Singletrack 6's Portraits from the Back of the Pack

Nov 29, 2017
by Robin O'Neill  


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.

Camp set-up, Rossland.

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?

Answer enough?

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.

Evgeniya Sidorenko and Anton Ilin finishing back of the pack. First finisher on this final stage was 2:02:55

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?

Q: What motivated you to finish the days your rode? A: "Our irresistible desire of pleasurable riding did us uncrushable."

Q: "What motivated you to sign up for this race?" A: "Jane."

Easier than the day job. 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."

Dan Lewark

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."

Jose Maria da Silveira, an agronomist, biotechnology expert and professor of economics at Sao Paola's prestigious University of Campinos, took up mountain biking 10 years ago.

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.

A moment of self-inquiry for Robin O'Neill. "It's about riding new trails, community and exploring BC's wilderness with friends and Chris."

Rossland, BC.

When you wrap up your ride in under three hours, there's plenty of downtime for exploring the local food scene.

Post race, nobody counts calories. Food Truck, Nelson

Last minute tire repair and race prep

Race recovery tactics. Chris Clark leaps into Kootenay Lake

Will race for homemade huckleberry pie and ice cream. Teresa's Coffee shop.

Mt Buchanan Fire lookout - looking over Kaslo

Exploring what BC has to offer on our way home, New Denver




29 Comments

  • + 47
 “walking around, eating, reading, and having sex.” lol sounds good to me
  • + 21
 So much inspiration right there. I need to ride more.
  • + 15
 Great human stories. I'm glad so many people had a meaningful experience. Unfortunately the trails did not share in this meaningful experience. I'm all for sharing the love, however, that was a massive number of people at a terrible time of year (moisture wise). Add to this that many of the riders were not used to our trails and as such were not able to ride them in a way that was conducive to their long term health (every technical section was blown to all hell). I know everyone went through the proper channels in organizing, estimates of cost/benefit were made, mother nature did not cooperate with one of the driest summers on record, many local businesses benefited greatly... but some of our trails won't look the same after that. All trails deteriorate and constantly shift but as a local I'd be okay not seeing a race like this again. If it does happen again at least do so in a way that considers the impact beyond the massive entrance fee collected from those able to swoop in and out for a good time and leave our trails, a bedrock of our community, families and recreation base, forever changed (dramatically more than what a typical recreation experience and use pattern would).
  • + 1
 Well said thank you
  • + 1
 Also, the Gulch Convenience Store is in Trail...not Rossland.
  • + 0
 Yes, I agree. especially the newer section Red Head should have been skipped, it was dangerous and likely destroyed the trail with the excessive traffic in those dry conditions. I know a lot of guys (&gals) do this race because of the steep and technical descents compared to many other stage races but come on guys... The race organizers for this one depend on the locals to create the courses, and I think they should have rethought the original plan.
  • + 11
 Love this, @robinoneill
Thanks for sharing deeper stories of people that have a different motivation to participate in the event. I've never done a multi-day race, mostly because I loathe racing. But, I do love experiences and I think something like this would be a really incredible experience when the focus is less about race and more about enjoying the present moment and making the even whatever it needs to be for you.
  • + 4
 @lacykemp this was how the BCBR was for me. Back of the pack fun time! Thanks for highlighting the fun aspects of stage "racing" @robinoneill.
  • + 9
 Good post. Definitely worth the click and scroll.

PB needs more of this, less $600 jackets and $10k bikes. . . Well, maybe not, the comments in those stories are gold.
  • + 4
 Awesome article. I always love to hear more about how "real" people get these big events done. More about the folks running GX or 5 or 10 year old bikes, and less about the sponsored and supported people riding the latest and greatest.
  • + 4
 Really great story. While there is lots of inspiration to see how the best riders fare in the world of mountain biking, it's also really good to see how us normal humans that just love bikes fare on an epic ride like the Single Track 6. There really is something for everyone. BC is such a great place to ride bikes and I sometimes forget how fortunate I am to be born and raised here. This story is a good reminder.
  • + 3
 I rode the TR a few years back and was in the bottom 25% most days. You basically choose to race it or iride it , for me I after day one it was the later. It was my first multi day epic race and I'll never forget the experience and every time I think about it I smile. One day I'll make back there again.
  • + 3
 Sooooo stoked to do the ST6 in 2018! I will hit my 50th birthday on Stage 3. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate that milestone birthday than ripping some sweet singletrack with the kind of awesome folks profiled here! Great article. Thanks for acknowledging the different perspectives and motivations!
  • + 7
 I wish I got to ride “only” 2 days a week!
  • + 6
 BC sucks. Don't move here. I mean there.
  • + 5
 Dude, The Gulch General Store is in Trail, not Rossland
  • + 5
 I'll take that last pic
  • + 1
 “these riders tap a different source of energy to complete the 956km course”

Wait....6 days....top riders complete each day in a little over 2 hours?
They’ll need to average about 70km/h to pull that off!
  • + 2
 I had to signup for this site just to post a comment. I found this article fantastic. Thank you so much @Robin.
  • + 2
 Fun article that captures the spirit of many of these new mulit day events.
  • + 2
 Damn I wish I was back there with that crew this year!
  • + 2
 cool feature. great work.
  • + 1
 Wish I could participate, but so far from Spain
  • + 0
 Only 6 hours away from me, but dat price tho!
  • + 1
 Just come down and ride! There are multiple shops in the area with group rides (including shuttles), Nelson Fat Tire Fest, great guidebooks and maps, and lots of friendly locals. Plus ST6 puts all their routes online so you can just go do the stages anyway - but skip the unnecessary road sections (seriously, riding Vallelujah from Taghum is just masochistic).
  • + 5
 Everyone always complains about price. Do you not realize this is mountain biking.
  • + 3
 Compare it to a 6-day sagged bike tour through some company like Backroads, and it looks like a downright bargain though. Still something I'd have to save for, and would probably only do once. Heck, lots of people spend more than that per person on a DisneyLand vacation, and I'd much rather do this!

(I've almost convinced myself, for next year...)
  • + 3
 @TucsonDon: Do it! I’ll buy the first round after each stage. See, you’d be saving money!

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