Rocky Mountain's Felix Burke came into the BC Bikes Race knowing that he was strong, but an overall win on his first attempt at the week-long event? Well, that'd be impressive, especially considering that Geoff Kabush, the Yeti-Maxxis racer who won in both 2017 and 2018, was gunning for the hat-trick. After battling over mere seconds for the first few days, and some confusion due to sabotaged course markings that saw the previous stage neutralized, Burke took to the final day's start line with a handful of minutes over Kabush. He finished the stage in the same style, too, rolling under the inflatable banner by himself to extend his winning margin.
Burke's BCBR-winning Element gets a 120mm-travel Fox 34 Step-Cast up front that's a bit softer than usual, but with added ramp-up from three volume tokens.
Burke's Rocky Mountain Element is a 100mm-travel cross-country race rig, but Rocky offers it in two guises: The XCO version gets a 100mm fork, but you'll find 120mm up front on the other models. Felix's race rig gets the same treatment, with a 120mm Fox 34 Step-Cast to take the edge off the long days and technical terrain.
His fork setup evolved over the week, too, with the first two days of racing seeing him use 73 PSI and two volume-reducing tokens for a firmer, racier feel. "I felt like I wasn't choosing the smoothest line all the time when I was tired, and my hands were getting tired,
'' which is fair after so much time in the saddle.
There are a lot of options with the chip-in-a-chip Ride-9 system (left), but Felix kept his in a more progressive mode with 40-percent rise. A OneUp tool (right) is tucked into his steerer tube for emergencies - racers get way out there during the BCBR.
Dropping the fork pressure down to 69 PSI and adding a token created a more forgiving ride but still kept him off the end of the stroke, he said: ''You're definitely not riding the descents as well as when you're fresh, that's for sure.
'' Having been in Felix's shoes, albeit a few hours behind guys like him by the third day of racing, I can attest that line choice becomes much more of a roll of the dice than trying to be inch-perfect.
And speaking of breathing through your eyeballs while choosing lines, Felix's Element is rocking a set of CushCore's cross-country tire inserts front and back. Yup, you read that right; apparently tire inserts aren't just for the downhill and enduro crowd.
Tire inserts for cross-country racing? It worked for Felix Burke at the BC Bike Race.
Ultra-light cross-country race rubber and their toilet paper-esque sidewalls wouldn't survive the last-minute pre-race dash to the outhouse, let alone a single stage of the BCBR, so it's no surprise to see Burke running a set of 2.35'' wide Maxxis Aspens with the relatively robust EXO casing. When you add in the 150-grams per end for the inserts, it's obvious that Felix was thinking about a lot more than just weight.
''Scott Pilecki, our Team Manager, sent them to me to test out, and I was thinking about the weight, too,
'' he replied when I asked him why he wasn't bowing to the Almighty Gram Scale God (AGSG™). ''But, I think the way things are going, it's not all about weight anymore; it's about getting a performance advantage,
'' he told me before explaining how he can stay seated and keep the power on over rocky and rooty false flats that he might otherwise have to pick his way through with more caution.
Felix's Aspens (left) were between 17 and 19 PSI during the BC Bike Race. He used a 34-tooth chainring all week.
I can understand where they'd help, I told him, but does he see other cross-country racers happily adding 150-grams of rotating weight to each end of their bike? ''Obviously, you don't want to add too much weight because it still counts, but the performance advantage is more than what the weight is going to take away. There's less sliding out, which saves a lot of energy.
The inserts mean that his bike went up in weight but that Felix could go down in air pressure. ''With the CushCore, I was running between 17psi and 18.5psi in the back, and between 18psi and 19psi up front,
'' which are much lower numbers than the 22 to 23psi that he was running pre-inserts. But are they coming out as soon as he gets home from the BC Bike Race? ''I think I'd only take them out for an XCO race that's really rolling,
Burke, who usually focuses on shorter, all-out XCO-style events, will probably be looking to add other stage races to his calendar. Next up is the Downieville Classic, where the twenty-three-year-old will use this exact bike with the addition of a Minion DHF up front.