Sunday, July 13, 2014

How the BC Bike Race was won

…by the smallest margin of time.

Wow. A week ago, I finished the BC Bike Race, a seven day mountain bike stage race in British Columbia and truly one of my most favorite race experiences.  This race dished up some of the best single track of my entire life, and it's absolutely gorgeous.  Thin ribbons of trail slicing through a bright green forest floor covered in a carpet of moss became a normal sighting.  The forests are open, the trails flow, and people are psyched.

The BC Bike Race does a great job capturing the race experience through photo and video.  Check out the video of Stage 7.  You can catch me in the Specialized Red kit.

It was a very last minute decision to race the BC Bike Race.  I pretty much got the green light to fully train not that long beforehand so my coach, Andy, thought this stage race would do great things for my fitness.  It's pretty much my season's volume condensed.  I didn't know what to expect since I haven't been traditionally training since my hip surgery, but the plan was to ease into the race and then hit some of the last stages harder.  This plan went right out on the window on stage one.

Before stage one even began, there was a lot of preparation that went into just simply getting to the start line.  I call it the team appreciation block.  I already have a lot of appreciation.  I'm on one of the best teams in the world and the support is phenomenal.  There's nothing like booking your own hotels in seven different locations, booking plane tickets and a rental car, and making sure you have everything you need equipment wise that makes the appreciation grow ten fold.  My dad came with me as my mechanic and support crew for the week, and we had so much fun.  He may have even gotten himself hired for another one.

Stage one was set in the legendary North Vancouver on the original 'north shore' trails.  This means skinny bridges, technical drops, and slippery roots.  I did this race four years ago as a female team, and the first stage was also in the same location.  It was one of the hardest, most challenging, most terrifying courses I've ever ridden.  Thankfully, the organizers buffed it out a bit so it was just plain fun.  We had a little lady pod at the beginning of the stage with the duo female Luna team of Maghalie Rochette and Catharine Pendrel, solo competitor Sonya Looney, Wendy Simms, and I all riding together.  I felt so good and I was so excited to be racing my mountain bike in this amazing place that I just attacked out of pure joy.  I took the win by a mere two minutes and grabbed the leader's jersey.  This was the beginning of an extremely close seven days of racing where Wendy Simms and I threw around that leader's jersey like it was a hot potato.  The top step of the women's solo podium had a variety of faces as well.

The whole race is really a blur of fun, burning legs, caffeinated Clif blocks, and ferry rides, but I'll give you some of the highlights.  I lost the leader's jersey on stage 2 when Wendy, the single track baller, absolutely crushed the trails in her backyard.  I started out by leading, but Wendy passed me in a flash on the single track, and I never saw her again.  Then, in the last five kilometers of a fifty kilometer stage, somehow the great Luna duo found me.  I was thrilled to ride with some friends for the last part of the stage which, admittedly, was full of suffering.  Then, one of the funniest things that's ever happened to me in a race happened.  In the last 200 meters before the finish line, Catharine, myself, and Maghalie came nuking into an unforeseen gravel corner.  We all were two wheel sliding in attempt to make it.  I just simply stopped off the trail and Maghalie slid into me, and somehow placed the end of her handlebar perfectly in between the four centimeter space between my rear tire and frame.  It was really stuck in there too.  While I was laughing so hard, it took us about two minutes to pull it out of there.  We made it over all of these crazy obstacles, bridges, and drops, and a gravel corner did the trick.  Really, we couldn't have put that handlebar in that space if we were standing still and trying.

Stage three was set in Powell River on the sunshine coast of Vancouver Island.  Wendy had the leader's jersey from her phenomenal ride on Stage two, and luckily, I didn't let her go by in a flash this stage.  I was determined to hang on her wheel and learn something from the north shore single track queen.  I had so much fun on this stage on Wendy's wheel literally going as fast as I ever have on flat single track.  She gave me a clinic and helped me get in the flow which was desperately needed after all of the time off the bike.  I was stronger on the final climb so I attacked and took the stage victory by thirty seconds.  My victory wasn't enough going into the next day to get the leader's jersey back so I started stage four in Specialized red.

Normally in mountain bike stage races, it's eighty to ninety percent fire road racing (note: not a mountain bikers favorite) and twenty percent single track (note: mountain bikers favorite).  The best thing about the BC Bike Race is that ratio is completely flipped.  There's so much single track that I sometimes found myself begging for a fire road, absolute lunacy for a true mountain biker, so that I could take a drink and eat something.  Stage 4 is the exception with the course swinging a bit more in the direction of traditional and comprised of a lot of exposed, steep fire road climbs.  It's the longest stage as well.  About a third of the way into the stage, I was happy with my positioning.  I was about twenty seconds behind Sonya Looney and twenty seconds ahead of Wendy Simms.  Then, my head was down and I missed a turn off the fire road and got lost.  I probably lost four to five minutes doing my own out and back, and I lost the lady pod.  I was deflated after that move, and I spent the rest of the stage with the governor on.  It was a bit rough, and I finished bummed about my performance.  Then, I realized at three hours and forty minutes,  this was not only my longest ride for the season but definitely my longest race effort.  Perspective shift.  Wendy did hold a nine minute advantage on me in the overall, and it was going to take some aggressive racing to get that lead back.

Stage 5 I was determined to take a chunk out of that lead.  I felt great, started aggressive, and finished with the win.  I got just about four minutes on Wendy, and I had an absolute blast on an amazing stage.  Stage 6 was one of the longest days, and it was to determine the overall winner.  I had to take the same tactic.  I went for it, but, honestly, one third of the way into the stage, I didn't know if I was going to pull it off.  I was climbing up a switchback climb and saw the lady pod only about thirty seconds off.  The great Luna duo caught up to me, and I rode with them for as long as possible.  Then, I rode in solo for the win and got the leaders jersey back.  This ride gave me a four minute cushion going into the last 1.5 hr stage which I needed every minute of to secure the overall prize.  Wendy attacked me on the last day and I fell apart.  If she had ten more kilometers, she would have gotten me.  But, in the end, after racing over seven days for eighteen hours and twenty six minutes, I only ended up winning by one minute and thirty seconds.  This is amazing to me.

I'm thrilled to have won this race, and I'm even more excited to be back racing.  I have a great block of racing on the east coast coming up.  First up is the national championships in Pennslyvania next weekend.  Send me the fast vibes please!

A view from one of the many gorgeous ferry rides we took over the week

I found an amazing japanese style hut to stay in.  One of many in this B&B in Powell River.  I would highly recommend it to anyone.  My bike liked it. 

Base Camp in Powell River.  Gorgeous. 

Ogio Bag hiding in the Japanese Hut

This is what Maghalie Rochette carted around for five stages: space blanket, bike commuting flashlight, matches and a compass.  She ditched all of the extra weight and then the team beat me the next two stages

This is what I'm carrying comparatively.  Bear Spray. Clif Blocks. Priorities. 

My Dad and I saw some amazing waterfalls after the race

Best support crew out there. My Dad!