden trail, followed by hoods in the woods and finally crumpet. Although all the days have been brilliant, this is my favorite!
Beer O’clock promptly arrives in Squamish and the local breweries, Howe Sound and Central City, provide us with their finest. Spirits are high as we know there is only one short stage between us and the finish line in Whistler. The day is made even sweeter for some as Fox forks and Shimano components are given away to competitors.
5 July - Whistler | 20 km | 769 m elevation gain
Whistler is a resort town and famous for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. Over two million people visit Whistler annually for skiing in the winter and mountain biking in summer.
This final stage is short and sweet, with 20 km of indulging in the best of trails. Up the slopes of the Blackcomb Ski Resort and mountain bike park to the Olympic Station, then down B-line and Ninja Cougar. Whistler is also famous for having two species of cougar; one is of the feline variation. From the slopes, we make our way to the Lost Lake trail network for a final blast and then back to finish in style at the Olympic Plaza. A grand dinner is held later at the Whistler Convention Centre and it's a party to celebrate the week's supreme riding.
If you own a mountain bike and enjoy single track this is a must-do event! Sell your house, sell your car, do whatever it takes and get out to Canada for the best riding of your life and the ‘ultimate
For all the results and more information, visit www.BCbikerace.com