BC Bike Race has the power to change lives. I know, because it has changed mine. I’ve been fortunate to ride incredible trails all over the globe, but never have I been part of a mountain bike event that is so moving. Like most good things in life, BCBR isn’t just about moment, it’s about the journey. The sinuous singletrack, resting above the ocean and below snowcapped. Coastal Range is almost beyond description, but it’s the people I’ve shared the journey with on those trails that truly made it special.
This years event took us from Cumberland, BC, to Whistler over seven stages. We traversed the Sunshine Coast, North Shore and Squamish in-route. Most evenings involved a ferry ride crossing the fjords, and every community we landed in provided a different atmosphere. The terrain changed as the week went by, every day was something different. We rode what I believe to be the best single track in the world, and without question the best single track anyone has ever raced on. Every day the trails took my breath away. You have to ride this stuff to believe it!
Some people thrive during the week, and others are just there to survive, but there isn’t anyone who doesn't have a smile on their face. This year, that again made a powerful impression on me. I fell in love with this sport as a kid because of the freedom it provided and the places it took me, but I eventually reached a point while racing on the World Cup over the past decade where I felt that the result was all that mattered. I know many riders who see themselves only as good as their last race. Where is the joy in that?
In 2016 I raced BCBR for the first time, and being absorbed by everyone’s immense positivity each day, no matter the conditions or obstacles, was a fierce reminder to me that is about the experience, not the result. I learned a lot from some of the slowest people in the race. In 2016, I struggled physically and mentally; I had a hard time savoring the ride each day and being patient with how the race played out. I didn’t know where we were going, what the trails and days held in store for me, or how my body would hold up after months of travel and a huge Olympic disappointment leading up to the race. Too often I tried to force things, and I burnt matches when I didn’t need to.
This year, I savored the journey before the race even began. In 2017 I traveled with Geoff Kabush (who eventually won the race), and Katerina Nash (the women's solo winner), and we stayed with friends on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and in Squamish. Typically riders stay in the tent city, allowing BCBR to manage all the logistics, but after an incredibly wet year in 2016 I wasn’t going to take the change of sleeping each night in a great swamp. And honestly, it was about the most fun way I could imagine it going down.
Geoff and I were very evenly matched all week, and so despite throwing blow after blow at each other on the bike, we both climbed into the same car and shared dinner together each night. We are friends, and there’s something special about sharing a meal together after trying to waste one another in the single track all morning. Likewise, Katerina’s Clif teammate, Maghalie, made her work everyday for the overall GC, but joined us many evenings for ocean swims and dinner on the patio. How often does that happen?? Never in my normal racing world. At most races we are sequestered away in our hotels and insulated from the world, often only seeing friends on the starting line. So BCBR is a change of pace very desperately needed.
About ten minutes into Stage 2 in Powell River, we had a black bear run out onto the course in front of the group, and those of us at the front started shouting “Bear!”. Troy Wells, nicknamed ‘Rudy Bear’ starting looking around, asking why we were yelling at him! “No Rude, there’s a bear on the course!”. Just like the other hundreds of black bears I’ve seen over the years, we only saw this one’s ass, because it was high-tailing away from us as fast as possible. Freaking cool though, and something that just doesn’t happen in Los Angeles.
During stage 4 from Sechelt to Langdale, Sam Shultz, Geoff, and I were racing at the front—We entered the woods for a descent after a long muscle-y climb, and it was one for the books. We were absolutely shredding, and Sam was showing off by throwing huge table tops off little natural hits the entire way down. When we reached the the bottom it took a moment before we stopped giggling and realized we were still racing. After the race, Sam exclaimed that it was the best piece of trail he’d ever raced, maybe the best he’d ever ridden. That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen anywhere else.
Geoff opened up some time on me during North Vancouver’s Stage 5, and again on Stage 6 in Squamish. Having lived in the area for years, he knows those trails as well as anyone, and made use of that local knowledge. He’s as sharp as they come, and has been racing for nearly as long as I have been alive. I was able to finish the week with a stage win in Whistler however, and though it wasn’t enough to move me into the overall lead too, it was a bit of a consolation prize. Second on the week overall, along with a couple of stage victories—pretty good if you ask me. But again, more valuable than anything, I left the race with a bag full of incredible memories, new friends, and a renewed appreciation for the sport and community that has given me so much over the decades.
One of the most memorable highlights of the week wasn’t made on the bike, but was a special evening when the Sneddon family invited a group of us over for dinner on the beach in Sechelt. The Sneddon’s have been on the Sunshine Coast for generations, and Kris is a longtime member of the Kona team. They've built and maintained many of the trails we race over the week, and they are at the core of the BCBR community. For us, this annual dinner is a chance to all break bread together, dip into the ocean, and reflect on the first half of the race. Its an opportunity to set the mood for what’s ahead, and remind ourselves to stop, breath, and enjoy the experience. At the end of the week, or any ride really, those memories are all we have to go home with, so we might as well make them good. I left the race full of incredible memories, new friends, and a renewed appreciation for the sport and community that has given me so much over the decades.