Saturday, July 05, 2008

BC Bike Race Stage 2 - A Boy among Giants

Stage two would be our longest day of the BC Bike race. 128km of mostly fire roads that lead us from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni. The course would suit my riding style much better than the rooted technical sections that would be forthcoming in the stages ahead. I would be able to tap out a nice cadence in a group pack and settle in for a long day in the saddle.

A quick prayer to the leg gods before stage two, "please, please provide me with some legs to power me over the next 128k"


Jay and Robbin throwing bike signs...must be a Naniamo thing.

Start of stage two

The stage started with a controlled 10km road start. The pack riding was definitely unsettling for some mountain bikers, but I felt comfortable in the large fat tire peloton. Once off the asphalt we hit the fireroad which would be our companion for the next 100km. We settled into a small group of 20 riders that worked well together and we eventually gapped up to the lead group of 50 riders that contained all the heads of state. It was at this point I realized the magnitude of the riders in this race.

Barry Wicks - Kona Factory rider, XC, Cross and STXC winner.
Chris Eatough - 7-time 24 hour world champion
Seamus McGrath - 2008 Canadian XC MTB Bejing Olympics Team
Tinker Juarez - 24 hour world champion
Jeff Shalk - Trek factory rider and 2007 BC Bike Race champion.
Manny Prado
Andreas Hestler
Max Plaxton
Nat Ross
Kellie Emmett
Wendy Simms - Kona factory rider, Trans-rockies winner, Canadian National cyclocross champion.
Katie Compton - USA Cyclocross champion, 2007 silver medal world cyclocross championships.

The huge peloton would continue to roll through the undulating fireroads for the next 40km. The riding was fairly uneventful except for two moments of sheer panic and excitement. Incident one would occur with a gradual descent followed by a right turn leading over a bridge. The corner was a bit loose causing some handling problems. In addition, the bridge was narrower than the road which causes a squeezing of the group. Similar to stage one two riders went down hard within a few feet of me. Again, bike parts, lycra, legs and arms went flying by my head. Both riders would be OK and they would eventually catch back up to the group.

The second incident was one of the most spectacular events I have ever witnessed and it defied physics (and common sense). An old white school bus approached the peloton from the right side of a "y" in the road. As we approached from the left side, the driver was hoping to jump in front of the bikers. He gunned the gas, but probably didn't realize the speed we were going. At the last moment, realizing he was not going to beat us to the "Y" he slammed on the brakes bringing the bus to a sliding stop. Unfazed, the driver hammered the gas again and slid in behind the peloton, honking and trying to get around the group on the left side. After several attempts and obvious frustration the driver "dropped the hammer" threw the left side tires into the ditch and "rallied" the 28' bus around the bikers. The bus was half on the road, half on the ditch, tearing off branches of trees and pitching the vehicle sideways going no less than 50mph. Once clear of the bikers he lurched the bus back onto the fireroad, fishtailing and leaving the group of riders in a sense of awe and lucky to be alive. You have to love the Canadian backcountry life on the island.

The first aid station would break up the lead peloton as we were forced to walk our bikes through a check-in station. The lead riders were able to get through the bottleneck quicker and back on their bikes. We hurried as quickly as possible, but the separation was done and the remaining 70k would be long, lonely and hot. For the next three hours Andy would do 99% of the work while I would do my best to latch on to his slipstream and not completely unravel. I managed to limit the damage until the final 5-7k. It was brutally hot, I was toast and went into survival mode. We finally arrived in Port Alberni and compared to yesterday's episodes of blowing chunks we managed to make up lost time.

Stage 2 - 128km 5:03:53 - 25th place

Photo links:
Heading out on a 128km day
Heat taking it toll!
Gary and Todd from Helly Hansen

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