B.C. Bike Race offers an experience in ‘epicness’

Mountain bikers, from novice to Olympians, pay $2,250 to explore trails on Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast and North Shore in seven-day trek

By Gary Kingston, Vancouver SunJune 26, 2009 9:25 AMIn cycling’s venerable B.C. Superweek, which will be slightly less super this year with no Tour de Gastown, the road racing through Delta and White Rock goes by such classic terms as prologue, criterium and hill climb.

But before some of North America’s best pavement scorchers take to the streets July 10-19, a whole other group of elite cyclists will be attacking some of B.C.’s most notoriously gnarly mountain bike trails.

They’ll be trying to stay upright on such handle-bar rattling tracks as Screamin Demon, Severed, Buggered Pig, Black Hole and Powerhouse Plunge.

It’s called simply B.C. Bike Race, a seven-day mountain bike stage race that starts Sunday on the North Shore and includes stages on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast before winding up in Whistler.

B.C. Bike Race is in just its third year, but has quickly become one of the most well-regarded mountain bike stage races in the world, rivalling the Cape Epic in South Africa and the Trans Alps in Europe.

Close to 400 riders, from pros to recreational enthusiasts, have ponied up the $2,250 entry fee, which covers meals created by local caterers in each community, base camp tenting, B.C. Ferries transfers, secure bike storage, daily awards and more.

“It’s the only race in the world where ferry crossings are part of the event,” said media manager Dave Howells.

About 25 to 30 pro riders are expected to take part. While a solo division has been added this year, most of the pros will be riding as two-person teams.

Kris Sneddon of Sechelt, who races in North America for Team Kona, won the men’s event last year with Kona teammate Barry Wicks, an Oregon native.

“A lot of people want to come up and do it, just want to experience that sort of epicness,” said Sneddon. “[Wicks] had raced World Cups on Grouse, but he’d never been to Vancouver Island. Everywhere we went, he was pretty much blown away.”

The first two years, the race, also billed as ‘The Ultimate Single Track Experience,’ began on Vancouver Island. This year, for the first time, a stage will be held on the North Shore trails with a 30-kilometre trek along the trails of Mt. Seymour, Mt. Fromme and into the Lynn Valley.

“Guys are going to go crazy with the stuff on the North Shore,” said Sneddon. “They’ll be blown away how technical it is. I haven’t ridden [Stage 3] Cumberland, but I got a chance to go over this year’s Nanaimo stage and that blew me away. It’s fast and flowy and not ridiculously steep. It’s going to be super fun.”

Catharine Pendrel of Kamloops, who finished fourth at the Beijing Olympics, is making her B.C. Bike Race debut this year, partnering with Czech Olympian and Team Luna teammate Katrina Nash.

“Being a post-Olympic year, people are wanting to try something new. I know a lot of the trails, they’re just so amazing and this is something I really wanted to do.”

Pendrel is competing even though the event concludes just a week before the mountain bike nationals in Quebec, which are followed by two World Cup stops in that province.

“It’s a little closer to nationals than is ideal and not having done one of these before, I don’t know if my legs will feel totally flat or okay. It’s going to make it hard to be at 100 per cent at nationals, but hopefully for three weeks later at the World Cup, I’ll be in incredible shape.”

As a team of two, Pendrel and Nash have to remain within two minutes of each other during each stage.

“Some days one of you will be feeling stronger than the other and I’m sure that will reverse, so a lot of it is helping each other with pacing, giving each other a push.”

And trying to stay civil.

“Last year, a couple of teams had little arguments and break downs in the race,” said Sneddon. “It was sort of comical watching it happen. ‘Geez guys, get along.'”

gkingston@vancouversun.com

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