The Euros call it Enduro. Over here it's called Super-D. Whatever you want to call it, it seems like everyone is putting a clock on the mountain. Seems to me like the world is going race crazy at times.
The idea as always was simple. Rally the crew and see who wanted to throw down a Super- D, Canadian style, in the BC Interior. None of this overblown, over-hyped, over sponsored mayhem. Just an old school drop in race to see who really was the King of the Mountain. But having one of these little 30 minute courses would be too pedestrian for such an occasion. I was thinking in more grandiose terms. See, there's a mountain in the neighborhood that happens to be covered in singletrack, and to get from the summit to the base encompasses almost 7000 vertical feet spread out over nearly 30 kms. This isn't just a Super-D. It's a Super Duper Double D.
The first hurdles cropped up just putting out the call to arms. Mid-summer is the time of carnage in the bike world. Brant was out weeks before after destroying his knee. Marcie wrecked at Silverstar the day before, taking the Kamloops contingent with her. Luckily there were a handful of locals in for the event that managed to stay healthy, and a few coastal types showed up to be fresh meat for the machine. Still, I was wondering who would be the first casualty on the day. Competition brings out the animal in all of us, and I could smell blood in the air today.
An early start is typical of the race scene, and here we are prepped and ready to sit in the van for an hour and a half.
An early start at the bottom of the course revealed a thin but strong field of 8 contenders for glory. But wait! We're not ready to race yet. Far from it, as the approach shuttle to the trailhead was a long, long drive up to the back of Little White on dirt roads. This gave us lots of time to go over the rules, and the course. We would be following an old telegraph road that used to connect the fire lookout on the summit with civilization. Part way down, we would traverse across the KVR (an abandoned railway turned tourist trap) and then drop into the maze of trails in Myra/Bellevue Park. Points would be awarded based on style, route selection, and overall manliness, while they would deducted for being a whiny bitch. The start line would be after the first climb, but before the actual summit. The winner would be declared after times and points were assessed, after which beverages would be consumed. Actually, consumption of tasty beverages was encouraged at several points along the course, with appropriate points involved.
Are we racing yet?
Luckily, the approach is hideously long, so we were able to fine tune this complex of rules and initiation rites with just enough time to spare before unloading at the trailhead. For now we had a gorgeous day ahead of us to attack the course. Perfect racing weather. Now all we had to do was to climb to the start line. Straight up, over 1500 feet.
Start line....this way.
When you're starting at 5500', a climb like that assumes a bit more significance. Jason was starting to question his choice of weapon today with the full DH bike. I was counting on the Slayer being the key to victory, so I had less trouble than some. I'd way rather carry 30 lbs than 40 on something like this..
Anyone need a hug?
Finally, at around 7000' and sharply at 11:23, it was time to go. Ready, set......oh wait. Have a beer. Geez, everything has to be a race with you guys.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnd we're racing!
The alpine traverse to start was magic. Lots of scenery and a great trail that sees little if any traffic was the order of the start. Shortly after beginning, we had our first casualty--me. Nothing serious, I just tried to impale my groin on a Christmas Tree. It was only a flesh wound, nothing serious. Can I get a re-start? Damn it, I just lost points AND time. Ah well, the day is long, and we're still a ways from the summit.
Hey, wait up, I just got a sliver!
On the map, from the ridge to the summit should have only taken a few minutes. A short traverse followed by a quick climb. Easy, right?
Must have been the snow holding us back.
Time out -- you gotta check out the views
In reality, it took us a good hour to gain the summit. Since we'd been racing so hard for so long, we decided to hang out and re-group before starting the descent. Besides, we needed to fine tune the route, as the road we were looking for was clearly not connected to our present location. Some radical route finding strategy was in order, and in the interests of fair play we allowed the peloton to regroup before attacking the descent.
Another time out for epic views.
The trail may have been faint, but it was a trail nonetheless. It was perhaps a bit hard to follow, but thankfully we all found the correct path. Too bad Mike decided to go OTB in the first 15 cm of the descent and blow his shoulder out. It's not the first time, luckily, and also he's a tough S.O.B., so we just kept going. Not like there was much choice. The closest road was 10 km away.
Points are awarded for creative line interpretation.
It wasn't that far to the old telegraph line, and at that point we could open things enough to hurt another one. This time it was Bartel who went down in cloud of sand. He was right behind me at the time. All I heard was "Yeeeehhh--UNH!.........*CRASH*
!" He only threw up a little bit, and if I've learned anything from watching hockey it's that concussions aren't all that serious, right?
Seriously man, you're just losing points AND time now.
At this stage, the trail was much like B-Line at Whistler, but instead of being covered by Albertans on rental bikes, it was covered in a thick layer of loamy goodness. Too bad that this didn't last, but what race course would be complete without a good old fashioned rock garden? Since this isn't just any descent, we got the super duper double dose of rock garden, with about 4 km of a 2 foot deep rut filled with round rocks. Have I gratuitously plugged my bike in a few paragraphs? Thank you, Slayer
. You really saved my bacon on this one.
Now over two hours in, we were approaching the half way point of the descent. Since we'd been racing really, really hard and had been involved in several episodes of being lost, crashes, and various other misadventures, we figured we should regroup the peloton again and get ready for the next stage. Besides, we had a couple of km on the flat to negotiate before we got back to singletrack.
Hey, this isn't even the right way.
Now, before you think we're just kidding about the racing part, let me be perfectly clear. In between stops for being lost, being hurt, being thirsty, enjoying the view, telling jokes, fixing bikes, and just taking rests, we were racing just as hard as any professional athlete. This is a very competitive group, and I resent you thinking that we might not be giving it our all. Besides, with singletrack as intense as what we were on, you'd just be endangering yourself if you didn't go all out.
Oops, gotta take another break for this view.
No lie, this is one hell of a descent. We'd now been going at it for close to three hours and it was still throwing non stop high speed intensity at us. As if the top sections weren't fast enough (later the GPS would tell us that we'd been regularly breaking 40 km/h up there), but now it was getting tighter and rockier.
This is the trail that never ends.
Of course, this also led to some more waiting for the pack to bunch up again, as there are so many trails criss-crossing in this area that it would be irresponsible not keep the fellow racers in sight. I mean, there's faster guys and slower guys, but what about the fun part? Isn't the REAL winner the guy who has the most fun? I think it was only fair to ensure that everyone should see the best route through this maze rather than turning them loose to fumble to the finish.
The responsible racer makes sure that the rider following gets to observe their genius line choices.
I'd have felt really bad if everyone missed out on the final descent after all we went through, so I made sure we were all together one last time before shredding the final sections. At this elevation, the Okanagan is all clay and hardpack, with naturally bermed turns and non-stop intensity. To not only ride through it, but to RACE it with the full weight of the trail behind was mind blowing.
You guys are such teddy bears when it comes to competition.
The whole day was leading up to this point, the penultimate sprint to the finish. True athletes...nay true WARRIORS
we all were as we hammered down the final kilometers to the finish. Turn led to turn led to climb led to jump in an unending rhythm that had ingrained itself deeply in our muscles over the previous hours. Tendons screamed, calves threatened to cramp, lungs prepared to fall off, and yet the pain was nothing compared to the thrill of seeing the finish and glory that awaited.
"So who won?" you ask. Oh come on....
It's not always a race.
Bartel won for best monobrow.
Except that it's ALWAYS
a race. Now go ride something rad with your buddies and come back here and tell me about it.