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Intermontane stage results are neutralized after a chaotic day.

After the successful stage 2 of the Intermontane Challenge in Kamloops, British Columbia, the event suffered a significant setback on day three. A last-minute course change, forced by a suddenly uncooperative local resident, kicked off a disastrous sequence of events that lead to multiple miscues on the course and the day’s results being nullified.

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By Zack Vestal

After the successful stage 2 of the Intermontane Challenge in Kamloops, British Columbia, the event suffered a significant setback on day three. A last-minute course change, forced by a suddenly uncooperative local resident, kicked off a disastrous sequence of events that lead to multiple miscues on the course and the day’s results being nullified.

Unfortunately, word of the race neutralization did not reach the front of the field, where GC leader Jeremiah Bishop crashed hard near the finish in pursuit of eventual stage winner Chris Sheppard. Although he rode to the finish line, escorted by teammate Tinker Juarez, Bishop was then transported to a local hospital where he was X-rayed and diagnosed with two cracked vertebrae, ending his race.

At the end of a frustrating day for participants and organizers alike, promoter Chuck Brennan faced the challenging task of deconstructing what went wrong, and pacifying the 100 or so participants who are losing patience with the fledgling event.

Sabotaged even before the start

Before the planned, 85km stage even began, it was thrown into chaos. According to organizers, at around 9 pm the night before, Brennan got a call from a volunteer who was helping to mark the course.

Paul Berry, the owner of local bike shop Spoke n’ Motion and a top-10 finisher, recounted events on the eve of the fateful stage. “Chuck received a call from Matt who was out marking the course. There was a guy up there on a section of the course,” said Berry. “This guy basically said, ‘If you guys mark this course, I’m gonna take it down. And I’m gonna be up here at four in the morning, waiting for you to mark it, and I’m gonna take it down. I’ll do whatever I can to wreck the course,’” related Berry.

According to Berry, the caller claimed ownership to some of the “Greenstone” trails, where the race was to have included a challenging descent, because he helped build the trails. Berry said the trail is on public land and built on an old motorcycle trail. The race had a permit to hold the event there.

The Kamloops Daily News reported that local police are investigating vandalism to the course.

Last minute course change leads to confusion

With help from Berry, who had been involved with course selection and trail building for several months, Brennan decided to shorten the course, and run it in the reverse direction of the original plan. Organizers rescheduled the 8 a.m. start to 9:30 while re-marking took place. However, additional delays pushed the actual start deeper into the day’s heat, to 10:45am.

As with previous starts, the group was to be escorted by police out of town on city streets, for a neutral rollout. But because the police hadn’t been given an updated course map, they misrouted the group into a suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Berry led the group on a sequence of trails back to the course, and waited for stragglers to rejoin. But even before this turn, participants at the back were abandoned by the police escort because the group had split during the neutral rollout.

As racing finally got underway, things seemed to return to normal, and the first half of the course was adequately marked and marshaled. But halfway through the day’s major descent, riders started going off course. “If you rode the course in the direction we had planned it to go, it would have been no problem to follow it, cause it was marked as an uphill,” said Berry. “But going down, it’s tough.”

Because markings were behind trees, and arrows were pointing up-trail instead of down, riders began having difficulty. To make matters worse, and cementing his decision to neutralize the race, Brennan himself, on the lead motorcycle, misdirected a group of riders in the top ten. “I took some riders for a two- or three-kilometer joyride through the woods, and that was my mistake,” he said during an emotional evening meeting to explain the situation. (Your reporter was among those misled by Brennan, which amounted to a 20-minute detour).

No easy answers

This miscue, compounded by others who reported difficulty finding the route, left the entire group feeling frustrated. At the evening meeting, many spoke up. Riders who managed to stay on course felt deprived of their efforts. Those who got lost on stage 1 wondered why that stage hadn’t been neutralized. Others worried about basic safety, given the remote courses, hot weather, and potential medical issues.

Brennan was only able to apologize and pledge to improve marking, safety, and marshaling.

“So many people in this community, especially the mountain bike community, are really pissed off,” said Berry. “It’s a huge investment of time and money and effort, it’s really frustrating. This is the first time we’ve had the city behind a mountain bike event like this,” he continued. The city of Kamloops, the local tourism board, and the provincial lottery are all backing the event. “So to have all this crap come down is hard. It takes a long time to develop that relationship with the city,” said Berry.

Overall results (after stage 3 results were nullified)

Solo men
1.Jeremiah Bishop, 6:51:05
2.Chris Sheppard, 6:57:34
3.Tinker Juarez, 6:57:53

Solo women
1.Sue Butler, 8:00:23
2.Sarah Kaufmann, 8:34:14
3.Amanda Carey, 8:40:43