By Fred Dreier
The 2009 BC Bike Race wasted little time in pushing its 400 or so competitors into the deep end.
Just 7km into Sunday’s opening stage, a 28km loop around North Vancouver, riders took an abrupt left turn onto a steep, super-technical trail named Severed Dick. It was appropriate that British Columbia’s downhill/freeride legend Wade Simmons stood atop the trail, clad in a red volunteer T-shirt, pointing riders down the root-covered chute.?
“It’s pretty gnarly. I’ve been telling people it’s worth the extra 20 seconds to lower their seat posts,” Simmons said. “It looks fun. I’m kind of bummed I’m not riding it.”?
The tricky trail descended nearly 1000 vertical feet, and was the first of two treacherous North Shore-style trails riders faced, the other being the monster 1,500-foot downhill called Pipeline. Riders faced drop-offs, slippery wooden bridges, off-camber roots and plenty of steep descending. The trails provided the primary selection in the amateur ranks as riders chose whether to ride, walk or stumble down the trails.
?The race started at 10 a.m. a North Vancouver ice rink, sending riders onto a short paved section that led to singletrack for the climb up Old Buck trail. Then came the descent.
The addition of expert-level trails on the opening day marked a change of pace for the BC Bike Race, which in its two previous editions attempted to gradually expose riders to technical terrain. Facing such obstacles on the opening day drew mixed reviews.?
“I had my ass handed to me on Severed Dick,” said Troy Ferguson of Calgary, who is riding in the veteran class alongside his partner, Craig Spurn. “And on Pipeline I hit a six-inch log and face-planted pretty hard. I’m just happy to still be here.”?
Ferguson was adamant, however, that starting with the technical trails was a good idea, saying it shows the race “is really serious about showing off the terrain in BC.”
Brig Seidl of Seattle, a BC Bike Race first-timer, agreed, even though he went over the bars twice during the stage.
“I’ve always wanted to see what the riding is like up here. If they didn’t include (the expert terrain) the race wouldn’t really show what this area is all about,” Seidl said.
A great number of riders at this year’s BC Bike Race are riding on trail bikes — dual-suspension rigs with four to six inches of travel. Ming Gin of Whistler added extra cushion to his setup and raced with knee and elbow pads.
“This riding keeps true to the tradition of the North Shore,” Gin said.
Jason Morgan and Russell Henderson from Asheville, North Carolina, are riding rigid singlespeed 29ers. The setup was not exactly ideal for Sunday’s terrain, Morgan admitted.
“We were out of our element on the descents,” Morgan said. “On the super-steep stuff the (rigid bike) was pretty scary. But on the drop-offs it felt better — you had no fork to bottom out.”?
The day saw a number of riders spend some time at the medical tent for bumps and bruises. The worst injury of the day went to Trek rider Jeff Schalk who suffered a bad cut on his nose after a pileup. An unidentified female rider after a crash sent her into her handlebars.
Siri Khalsa of Santa Fe, New Mexico, took a trip to the medical tent after crashing and injuring his hand. Khalsa, who is racing alongside his brother D.P., was treated with ice and painkillers and said he plans to continue the race, though he added that the descents might have been a tad over the top for opening day.
“Yeah, today was a bit much,” Khalsa said. “It’s great for locals who can scope out the trails. I understand (organizers) want to show off the North Shore, but I’d rather spend the day riding my bike. I had to walk down most of the downhills.”
And that decision — whether to commit to a tricky section or “pucker” and dismount — may be the lasting legacy of the 2009 BC Bike Race’s opening stage. With six days of racing still ahead, many riders felt it was unnecessary to risk life and limb so early.
“It really doesn’t make sense to hurt yourself on the first day,” said Sue Butler, who finished fourth in the mixed category alongside Monavie-Cannondale teammate Bryan Alders. “If it’s a matter of you getting hurt or not, I think there’s no shame in walking.”