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Think the BC Bike Race is the easy Epic mountain bike race? Think again.
In the world of mass participant, multi-day endurance mountain bike stage races — now commonly referred to as epic races—the BC Bike Race markets itself as the “fun one.” Race literature likens the event to a weeklong trail riding excursion with your buddies. And the BC Bike Race’s tagline, The Ultimate Singletrack Experience, isn’t exactly an attempt to woo the world’s punishment gluttons. It’s true, the BC Bike Race lacks the heinously steep climbs, mud and jungle heat of Costa Rica’s La Ruta de los Conquistadores, which openly targets the hardcore endurance crowd. BC has shorter stages than its sister stage race, the TransRockies Challenge. It lacks the blistering pace (and temperatures) found at South Africa’s Absa Cape Epic. Germany’s Trans Alp doubles the BC Bike Race’s altitude gain.
My friends, having raced across every inch of this year’s BC Bike Race, from the first starting line in North Vancouver all the way to the Day 7 finish line in Whistler, I am here to weigh in my own perspective. Yes, the BC Bike Race is fun. But it ain’t easy. That opinion was first hammered into my brain (and other parts of my body) on the opening descent of Day 1, a steep mother called Severed Dick. The trail sped down a forested hillside in North Vancouver over root drops and wooden bridges. It was far more choppy and laden with obstacles than the loose, sandy trails here in Colorado, and I hit the deck on several occasions. The punishment continued on the stage 2 trek across Vancouver Island. The 65km route was comprised almost entirely of choppy, technical singletrack filled with big rocks, freshly cut stumps and huge roots. It was the kind of trail that forces a rider to constantly power the bike over the obstacles using core and arm muscles while maintaining perfect balance on the bike.
It took me just shy of five hours to finish that day‚s stage, about half the time it took to me to finish La Ruta‚s brutally infamous Day 1 back in 2007. I kid you not, the BC Bike Race stage put me deeper into the pain locker. And now, three days after the race ended, I’m still feeling the fatigue. I will preface that statement, however, with an admission: I am not the most technically savvy rider. The BC Bike Race forced me to live on the edge of my technical abilities every day. I had to up my trail riding every day, one section at a time. Stages three and four featured a handful of super steep, dry descents down loose scree fields. Dave five had a singletrack climb on loose soil, the locals call “chunder,” which required balance and constant power just to reach the top. On stage six I hit the deck on the steep, rocky descents around Squamish too many times to remember. It was a challenge, one with a completely different flavor than anything I have ridden. It is true that La Ruta, which I completed in 2007 and 2008, poses a serious physical test with its miles of super steep climbing. But I found that I could turn my brain off at La Ruta and simply suffer my way to the tops of the climbs.
That is not the case at BC Bike Race. The technical singletrack puts a strain on the brain and the body, as you must constantly maintain your focus and balance to plow over the rocks and roots. At times the race felt like a video game. Only the obstacles were very real. But in completing the race I rode over terrain I never thought I would ever clean. I rolled across narrow wooden bridges and down rooty descents, across sheer rock faces and through singletrack so tight my handlebars barely missed the trees — tough stuff for this technical amateur. I can honestly say that the BC Bike Race made me into a better mountain biker. It was a school of singletrack, and while I didn’t earn a straight-A average, I passed. The education in singletrack came at a cost, however. My arms and back muscles still ache from man handling my bike. My back and abdominals are on fire. My hands sport a collection of sizable blisters. My legs carry numerous bumps, bruises and cuts from the uncountable crashes, get-offs and near disasters I suffered. And my bicycle is nearly destroyed. On the second day I tore a pivot bolt out of the rear linkage. On day four my fork stopped working. But for anyone who enjoys trail riding, or who thinks they might enjoy a seven-day clinic in singletrack, I wholeheartedly endorse the BC Bike Race. And race management recently announced it was offering an early bird special for 2010 participants. The race will offer 50 spots for the 2010 race for $1499 (CAD), well below the regular $2299 price rate. For more information, visit www.bcbikerace.com.