Catching up on BC Bike Race 2019

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Ok, we missed the start of the 2019 edition of the BC Bike Race. Why? Well there was bike racing happening at home, and it was cyclocross and there was some bike prep to do, kit to prepare, and extra training to finish off. But, that doesn’t mean riders weren’t ripping in BC. So here’s a summary of the action so far.

BC Bike Race Prologue

Conditions were perfect for reigning champs in Solo Men and Solo Women, Geoff Kabush (Team Yeti-Maxxis) and Katerina Nash (Team Clif Bar.) Riding BC tech-gnar trail is their happy place. Following the start at Capilano University, racers rode a neutral leg along a gravel road, ascended a small hike-a-bike staircase, continued a little farther to the remote start, then tackled more gravel before a taste of the technical uphill pain cave on the Richard Juryn Memorial Trail.

And it was the indomitable Kabush leading a tight pack on the jank-chunder climb to the highpoint on Richard Juryn, before launching into a rock dropping, root hopping, rapid descent and crossing the Red Bull finish line in a blistering 6:47. However the young and feisty Felix Burke (Rocky Mountain) ended up dropping the hammer and claiming top spot in Solo Men with a time of 6:44, putting Kabush on notice that perhaps this year the script will be rewritten.  Kerry Werner (Team Kona-Maxxis-Shimano), last year’s 3rd place finisher, tied Kabush’s time, further evidence that the BCBR throne will be tightly contested during version Lucky 13.  BCBR newcomer Payson McElveen (Team Orange Seal –Trek,) 2016 Mongolian Bike Challenge champion, was also firmly in the mix with a time of 6:55, ensuring a tight race at the top. Back for another year, the unassuming, baggy shorted US Olympian and all-around shredder Sam Schultz (Rocky Mountain,) 7th in the Prologue, quietly tuned up his West Coast BC skills certain to once again challenge for stage wins.

Photo: Dave Silver

In Solo Women Katarina Nash, with four consecutive BCBR top podiums to her credit, was in the mood for sending strong messages with a time of 8:26, in front of second place finisher US Cyclocross Team member Courtenay McFadden (Team Pivot-Maxxis) who crossed the line at 8:31, followed by Jena Greaser in a time of 8:36.

In Masters Men, it was Canadian David Dorrans and Andrew Low seeding themselves in top spot with matching times of 8:07, setting the stage for a battle royale in the smorgasbord of singletrack to follow.

Port Moody’s Ted Russo, a 10x finisher is back from a solid 2018 5th place BCBR performance in Veteran Men with a Prologue time of 8:29, two seconds ahead of Steven Brown.

Tricia K Spooner, who somehow keeps her singletrack chops sharp living in Ottawa, proved she’s on the hunt for a podium spot claiming a comfortable Masters Women first in the Prologue, while Kiwis Mandy Hancock and Margaret Clark enjoyed an exciting battle in Veteran Women.

Photo: Rob Shaer

BC Bike Race Stage One

After a lung crushing 40 minute singletrack ascent of Tzouhalem, the lead pack tackled the rock-tech of Rocky Mountain Ridge. When they hit Tzouhalem’s feature trail, the burm and turn deliciousness of Double D, a perky charge by enduro EWS racer, McKay Vezina had him leading, followed closely by Ottawa shredder Davis Ross. But these pretenders to the throne would soon be dispatched. They were being watched closely by Kerri Warner (Team Kona-Maxxis-Shimano,) Burke, and Kabush. Meanwhile, Sam Schultz (Rocky Mountain), biding his time in position 10, was playfully taking advantage of dropper-tunities, making it look easy and throwing it sideways. In Solo Women it was the unstoppable Nash, with hopefuls Greaser and McFadden struggling to keep the pedaling powerhouse in their sightlines.

A natural order had resumed in Solo Men when they roared down the newly minted Phloem (you guessed it – this trail is flow defined,) Burke leading followed by Kabush and Warner, with Schultz in 4th place and working hard to keep pace. An exciting day of racing would end in a three-way tie for first between Kabush, Burke and Warner in 1:52:24, Kabush proving once again that salty old dogs can be hard put down. 

BC Bike Race. Photo: M. Riga

And if there’s one thing Nash has proved at BCBR, she’s more than comfortable in the company of men. Finishing 21st overall, the Clif Bar athlete dropped the hammer on her closest competitors, putting an incredible 5 minutes on 2nd place finisher McFadden, who was trailed by Greaser.

In Solo Veteran Mens, Brad Clarke won comfortably, while in Solo Veteran Womens, it was fellow Kiwi claiming first with a 20-minute Mount Everest of a lead on the second place finisher. It appears that riders from this little country in the Southern Hemisphere are in BC to make a statement.

Photo: M. Riga

BC Bike Race Stage Two

For West Coast mountain bikers, a little drizzle puts a little dazzle into the trail. However, for BCBR’s guests from Spain, Mexico, the American Southwest and anywhere else where a drop of rain is enough to cancel a ride, they were left wondering who smeared bacon fat on the roots and rocks of the local trails. It was Stage 2, and racers lined up at the start along the village’s historic main street beneath grey skies, many of them oblivious to the lung-buster that awaited them – 10 km of steep gravel road ascending that would deliver them to the top of the Cumberland trail network and their first downhill singletrack snack of the day. It’s a doozy, Further Burger. Almost flowy when it’s dry but with a patina of rain, a blur of sidehill, off camber roots and rocks, and tight trees that seem to reach out and grab your handlebars.  

Yesterday’s stage left us wondering if Katerina Nash (Team Clif Bar) would maintain her headlock on the yellow jersey and fend of challenges from Courtenay McFadden (Team Pivot-Maxxis) and Jenna Greaser (Rocky Mountain.) In Solo Men, nothing could be taken for granted. Felix Burke (Rocky Mountain) clearly has his focus trained on the yellow jersey. So too does Kerry Werner (Team Kona-Maxxis-Shimano.) But Geoff Kabush (Team Yeti-Maxxis) would not be easy to dethrone, least of all in Cumberland, which is basically home turf for this Comox Valley-raised World Cup XC phenom. After yesterday’s three-way draw at the top, he proved that he’s showing no signs of slowing down

After the punishing Davis Lake Main gravel grind, elite riders plunged into the think-fast fury of Further Burger, followed by burly Blockhead and the cheeky chicanes of Bear Buns. Then it was the day’s feature Trail – Vanilla.  Burke, Kabush and Werner hit it like a freight train, their tires humming on Vanilla’s compacted dirt that has been sculpted and burmed by the United Riders of Cumberland trail crew into one of the most popular trails. For good reason  –  it was all grins and hoots, even in the lead pack, as riders greedily ate up this smooth, flowy trail. Not far behind was Edmonton’s Michael van den Ham, Benjamin Sontag (Team Clif Bar,) and Paysen McElveen (Team Orange Seal – Trek,) all looking strong and hungry for podiums.

“The climbs are feeling hard this year,” Sam Schultz (Rocky Mountain) had said before the Stage 2 start gun. But if donning baggy shorts is a sign of retirement, Schultz was bucking the trend. As usual the Montana soul rider was in the mix, in 7th spot and within reeling distance of the leaders.

Southern man Joshua Nottenkamper of Alabama, also rocking the baggies, along with Chad Black from Laguna Niguel, California were out to prove they’re willing to fight their way at the top.

Not surprisingly, Nash was out front in Solo Women showing men how to shred singletrack, but with no reason to be complacent.  A mere 20 seconds back was McFadden, Durango, Colorado’s Karen Hill and Greaser.

A tight contest was brewing in Team of 2 (Veteran 80-99) between Normon Thibault and Graeme Martindale (Team NCGR) and Mike Rauch and Simon Blythe (Team Cahilty). An hour into the race, rain was falling steady and the grins were getting wider.

Let’s be honest, time spent in the saddle,  can either strengthen a relationship or destroy it. Especially the burly technical riding that is the BC brand. Syd Schulz and Macky Franklin, racing as the globetrotting, bike racing couple Team Syd and Macky, have forged their relationship on the trail into a strong bond and YouTube brand. And it’s getting results in their first BCBR appearance, as the couple would ride on to bag another 3rd place podium finish in Cumberland in Teams of 2 (Open Mixed.) But they were well off the pace being set by the stage-winners, Cannondale teammates Kaitlin Keough and Stephen Hyde crossing over from the world cyclocross and clearly loving BC singletrack. 

For Colorado Spring’s Joe Malenfant and Joe Stitt, Team Joe (Veterans 80-99,) signing up for BCBR was their way of getting over their respective failed marriages, digging deep and doing something fun together.

 “Signing up for BCBR was like a divorce present to ourselves,” Malenfant said, sporting a bloody right forearm and an ear-to-ear grin as he shredded rain-slicked Tea Pot. “I’ll definitely be back.”

Among the leaders, there were other more pressing matters to attend to. Ferocious competition for the yellow jersey continued as they tackled the tight, 10km of twisting and tortuous trails in the Eastern Bloc, ending with a grin-inducing descent of Iron Curtain. Burke ended up clocking in at an astonishing 1:59:50, a mere second in front of Kabush, with Werner 3 minutes back in third.

“These trails are really suited to me. Racing against Geoff is like a dream come true,” Burke said.

Careful what you wish for young man.

“It’s a long race. I would have had to take some risks to make any big gains today,” Kabush said about the spicy trail conditions. “I’m hoping my experience will pull through.”

Experience – and an engine that won’t quit – are so far pulling through for Nash. She crossed the line in 2:23:43, just 1:24min ahead of challengers McFadden and 6 min ahead of Greaser, once again maintaining her grip on the yellow jersey.

Ottawa’s Tricia K. Spooner continues to look unstoppable in Solo Masters Women, while in Solo Veteran Mens, fellow Canuck Ted Russo appears reluctant to relinquish the yellow jersey. And will anyone take a shot at Belgian workhorses Jef de Coster and Cedric Parys and their claim on the top podium spot in Teams of 2 (Open Men?) Perhaps 2nd place finishers Clint and Colt Jones (Smiling Assassins) will have an answer and put the European flatlanders in the crosshairs.

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