Going into its ﬁfth year in 2018, Singletrack 6 is starting to attract riders from all around the world. But they’re not the racers you’d expect.
Evolving from the seminal sufferfest, the TransRockies Challenge, Singletrack 6 has remained a test-piece multi-day stage race for core riders from across BC since it began in 2014.
Singletrack 6's 4th iteration at the end of July attracted its biggest, and most global ﬁeld yet. 324 riders from 18 countries came to test themselves against the stout trails, techy descents and steep climbs of Rossland, Nelson and Kaslo. The pack front-runners ate up each dusty stage in a little over two hours.
At the back of the pack, though, an entirely different experience was unfolding. There, with the sweeps riding by their sides, riders might spend ﬁve or six hours on the trail each day, some on hardtails, battling their inexperience with technical singletrack, stopping at the feed stations, or getting off the bike to take photos or forage for wild raspberries.
What were they even doing there?
Too far back to be caught up in the rush, hum and momentum of the race-pack, these riders tap a different source of energy to complete the 956km course, relying on a camaraderie that develops with one another and the 60 crew and volunteers who staff the feed stations, ﬂag and sweep the trails, offer ﬁrst aid, and cheer the stragglers on.
It's not a race.
For these riders, ﬁnishing Singletrack 6 is a personal challenge. It's also a travel experience, an epic of exhaustion, a community gathering, and their favourite week of the year.
Photographer Robin O'Neill spent her downtime meeting a few, to find out what made them tick. Date Week.
Anton Ilin (31), an oncologist, and Evgeniya “Jane” Sidorenko (33), an "upriser", from Saint Petersburg, Russia bought bikes a year and a half ago. Hardtail Olimpia F1s. Singletrack 6 was their chance “to see Canada and enjoy the best riding in the world.” They’d been in local races before, but had never ridden anything on the scale that BC offers. “The biggest climb at home is 300 metres!” explains Ilin.
Evgeniya Sidorenko and Anton Ilin
Singletrack 6 doesn’t break you in gently. On day 1, riding out of Rossland, the couple had to square up to 40.2 km of riding, and 1600 metres of climbing. Until that moment, they’d never even ridden two consecutive days in a row before. Six days later, they’d logged 36 hours and 42 minutes on their bikes, riding together from start to ﬁnish.
Crossing the ﬁnish line was their sweetest shared moment, although the feed stations, and foraging for wild raspberries, were highlights. By day 3, morning started coming around too soon. But maybe that was to blame on the extra-curricular activities? The highlights of their downtime included “walking around, eating, reading, and having sex.” Would they do it again? "FOR SURE." After all, what could be more romantic?
Easier than the day job.
Q: "What motivated you to sign up for this race?" A: "Jane."
Dan Lewark (64), is an award-winning executive chef at a large country club in Seattle. He took up mountain biking at the age of 56. A year later, a friend invited him to do the TransRockies Challenge. "I thought he was nuts. But I started to train and was excited to try.” His training regimen involved daily stretching, gym work, and grinding up gravel ﬁre roads for endurance. Then his partner backed out, leaving Lewark hanging. The next year, TransRockies changed the requirement that riders race as teams of two, so Lewark signed up. He hasn't missed one since.
Dan Lewark, Executive Chef, four-time Singletrack 6 finisher. 'I look forward every year to this.'
"My work life is hectic and demanding.“ His schedule only permits him to ride twice a week. But riding six back to back days at Singletrack 6 is not punishment. It’s his reward. “For one week, I get to play with the most amazing people with the most amazing hearts." People like Dax Massey, a 42 year old mountain biker from Colorado, and multiple TransRockies and Singletrack 6 competitor, who rode sweep for the last two days of the race, kitted out with good vibes, a camelback and whatever tools and supplies he'd need to help with a ﬂat tire or mechanical. By day 4, Lewark was in the hurt locker. Massey came to his rescue. "Dax showed up, started pacing me. The longer we rode together, the stronger I got. That’s the kind of people I ﬁnd in this sport. Big, big hearts." The best way to travel alone.
José Maria da Silveira (62) spent the most time on trail. Of anyone. Stage 3 was Rossland's Seven Summits Trail. It became Dr da Silveira's 7:26;13.0 mission. Evan Guthrie won that stage in 2:04:50.1. While Guthrie and the frontrunners were enjoying their time, Dr Silveira was grinding it out on “the best trail of my life.” But his EPIC FSR expert 29 was not really up to the challenge. "I suffered a lot." Including a broken seat post. "It's not a bike for those downhills."
Since he started racing, ﬁve years into his mountain bike career, da Silveira takes part in a dozen events a year -- La Ruta de losa Conquistadores, the TransAndes, the Brasil Ride Warm Up. He's not there to compete, but to enjoy the challenge and discover new trails.
He was inspired to sign up for Singletrack 6 after seeing a video posted by fellow Brazilians, racers Adriana Boccia and Luli Cox, who coordinate outﬁts, prepare dance routines for the end of each stage and instagram all their adventures around the world. He was carried by the vibe and left with a lasting impression. “People in Canada are so full of energy and fun.”
da Silveira wouldn't have made it to the start line were it not for the "flower people's" inspirational video from their appearance in 2016. And he wouldn't have made it to the finish line, were it not for the great medic support team.
No matter how inclusive organizers make it – and in 2018, they’re adding the option of picking any 3 days to give more ﬂexibility to participants – Singletrack 6 is still a core race.
Ask any one of the front-runners battling to take a stage, the overall race, or one of the downhill focussed timed descents within each stage.
But at the back of the pack rides the reminder that this is not just a sufferfest. It’s a celebration of singletrack. A global community. An adventure. A chance to stretch yourself.
It’s whatever you need it to be.
When you wrap up your ride in under three hours, there's plenty of downtime for exploring the local food scene.
Last minute tire repair and race prep
Mt Buchanan Fire lookout - looking over Kaslo