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McGrath, Sheppard blow BC Bike Race open

Chris Sheppard and Seamus McGrath stamped their authority on this year’s BC Bike Race, winning the sixth stage and putting nearly seven minutes into their chief rivals, the Kona duo of Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon. The two Canadians attacked from the gun in the 65km stage, which strung together a loop around the town of Squamish, and never looked back. The course included sections of the Gear Jammer and Test of Metal cross-country races.

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By Fred Dreier

Kona's Ryan Trebon and Jeff Schalk (Trek) led the field out on the mile-long section of pavement before the day's opening climb.

Kona’s Ryan Trebon and Jeff Schalk (Trek) led the field out on the mile-long section of pavement before the day’s opening climb.

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Chris Sheppard and Seamus McGrath stamped their authority on this year’s BC Bike Race, winning the sixth stage and putting nearly seven minutes into their chief rivals, the Kona duo of Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon.

The two Canadians attacked from the gun in the 65km stage, which strung together a loop around the town of Squamish, and never looked back. The course included sections of the Gear Jammer and Test of Metal cross-country races.

“(Sheppard) hit the gas hard on the first climb and I just rode as hard as I could to go with him,” McGrath said. “The trails (in Squamish) aren’t as tight as we’ve seen the last few days so you can really open up a gap.”

Squamish, British Columbia, is known for producing a pretty photo or two.

Squamish, British Columbia, is known for producing a pretty photo or two.

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Wicks and Sneddon suffered an untimely flat tire and finished third. The resurgent Trek racing team of Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk finished second on the day.

Coming into the penultimate stage, the race’s momentum appeared to have shifted toward Kona. Sneddon and Wicks took stage wins on the fourth and fifth days, both of which took place on the Sunshine Coast area of British Columbia. Sneddon, a native of Sechelt — the finishing town for stage four — used his knowledge of the local trails to help gain an advantage.

“It’s my back yard,” Sneddon said after winning stage 4. “We pinned it through the singletrack and got the gap.”

Sheppard said he was the team’s weaker link on the run into Sechelt — the Canadian required an IV transfusion of fluids after the stage. He also said the team did not contest the sprint on the fifth stage, also won by Kona, which finished at the Langdale ferry launch.

“I’ve been hurting. I admit it,” Sheppard said. “But it’s been a lot of fun. And today I woke up with great legs.”

The stage win all but cements the victory for the two, who are flying the Jamis-Santa Cruz bicycles banner. The final day of the BC Bike Race features a technical 30-kilometer journey around the Whistler ski area.

The area's singletrack is legendary for its steep downhills and technical terrain

The area’s singletrack is legendary for its steep downhills and technical terrain

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Attacking on the Squamish stage, McGrath said, was something the he and his partner planned out after the race boiled down to a two-team battle on stage 2.

“We’ve been riding conservative the last three days, just trying to stay with (Kona),” McGrath said. “But we didn’t want to leave it until the last day. The plan was to make them cross-eyed and try to force them to make mistakes.”

Katerina Nash and Catherine Pendrel continued their dominance of the women’s open race, taking the stage win ahead of Alison Sydor and Lea Davison (Rocky Mountain). After the stage, Nash admitted she spent the day enjoying the course’s plethora of steep descents.

“It was really fun today. You could keep your speed and really carve the steep (descents),” Nash said.

The BC Bike Race concludes Saturday in Whistler.

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