Race Report: Stage 7 - BC Bike Race 2019

Jul 13, 2019
by BC Bike Race  


Open Men
Open Women


bigquotesI'm super stoked, now it's time to party
Felix Burke

Sunny skies broke over Squamish for the first time in three days along the BC coast. It was shaping up to be a perfect finale to a week of incredible racing. BCBR started with a quick tune-up Prologue on Vancouver's North Shore. This lightning fast mini-stage seeded racers for the feast of single-track stage racing that would follow. From the North Shore, they traveled to North Cowichan on Vancouver Island for a two-mountain, one-stage opening day on some beautiful Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain trail. Then it was off to the grit of Cumberland's hand built singletrack, slick and spicy from some overnight rain that would raise the pucker factor. After two stages on the Cumberland network, it was over to the Sunshine Coast. Light rain would keep the three Sunshine Coast stages, with stunning trails winding through old growth forest, in super tacky conditions. Today it was Squamish and its seriously sick stack of singletrack -the venue for stage 7.

Yesterday there was drama on course. Crashes and some interesting shuffling of personalities on the podium at the top made for an interesting day. Felix Burke (Rocky Mountain) dropped the hammer mid-stage 6 and continued to push the pace, rolling across the Langdale finish line first and building up a 3 min-plus cumulative lead on his weeklong rival Geoff Kabush (Yeti-Maxxis.) Kabush was kept off the podium that day, while Benjamin Sontag (Clif Bar) suffered a crash on the final descent that left him with a broken arm and out of the final stage of BCBR 2019. Jena Greaser (Rocky Mountain) also ate some dirt on Hwy 102, leaving her rattled and making room for Spaniard Ada Xinxo to steal a 3rd place, Stage 6 podium finish in Open Women.

Everybody, including Felix Burke, was wondering what Kabush would have in store for the final day in Squamish. This showdown would be played out on his adopted home trails that he knows like the lines on the back of his hand. Did the young gun push too hard yesterday, leaving him gassed for when he would need it most on the final stage?

"It was getting in my head a little and I was nervous this morning," Burke said. "But I was confident in my abilities."

If Burke was nervous it didn't show when he hit the dirt for Stage 7.

BCBR crews were already setting up the post race, day 7 beer gardens, when racers left the finish line at 9 a.m. The first heat was hungry. Burke would make moves early. On the first sustained singletrack climb, 50 Shades of Grey, the Quebec-born shredder started to push the pace. Kabush was clinging to his wheel at first, but Burke started to grow a gap.

"I basically started breaking away on 50 Shades of Grey," Burke said.

On the road climb to the Half Nelson trailhead, Kabush watched as Burke faded from view in front of him. By the time the leaders dropped into Squamish's signature superflow-pumptrack down trail, Burke was 40 seconds ahead of Kabush and in control. There was a massive gap before the chase group arrived, led by Stephen Hyde (Cannondale) and followed by Kerry Werner (7mesh-Clif Bar) and Michael van den Ham (Garneau-Easton Cycling,) Canadian national cyclo cross champion.

It would remain lonely at the top of this stage for Burke. When he exited the day's feature trail Pseudo Tsuga onto the Garibaldi FSR, his lead had grown. By the time he attacked Far Side, in the later 10 km of the stage, he was more than a minute in front of Kabush, riding strong and with the flawlessly efficient technique that had served him so well all week.

Burke would ride across the finish line claiming first in Stage 7, with a time of 2:37:56 and first overall in Solo Men in 15:43:46. Kabush took second in Stage 7, and second overall, followed by returning BCBR racer Kerry Werner, ending an exciting singletrack battle between these friendly adversaries that made BCBR 2019 one of the most competitive in recent memory.

"I knew that if I could build up a lead that I could hold onto it. I'm super stoked, now it's time to party," said Burke, cracking a cold can of Hey Y'All in celebration.

In Solo Women, Katerina Nash proved invincible, winning all 7 stages and the overall crown with a cumulative time of 18:39:46 (Americans Courtenay McFadden and Jena Greaser took 2nd and 3rd.) She proved once again that this reigning singletrack shredding queen won't easily be dethroned at BCBR.

"I'm happy. My bike finished with the same set up that I started the race with. There were a few stages where I wish I had a different front tire but I was too tired to change it," Nash said."After coming back to BCBR numerous times I know the stages pretty well and I know the pacing."

Bellingham-based McFadden, her first time in the BCBR, was elated following stage 7.

"My legs were smashed after yesterday. I could barely stand up in the shower," McFadden. "This even was much harder than I expected."

All week long Mike Rauch and Simon Blythe (Cahilty Racing) had slugged it out in the dirt with Graeme Martindale and Norm Thibault (TNA-Frontrunners) in Teams of 2 (Open Men.) Both twosomes suffered flats and mechanicals throughout the week. Today Thibault finished the race on a rear wheel borrowed from a spectator after blowing up his rear hub. However Rauch and Blythe would ride a strong Stage 7 to claim the top podium in this hotly contested category.

Ted Russo, a pedaling powerhouse from Port Moody, took the Solo Men (50+) category with a comfortable 25-minute cumulative margin over Danish rider Morten Hansen. This was Russo's 10th BCBR appearance, and the 59 - year-old - trail smasher shows little sign of slowing down.

"I'm feeling good but this race is definitely not getting any easier," Russo said at the finish line.

He'll be back.

With BCBR 2019 over, it was time to relax in the beer gardens, swap tales from the trails and sip some cold ales. For many it was time to engage friendships forged on the trail, the sort of bonds that mutually shared singletrack experiences tend to create.

For race-fit sponsored riders, stage racing is as normal as walking in the park. But for most others, successfully completing 7 stages, totalling roughly 300 km and 10,000 vertical metres of ascending is a lifetime achievement. There was plenty of emotion as racers crossed the finish line at Squamish's Brennan Park under warm sunny skies to receive their BCBR belt buckle. But it's more than a chunk of metal; it's come to symbolize how people from around the world can be united to worship at the altar of BC singletrack, to suffer, celebrate and persevere to together.

Steve Thompson is one of seven members of the North Vancouver beer league hockey team The Chiefs to participate in BCBR 2019. They had almost as many Chiefs' jersey-wearing fans in attendance as BCBR had medics on course. These gents have played hockey together for 30 years and they are also part of the growing BCBR mountain bike tribe.

bigquotesIt's been an amazing week, pretty emotional
Steve Thompson

And even the pros feel the need to kick back after the rigors of the ride. Lululemon athlete and BCBR alumnus Tim Johnson brings a playful competitive spirit to the race as well as a great sense of humor.

"My arms are fried. I really felt it riding Half Nelson today with all those compressions," said Johnson, who took 18th in Solo Men.

Over the course of a week of mountain bike racing a lot happens, but Johnson remembers Day 0 most vividly. when minutes before the start of the Prologue he got "iced" by his Lululemon teammates, which is racer-speak for putting a can of Smirnoff Ice in a cyclists helmet before a race and making the victim chug it.

"That Prologue was super hard," Johnson said with a laugh.

Then there's Austin Warren who showed up for the Prologue in a bunny suit that was as white as the driven snow, but as functionally inappropriate for mountain biking as a wet suit is to a polar bear. With each passing stage, the bunny suit evolved as Warren trimmed and cropped it for improved performance. Eventually the white of the non-breathable faux bunny fur began to take on the colour and fragrance of BC dirt and mud. But why?

"I was late to register so I asked BCBR if they'd let me enter if I wore a bunny suit all week," Warren explained.

Turns out, some people will do anything to join the mountain bike tribe and immerse themselves in the BCBR singletrack experience.

Photo Credits: Dave Silver, Margus Riga, Todd Weselake, Rob Shaer

Regions in Article
British Columbia, Squamish


  • + 8
 Just finished the BCBR Friday. Plenty of other riders have shared their experiences, but I figured I’d add mine.

The short version is that I’m thrilled to have done it, but it’s not something I expect to do again in the future.

Here’s the long version.

I’ve essentially never done any kind of racing, so a 7-day, XC stage race was a pretty big departure for me. The last few years I’ve averaged around 600-miles of almost entirely singletrack on my bike. This year, from January to now, I’ve logged over 1,400 miles prepping for and riding the BCBR. Just that aspect alone was fantastic. I’ve become a faster rider, lost weight, gained skill and had a lot of fun on my bike.

From a logistical standpoint, the BCBR is impressive and really well executed. Yes, it’s expensive, but you get a good amount of value for your money. Ferry rides and water taxis, plus float planes for a lucky few. Tents that are ready every day when you show up at your campsite, shower and bathroom trucks, good food, a free beer garden every day after the ride, qualified, dedicated mechanics, aid stations, patrols, medics and all the rest.

The community of riders is also fantastic. It’s great to meet riders from all over the world. To see people stop to help out other riders with mechanical issues on the trail, check on each other after crashes and laugh it off over a beer after the stage. It’s also both humbling and inspiring to have your ass completely kicked by riders that are two or three decades older than you.

I rode with a ton of great people and very few a*sholes back in the high-200s and low-300s where I was placing, though I heard from more competitive racers that things get a little more tense in the upper 100s. After the first couple of days, you end up riding with mostly the same group of riders. The riders around me were nice enough to let me get past on the downs, and then didn’t give me too much crap when they passed me on the next climb. I’m sure the riders on the podium are competitive out on the course, but if I was just judging from what I saw around camp and in-town, you’d think they were just good buddies hanging out.

Speaking of which, it’s fun to be riding the same courses as the pros every day. It was a trip to have Felix Burke come up to the bar and ask me how my stage went that day, as though we were equals, when anyone looking at our times would have concluded that we were two different species. I didn’t see any sense of entitlement or snobbishness from any of the pros in a week of racing and living together.

The communities we went through were also fantastic. I don’t know how you could spend any time riding in Cumberland, Powell River and Squamish without wanting to move there. Hundreds of locals came out every day to cheer us on, give directions on the course and offer encouragement. We walked off the ferry in Powell River to a street lined with cheering crowds that made us feel like we’d just won the World Series.

So, with all that good stuff, why is the BCBR probably a one-time-thing for me? At it’s core, the BCBR is still an XC stage race, and I’m not really in to XC stage racing. Yes, it’s a very well executed XC stage race, that’s set in arguably the best riding area in the entire planet, that hits a few of the best trails on the planet, and is more technical than the average XC course, but it’s still an XC stage race. Their marketing says that overall, 70% of the course is singletrack. I haven’t carefully analyzed the course map, but after riding the thing, that seems like a stretch to me. I expect their definition of singletrack might be a bit wider than mine. It felt like on average, most days were about 50% true singletrack, and the other half of the course was made up of some mixture of fire roads, ATV trails, double track and paved roads.

If XC racing is your deal, I have no doubt that the BCBR is one of the best XC stage races on the planet. But, if the racing aspect isn’t important to you, I expect you could spend about the same amount of time, preparation and money and have a week that included a better ratio of epic BC singletrack experiences to grinding up fire roads. I’m thrilled to have done it, but I don’t expect to be back for my BCBR alumni hat next year.

TL;DR: A Pinkbike reader is shocked to find that after signing up for an XC stage race, he has to ride an XC stage race.
  • + 1
 You could travel BC and ride primo singletrack every day for a month and not spend anything like what it costs to do BCBR. So you have to want to have that "race" experience and value it highly for the $$ to make sense.
  • + 6
 Yes! I made the cover pic!!! Dang that was fun. I’m so shattered right now it’s not even funny.
  • + 1
 That's worth the price of admission.
  • + 2
 Is there any maple syrup there?
  • + 1
 Pic of the chic copping a feel of the Mountie's teet is pretty awesome. Man-powerment! Yeah BOY!!!
  • + 2
 Nope not one drop of it

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