Words: Harlan Price | Photos: Margus Riga, Dave Silver, Erik Peterson, Todd Weselake
Stage five of the BC Bike Race presented by Clif Bar is the last half of the two-day point to point tour of the Sunshine Coast. It's a legacy course that intertwines both the old format of stage races which satisfy a puritanical desire to worked hard to say you went somewhere, and the newer definition of riding miles for smiles.
“Ultimately the goal of any stage in the BCBR is to end on a downhill and these past two days meet that criteria.” Andreas Hestler
Even though stage 5 was Shorter by 18km than the Earl’s Cove to Sechelt stage it only had 19m less of climbing. What this course has that Day Four’s didn’t is a final 7km descent down trails like HWY 102, Sidewinder, and a tour through the Sprockids bike park. Whatever memories of suffering that happened early in the day were quickly erased by trails that hugged hillsides and flowed through tall cedars above giant ferns on dirt that felt like velcro to the tires. The last plunge home is what most people will be talking about at camp this evening.
The riders in the tribe that came to race the 2014 BCBR may not have realized was that they were surrounded by woods where some of the most progressive mountain bikers in the world live and experiment. The area between Sechelt and Langdale is home to Brendon Semenuk and the Coastal Crew, current heros of a different style of mountain biking. Ultimately the goals are the same, to ride two wheels with flow while achieving a sense of self-powered fun. Today’s course had both old school style trail riding mixed with newer style flow trails heavily influenced by the dirt sculpting faction of mountain biking.
Racers are starting to realize their time in the saddle is about to disappear and the opportunities to make moves and better their position is disappearing quickly. The mind might say attack but the body is the master of ceremonies at this point in the week. There have been feats of strength this late in the event but most racers can only squeeze so much out of their legs.
The three amigos of Kris Sneddon, Barry Wicks, and Spencer Paxson steamrolled stage five on their way to a podium decorated only by Kona Bicycle jerseys. Sneddon and Wicks finished with the same time while Paxson lost a full second to his teammates. Flattened by their wake were the riders who had been challenging for podium spots in the first four stages. Jason Sager of Backcountry Bicycles, Tristan Uhl (787 Racing), and Erik “The Viking” Knudsen, filled 4th through 6th spots three and a half to four minutes back.
The Amigo’s rode together from start to finish, keeping the pressure on through the opening soft gravel climb to the first bit of singletrack. “It whittled down to the typical group of five by the time we hit the first bit of singletrack.” Paxson
Kris went to the front on the gradual singletrack climb and team Kona rode tempo away from Sager, Uhl, and Knudsen. Apparently Oliver Zurbruegg suffered a couple flats that kept him from building on the momentum he had from stage four’s 5th place finish.
“Today was a day for the memory banks. Shredding with your buddies you know. We just rolled together through to the finish line.” Paxson
With one more long and hard day it will be interesting to see if any of the challengers try to pull an upset with a well timed escape. Paxson is the only rider within striking distance but the fact that they are teammates reduces the likelihood of an attack. With an eight minute deficit Uhl will have to hope for a burst of strength coupled by some luck. He has proven to be a strong and crafty competitor and he could be looking to deliver a message that if there is a year two at BCBR for him he should be taken seriously.
Lea Davison (Specialized Bicycles) took her third stage win 3:51 ahead of race leader Wendy Simms (Kona Racing). Only 11 seconds behind was New Zealander Kim Hurst who has been hovering near the podium all week. Sonya Looney (Topeak Ergon) lost that loving feeling in her legs after a spectacular redemption win on stage four. She dropped 12 minutes to the leader, yet still has a relatively comfortable gap of 9 minutes on hurst for third place.
Davison has won more than half the stages this week and yet she still sits almost 5:30 down on veteran BCBR champion Simms. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you look back on a week of racing and can point out a couple key moments where mistakes were made. Simms performance shows how consistency is a critical factor in success at multiday events.
Despite missing a turn and dealing with her recovery from hip surgery five months ago Davison keeps a pretty sunny disposition. You get the feeling that she is not one to stress about things she can’t control. It’s another technique used by experienced racers to maintain sanity in a sport where the unexpected happens frequently.
Chad Davis of the United States put time into the men’s field and increased his overall to a 10 minute gap with only two stages to go. This is the point in a stage race where the leaders are trying to maintain their positions through damage control. Don’t expect Davis to attack unless he has to. Paul Berry and Ted Lawson sit in second and third and have plenty of reason to fire up the engines. No more than five and a half minutes separate 2nd through 5th place so expect some jostling from these master racers.
Canada is dominating the top four spots in the Women’s Masters solo race. Frances Vice has been in a heated battle with Tamara Goeppel and has 8 minutes on her after five days of racing. Christine Soucy sits in a comfortable 3rd while Andrea Quinlan and US rider Christine Irelan are duking it out between fourth and fifth.
Men’s and Women’s Duo
Rocky Mountain Bicycle riders Greg Day and Quinn “Mower” Moberg continued their slash and burn race by putting another 11 minutes into their nearest competitors Samuel Kummrow and Aart Van Kooy. Third place Joerg Franke and Ruben Wey only have 6 minutes on the Canadian team of Christian Gauvin and Ian Carboneau. Worth noting is that Switzerland has as many riders in the top three teams as Canada.