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BC Bike Race kicks off Sunday

It’s impossible to escape the buzz of sports chatter these days in the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia. The city is 200 days out from hosting the 2010 winter games, and Olympics is on the lips of nearly everyone. Olympic-related stories dot the local paper, the Vancouver Sun and are the topic of choice on local radio stations. It’s within this community that the BC Bike Race starts its third edition. Needless to say, the race isn’t generating nearly the hype of the approaching Olympics. That’s not a bad thing, so said race director Dean Payne.

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By Fred Dreier

The wooden ladder structures and steep terrain of the North Shore are on tap for stage 1

The wooden ladder structures and steep terrain of the North Shore are on tap for stage 1

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It’s impossible to escape the buzz of sports chatter these days in the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia. The city is 200 days out from hosting the 2010 winter games, and Olympics is on the lips of nearly everyone. Olympic-related stories dot the local paper, the Vancouver Sun and are the topic of choice on local radio stations.

It’s within this community that the BC Bike Race starts its third edition. Needless to say, the race isn’t generating nearly the hype of the approaching Olympics. That’s not a bad thing, so said race director Dean Payne.

“This is a great time for the province right now, there’s a celebration of sport going on,” Payne said. “Riding mountain bikes is what people in BC do in the summer time when you can’t ski. And we’re reminding people of the sweet trails we’ve got up here.”

The race, which debuted in 2007, claims the tagline “Ultimate Singletrack Experience,” and markets itself as a comprehensive tour of British Columbia’s most famous riding locations. The BC Bike Race is different from Costa Rica’s La Ruta de los Conquistadores, which includes super steep climbing and deep mud, or South Africa’s Absa Cape Epic, which features long, fast days. The BC Bike Race’s primary challenge comes from the area’s technical terrain and challenging singletrack.

Riders queue up to register for this year's event

Riders queue up to register for this year’s event

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“We’re not trying to kill people with huge climbs or really long days,” said Andreas Hestler, the BC Bike Race’s official marketing spokesperson. “This race is more of a tour of the terrain that we in British Columbia have been riding our entire lives. This is for people who love to shred singletrack.”

This year the BC Bike Race is trading in its traditional rural starting location on Vancouver Island for one close to the big city. On Sunday, at 10 a.m., the race will kick off from North Vancouver, population 300,000, for a short 30km race into the coastal mountains.

The original plan for the 2009 BC Bike Race was to start the event in downtown Vancouver, then send the 400 riders spinning north across the iconic Lion’s Gate Bridge into North Vancouver, a community of 300,000 on the north side of the Burrard Inlet. The race earned the correct permits for the route, however the cost of closing roads and rerouting traffic was nearly $18,000, and that cost forced organizers to rethink the route and cut out the bridge crossing.

Instead, the race’s opening day will begin at a local ice rink on the north end of the bridge before plunging into the woods to hit some of the North Shore’s most challenging singletrack, including trails with names like “Severed Dick” and “Pipeline.”

The BC Bike Race Enters it's third year with a new course

The BC Bike Race Enters it’s third year with a new course

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The addition of the North Shore also marks a departure from the BC Bike Race’s philosophy through its first two seasons, which was to gradually wean riders onto the area’s more challenging terrain. This year the hardest trails come on the first day.

At the race meeting at the Coast Hotel in downtown Vancouver, much of the pre-race chatter amongst pros and amateurs alike was on the toughness of the opening day.

“The North Shore is not famous for bike paths or easy trails. It’s famous for rocks and steep descents, and this definitely showcases that,” said Chris Eatough (Trek), race winner in 2007. “I hope people are ready for it because once they turn into that first downhill, they are in for a shock.”

400 riders will tackle this year's BC Bike RAce

400 riders will tackle this year’s BC Bike RAce

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The remainder of the race is virtually identical to years past, with stages on Victoria Island, the Sunshine Coast, Squamish and finally Whistler ski resort.

2009 BC Bike Race


June 28-July 4

Stage 1
North Vancouver – North Vancouver ?
29 km

Stage 2
Nainamo – Parksville ? 70km

Stage 3
Cumberland – Cumberland ? 60 km

Stage 4
Cumberland – Sechelt ? 60 km

Stage 5
Sechelt – Squamish ? 65km

Stage 6
Squamish – Squamish ? 60km

Stage 7
Whistler – Whistler ? 50km

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