Sheppard, McGrath lead BC Bike Race
Pendrel, Nash out front in women’s race
By Fred Dreier
Chris Sheppard and Seamus McGrath (Santa Cruz-Jamis) made good on their pre-race promise to “go for glory” at the 2009 BC Bike Race. One year after failing to finish due to a mechanical, the Canadians steamrolled to victory in Sunday’s 28km opening stage ahead of last year’s champs, Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon (Kona).
“We thought we would ride pretty conservative and just get through the first day,” said Sheppard. “I hadn’t ridden some of these trails since 2000 or 2001.”
The two made their winning move on the day’s opening singletrack climb, a long slog up a trail called Old Buck. Sheppard was the first to up the pace, but McGrath — a 2008 Canadian Olympic mountain biker — soon took over.
The surge in speed nearly caused an early end to his teammate. Sheppard sped up to follow McGrath only to hit his bike’s rear quick release on a rock. Much to his chagrin, it opened.
“I got out of the saddle and the rear wheel came out of the dropout,” Sheppard said. “I skewered my leg pretty bad.”
The two were first to the top of the climb, followed closely by Wicks and Sneddon and Trek’s Jeff Schalk, whose teammate Chris Eatough was still on the climb. Also neaer the front were the Monavie-Cannondale squads of Bart Gillespie and Alex Grand, and Ben Sonntag and Matt Shriver.
Shriver and Sonntag nearly saw their race end early when Sonntag, a two-time collegiate champion, crashed while riding along a high log.
“No more crashing tomorrow,” Sonntag said.
Wicks and Sneddon nearly caught the two Canadians on the ensuing descent, but Sheppard and McGrath stretched their lead out on the final climb to the Pipeline descent.
Wicks said they could see the leaders in the woods.
“We were definitely gaining on them,” he said. “It’s OK, it’s just the first day. A lot can happen in a seven-day race.”
In the women’s competition, Katerina Nash and Catherine Pendrel (Luna) took charge early, distancing themselves from pre-race rivals Lea Davison and Alison Sydor (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain). The Luna women also beat their teammate Georgia Gould, who with Kona rider Ryan Trebon lead the mixed division.
Trebon, who is racing a hardtail, said the smaller Luna riders had an advantage on him in the tricky descents.
“(Pendrel and Nash) were going down that stuff so fast. I admit it, I got off and walked some sections,” Trebon said. “Those girls are going really good on the downhills.”
The BC Bike Race moves from mainland Canada to Vancouver Island on Monday with a 60km stage from Nainamo to Parksville.