A Royal day crowns new leader at BC Bike Race
Not many races have two Queen stages but, with the second day in the Vernon area climbing 1,850m up to from Kalamalka Lake to the King Eddie plateau, there is no other way to describe Stage 4 of the 16th BC Bike Race.
After a pleasant roll through Kal Park, the day’s racing got down to business. A full 12.5km climb up to the Plateau spread out the field, with a jaunt along the highly technical “Royal Ascent” finishing off most of the day’s climbing. Rolling, but demanding trails led to the top of a raucous, 9km descent back down to the valley below. The steep gnar of Big Ed, one of the week’s most challenging trails, led into high speed corners and then a rolling finish to the timing mat. 51 km on the bike and 45 km on the clock made Stage 4 a truly Royal day. Age groupers
Battles for the crowns in BCBR age categories were heating up on the King Eddie Plateau, too. Folsom, California’s Emma Briggs
and Edmonton, Alberta’s Shantel Koenig
are separated by less than two minutes after 16 hours of racing. Clif Bar’s Terra Beaton
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how it’s going” Beaton said. “I just came to ride the route, but I’ve met some fantastic people. I don’t think I’ve had that in a race before, so go BC Bike Race!”
Beaton, who works with Clif, has had her eye on BC Bike Race for years now. This year, the Colorado resident finally has her chance to take part.
Not all competitions are within categories. Patrick Jansens
is registered in the 50+ men’s category but, after finishing an incredible 11th overall on Stage 4, has his sights set further forward in the field.
“There’s a group ahead of us,” the Dutch rider says, referring to the top elite men, “But I’m trying to be the best of the rest. I’m in the 50+ category, but I’m trying to chase the 40+ guys.”
Last time Jansens was at the BC Bike race was back in 2011, the early days on the coast. What brought him back, 10 years later?
Jansens doesn’t just ride trail. He’s a professional trail builder back on the other side of the pond. Vernon’s trails stood out. “Today at the top, it was really technical and rough. Not descending, but just rough. We haven’t had that in a couple days, so that was great.”
“That big descent was brutal, especially without a dropper post.” Jansens added. That bit of equipment choice makes the Dutch rider stand out as much as his incredible pace. Unlike when he raced here in 2011, there are few, if any, others rocking the rigid post at this year’s BC Bike Race. “Ha ha, I’m the only one! I don’t really need one in the Netherlands. But I’ve been riding without a dropper post for 30-plus years, so it’s fine.”Pro Men
In that front group, a day on the King Eddie Plateau turned into another battle royale among the front men. The top 3 men are separated by just over three minutes but, with the leader’s jersey changing hands every other day, the standings are far from settled. Peter Disera
attacked off the front, followed by Carter Nieuwesteeg
and Rob Britton
. Disera stayed clear of the pack to take the win, but the standings shuffled significantly before the race hit the timing mat down below. Luke Vrouwenvelder
chased past Britton to take third on the stage.
“I kept it pretty close with Carter and I caught Rob. But Peter had some solid pace for us today,” said Vrouwenvelder, adding that the week’s racing has been full-out, every day. “I think I’m a little favored towards the longer days right now and was kind of thinking today would be a bit longer. But 2.5 hours as a Queen Stage? It’s fast, man.”
It wasn’t quite enough to hold onto his leader’s jersey, but the U.S. rider knows the race isn’t over until it’s over.
“I’ve been riding at a solid pace, riding within myself for most of the race. I feel like I’ve been riding the same speed most days and Pete’s been doing these peaks and troughs. Maybe today was a peak and tomorrow is a trough. But who knows, he’s riding super strong. Hats off to him for sure.”
It’s the first BC Bike Race appearance for Vrouwenvelder and his Giant Factory teammate, Stephan Davoust
. When the opportunity to race presented itself, both riders were quick to sign up.
How is the American strategizing his debut BC Bike Race podium run? Well, he’s looking to a local veteran, Geoff Kabush
, who currently sits in fifth in a very dynamic men’s field.
“It’s hard to count Geoff out. He’s such a smart racer and really tactical. He knows his stuff really well. At first, I thought I’d just mark Geoff, but Pete seems to be on really good form, too. So it’s a mix of trying to be like Geoff with how I race and matching Pete’s efforts when he goes.”
The women’s standings look more settled at the top, with Sandra
Walter extending her lead over Catharine Pendrel
every stage. But the battle for third is still wide open. Lauren Cantwell
has an advantage over gravel racer-turned-mountain biker Amity Rockwell. But it’s Kaysee Armstrong
, third for a second day in a row, that is steadily moving up the standings.
While the two Queen Stages are through, there’s plenty of racing left at the 16th BC Bike Race. Stage 5 carries riders to the week’s highest elevations.
Starting above 1,600m and climbing well over 2000, rider’s have a shorter distance, just 28 km, but all at elevation. A sizable opening climb carries racer’s up to rarified air, before a traversing backcountry loop pushes them to the week’s high point, and two ripping descents back to the village. While the forecast is for frosty weather, just like when this stage debuted in 2021, that will do little to dampen rider’s spirits. It was voted the racer’s favorite stage last year.
Open Women’s Results
1st. Sandra Walter - 3:13:59
2nd. Catharine Pendrel - 3:18:10
3rd. Kaysee Armstrong - 3:32:06
Open Men’s Results
1st. Peter Disera - 2:32:18
2nd. Carter Nieuwesteeg - 2:38:46
3rd. Luke Vrouwenvelder - 2:39:39
Pendrel takes first stage win at 2022 BC Bike Race
After five days of intense racing, the 16th BC Bike Race reached its high point. Apex Mountain served as, quite literally, the apex of the race. Topping out at 2,175m elevation, Stage 5’s 28-km backcountry-style excursion may have been short, by BCBR standards, but still served up 1,280m of climbing.
The reward was 13 km of nearly untouched sub-alpine singletrack before one very punchy climb to the first of two visits to the week’s high point. With 360-degree views over the Okanagan’s valleys and mountain peaks, it only made sense to visit twice. After a loop down the perfect loamy dirt of Apex’s “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly,” racer’s climbed back up to the summit before running through “The Gauntlet”, a restored trail bench-cutting back to Apex village. From the summit, there was only one question for racers. Were they feeling lucky? Well? Are ya? Pro Women: Pendrel’s return to the topCatharine Pendrel
was one rider that was definitely feeling the Apex singletrack. It might not be luck that carried the two-time world champion to the finish line first, so much as a career’s worth of training. But the recently-retired pro was happy to take the win.
“Today was good! I knew it was a shorter day. My goal was to stick with Sandra as long as I could. But I was moving good and with a solid group. I knew I was wanting to make passes and she was maybe not feeling as chipper. So I just kept charging.”
Going into the day’s final climb, Sandra Walter
was closing in on her long-time friend and training partner. Pendrel dug into the 3-km grunt up the steep fire road back to Apex’ summit to hold her advantage into the final, lengthy descent. The stage winner and this week’s overall leader are friends and training partners off the course, meaning they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses inside and out. How is racing head-to-head against a friend?
“I think it’s more fun because we can chirp each other on course,” Pendrel says with a laugh.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be able to race for the win, so today was fun. But we both have so much respect for each other, and what we can do on a bike, that it’s just a good time.”
Pendrel retired right around this time last year. Since then, she’s taken over coaching Canada’s national mountain bike team. After a year on the other side of the course tape, getting back on the start line is like, well, riding a bike. Almost.
“Yesterday was the first day that I started to feel like I could push hard the whole race. I have a good base of fitness but no intensity,” Pendrel shared. “I think you get that cool crossover where, if you have a good base, you get fitter later in the race. Or I went too hard today and I’ll suffer tomorrow, We’ll see!”
Pendrel takes the Stage 5 win, but Walter holds onto the women’s race lead. Kaysee Armstrong
finished third, again, on Stage 5, but has a way to go to close in on Lauren Cantwell’s
lead. THE DOUBLE
The BCBR podium isn’t the only race going on, though. Amity Rockwell
is one of the few riders taking on the monumental mountain bike- gravel stage race double. When racing wraps up in Naramata on Thursday, she’ll have two days to recover before starting all over again. That is, as they say, tomorrow’s problem.
“It’s hard not to get sucked into the race. When you’re competitive, you’re competitive.” Rockwell says. “I’d rather race this race than start thinking about the double.”
After contesting the podium early in the week, a crash in Vernon put the gravel-racer-turned mountain biker a bit further back in the pack. Rockwell’s still stoked on the week’s demanding course.
“I think I have most of the skills needed, but half of the confidence. It’s a matter of talking myself up for each stage. Then, when it’s done, it’s not so bad after all,” Rockwell says. Pro men: The Good, the veteran and the less luckyPeter Disera’s
roller coaster debut took another twist at Apex Mountain. The Canadian national champion reeled in a hard-charging Rob Britton
to take the stage lead only to be slowed by a front flat. The Canadian XCO national champion used his phenomenal skills - and fitness - to hold on for the stage win. But only by a razor-thin six-second margin.
With Luke Vrouwenvelden
fading slightly off the pace at elevation, Disera still leaves Apex with the race lead. But he still has Carter Nieuwesteeg
and the American breathing down his neck with one stage remaining.
Another rider building momentum is Canadian veteran racer, Geoff Kabush
. He’s picked up speed all week leading into his near-win on Stage 5.
“Today was a ‘tortoise and the hare’ day for me. Rob went out early and laid down some big watts. I just let the first four go and didn’t really think I’d see them the rest of the day.” Racing at elevation is always tricky and the veteran used his experience to pick off racers, one-by-one.
“I got past Luke and Carter and could see the top two guys on the last climb. Pete had a puncture, so I got close, but couldn’t quite track him down.”
Kabush’s podium throws yet another wrench into what’s been an enthralling week in the men’s G.C. While the Yeti-Fox rider didn’t look to be in the running in the early days, he’s crept ever-closer to the podium.
“I kinda gave up hope yesterday after a rough day, but in a stage race you never know,” Kabush said after his Stage 5 second place. With one, very technical day remaining, the race is far from over.
After today’s podium, will the Canadian race for the win on the final stage?
“Well, you never know. The young kids have been on and off,” the 45-year-old says of his mid-20’s competitors. “So maybe I’ll sneak through. I’ll try, anyway.” Rob Britton
was just 17-seconds behind Kabush, in third. Vrouwenvelder now sits third, just behind Carter Nieuwesteeg
in the pro men’s standings. Other Racers
Many battles, personal and in the different leader’s jerseys, climbed towards their narrative climax as BCBR’s 2022 route maxed out at its peak elevation. Some riders are in friendly battles for team or age group GC races with new, or old friends. Others are working hard to make it to the finish line. No day at BCBR is easy. Riding seven in a row is a truly impressive feat that everyone who attempts, let alone finishes, should be proud of. Jesper Vilstrup Thomsen
and Kim Pliniussen
are racing the men’s team of two race with a larger squad than most. The two Danish riders have had their family cheering for them at the finish line every day this week. On Wednesday, the entire extended family ran together into the finish straight with the two racer’s.
It’s Pliniussen’s second time at BCBR. He’s back to race with Thomsen. The pair regularly races together in Europe, including a couple attempts at a 700-km mountain bike race in Norway that hails itself as the world’s toughest mountain bike race. So, how does BCBR compare?
The pair are thriving on the added adrenaline. “You can jump all over, it’s so much bigger,” adds Pliniussen.
“In Europe, it’s known as one of the Ultimate Singletrack Experiences, like you call it,” says Pliniussen. The two switch up leading each descent, so each gets their chance to lead down the Okanagan’s sweet descents.
In the women’s 50+ race, Petra Storm
is riding the BCBR rollercoaster of good days and off-days just like the leaders. For the Colorado racer, Apex was a high. Liz Rasainz
is diving into mountain life all the way from the flat lands of Fort Lauderdale, Florida to race the women’s race. After nearly a week in the Okanagan, she’s fully embraced the B.C. gnar.
“Today was awesome! Dry, but awesome. I loved the chunky terrain and amazing views. There was that really hard part on the downhill, but it was otherwise really fast and fun!.”
Another returning racer is Rob Haworth
. Hailing from the U.K., Haworth is back with a group of Brits for his third BCBR. What keeps bringing him back across the pond? Grand Finale
For the Grand Finale of 2022 BC Bike Race, racers head back where BC Bike Race first touched down in the Okanagan. Naramata’s Three Blind Mice network, with its mix of iconic lake views, technical climbing, rock slabs and some wide open descents is a fitting day to end a hard week of racing. It’s a guided tour through the back yard of BCBR president, and Stage 6 course director, Dean Payne. There’s 45 km on the bike, 27km on the clock, and another 1,280m of elevation gain. After the finish line, it’s a neutral roll directly to the beach for high-fives, hugs and maybe a couple beverages to celebrate racer’s accomplishments, wrapping up a big week on bikes at the Ultimate Singletrack Experience.
Open Women’s Results
1st. Catharine Pendrel - 2:05:36
2nd. Sandra Walter - 2:07:28
3rd. Kaysee Armstrong -2:13:28
Open Men’s Results
1st. Peter Disera - 1:44:14
2nd. Geoff Kabush - 1:44:20
3rd. Rob Britton - 1:44:37
: Dave Silver
/ Chris Stenberg
/ BC Bike Race