The air is electric and alive with energy. Cumberland is packed with people. 600 competitors from all over the world are ready to go, and most of my friends and acquaintances are ready to cheer me on. I anxiously await the start of the race. It’s normal to experience race day jitters, but this isn’t just any race—it’s the BC Bike Race (BCBR)!
The first day is on my home trails in Cumberland, so I’m hoping for an advantage. I’m nervous—I usually am when racing. Once the horn sounds, it’s go time and the wheels start rolling. Anxiety quickly passes and I’m focused on my ride, my race, and my pace.
The BCBR is a seven day stage race. It starts off in Cumberland, moves to Powell River, travels the length of the Sunshine Coast in two days, hits North Vancouver and Squamish, and finally finishes in Whistler. The race spans a total of 300 plus km with over 11000 metres of elevation, averaging 45 km a day with 1500 meters of elevation gain.
Previous experience with the BCBR involved volunteering with the United Riders of Cumberland (UROC), our local mountain bike club, and helping out—and loitering—in my partners’ bike shop, Dodge City Cycles. These experiences had me thinking the riders were crazy wanting to ride 40 to 50 km every day for seven days. It certainly wasn’t for me. Well, I guess I changed my mind!
Racing was a relatively new thing for me. I’d a done a few races in the last of couple years, but definitely nothing that could compare to the BCBR. Five years ago my average distance out on a mountain bike was around 15 km. I started mountain biking about 13 years ago, around the age of 27—a late bloomer around these parts. We have so many young and talented little rippers in the Comox Valley. These kids are truly blessed having access to an amazing network of robust trails, and the extremely supportive biking community. I sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like to be 13 and part of all that we have in this community. It’s pretty awesome.
Instead, here I am at 40—the average age of competitors in 2015—with a bit of a different story. It all started one night at a UROC fundraiser, when a good friend won a donated entry to the sold out BCBR. It wasn’t in the cards for her that year, and it got my wheels turning. Inspired by friends who had raced the year before, and a desire to push myself physically and mentally, I decided to take on the challenge.
Blessed with an extremely mild winter, I started preparing for the race in February 2015. Day one wasn’t until June 28, but prompted by a fellow mountain biker and past BCBR racer, it was training time. Training became a fairly rigorous ordeal that involved riding my bike an average of 10 hours over five to six days a week. For nearly five months, my schedule was eat, work, ride, eat more, sleep, and repeat.
I wasn’t gunning for the podium and honestly had no expectation of where I’d fit amongst participants in terms of skill and fitness. I was resolved to do my best, feel good doing it, and, most importantly, have fun. And that’s exactly what I did. The whole week felt like summer camp for adults who love to ride bikes! One of the best parts was meeting many like-minded people, and having two of my friends, Roanne and George, both fellow Cumberlanders and racers, there to share the experience.
After day four, it was somewhat surprising to find myself sitting in tenth position in the open women category. And things stayed that way until day six in Squamish—probably my toughest day—when I was bumped into eleventh place by six and a half minutes.
Day seven arrived and a fire was lit under my saddle—I wanted tenth position back! Luckily for me, Whistler was a shorter course with less road and more technical singletrack. This was definitely in my favour since I’m much more of a technical rider then a roadie. Most other days, I’d start out ahead and get passed on long logging road climbs by several women racing in my category. The lack of long road sections, combined with my sixth place finish on day one, had me starting out ahead and staying there.
Regardless of placement, crossing that finish line in Whistler on the last day was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The BCBR was more than a race—it was an experience. One that I will always look back on with fond memories and total satisfaction.