Sunday, July 6, 2008

BC Bike Race recap

BC Bike race. photo by John Gibson

Day Zero - Shawnigan Lake school
Logistics. A seven day point to point race has a LOT of logistics and day zero is the time to sort it all out. Norm and I drove down to Shawnigan Lake with my sisters friends Mark Duk and Brad Marlborough (Pain for Pleasure) from Calgary. Brad mentioned he had packed running shoes so that he could go for a jog every morning. Norm and I snickered and bet how many days that would last. I bet zero days. Norm bet one day. Later in the week a weary looking Brad got a little embarassed when we asked how his running program was going. Zero - I win. We met up with the Kona crew Dave McNaught (mechanic and driver), John Gibson (aka "the Gibtron" our photographer) and our fellow Kona team of Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon. It was going to be a fun week. We picked up our big bag of schwag and listened to the pre race logistics in the dining hall of Shawnigan Lake school. Nobody rides alone. Watch out for cougars in Whistler. Carry your rainjacket even if its 30C. Got it.

Stage 1 Shawnigan Lake to Lake Cowichan - approx 90km
There was no staging for Day 1, first come first serve. Norm is always aware of these important details so we hovered around the sign-on area until they opened it up. We were fast enough to get a second row spot mixed in with all the big wig boys. Rubbing shoulders with Tinker. I was a little worried because I had done a run workout on Thursday and my hamstrings still hurt to the touch. I wasn't feeling so spry. Stupid lunges. But we needed to start fast and get into the singletrack before the other 400 racers bunged it up. Unfortunately everyone else had the same game plan. The start of the race was supposed to be nice and easy - two short loops around Shawnigan Lake school before hitting the trails. A chance for the photographers to get some cool shots from the helicopter. But it was absolute mayhem. Everyone had pent up excitement from months of training for this event and there was chaos from the gun. Crashes, swearing, bumping. That would have been fine but unfortunately the school groundskeeper had decided to cut the long grass in the field we looped through so 5 minutes into the race 400 people were frantically removing grass out of their cogs or worse - trying to repair broken derailleurs. We finally pulled out of the chaos and settled into a long hot stage. My legs felt like crap so we had to go pretty steady to start but it turned out OK as people were cracking all over the placein the heat. We haven't seen much of the sun this year so it was carnage. I know a lot of tough racers that cracked that day. Our slower start may have saved us as we finished strong on the rail trail into Cowichan. 4:51 for stage 1 and into the red leaders jerseys with a solid gap. Top 10 overall. An A&W recovery burger and a dip in chilly Lake Cowichan made us feel much better before heading off to our homestay with Larissa.

Stage 2 Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni ~125km
There was a bit of grumbling about this stage because of the lack of singletrack but I realized that people will grumble about everything. Its too easy, its too hard. It has no singletrack, it has too much singletrack. At 30C the heat was going to be a major factor for this long stage. We wanted to be with a big group for as long as possible. The only problem with that plan was there was some pretty jiggy riders in the pack. I was riding my Kona Kula 2-9 Deluxe which was perfect for this kind of stage. Unfortunately I was goofing around with the Optimus Prime mask we had borrowed from Larissa's son Kierce so I did not notice that my fork was blown so the ride was a little rougher than it should have been. Not my most professional race day prep. In my defense, the mask had a built in voice mutator! We had a great ride and stayed with a big group without mishap for most of the day until about km 85 when the first of very few hills blew the pack apart thanks to Wicks. We pace lined it into Port Alberni on the hot dusty Bamfield road for another stage win. 4:42. We exited the venue immediately as a sweet homestay with Tom on Sprott Lake was waiting for us.

We hit the awards after a yummy BBQ and found inspiration from the "President" of Port Alberni. A jolly drunk cracker with a bad sunburn, straw hat and big belly who was married to Miss Port Alberni 1963 ( oh you can only imagine!). After he invited us down to the local pub for some "brewskies" (he was going to be there all night) we took off in the Kona truck in a blaze of roman candles. The Harbour Air truck followed us out and we thought we would get in trouble but they just smiled and passed us two cold beers through the window. Back to Tom's for a chocolate fountain desert and we all went to bed pretty happy.

Stage 3 Port Alberni to Cumberland ~80km
The buzz about camp was that today was the first day of "real" BC singletrack. The president of Port Alberni lit the canon to start our race and we made our way towards Cumberland where some sweet trails awaited us. With a good buffer on our lead we didn't have to worry as much about racing so we got to enjoy the ride. Unfortunately Norm was starting to get sick with "the funk". Sore throat, green phlegm, thick head. Its pretty hard to go through these stage races unscathed. It was only day 3 and you could already see that consecutive hard efforts were taking their toll on teams. Catastrophic mechanicals. Sickness. Heatstroke. Cranky pants. Tears. Fisticuffs. And it would only get worse. We rolled into Cumberland in 4:11 with big grins and went straight to Dave and Erin's cold basement. The heat was starting to catch up with us too.

Stage 4 Cumberland to Sechelt~60km
Hump day. Although today was a bit shorter in distance it was a loooong day because we had to wake up super early and catch a ferry from Comox to the Sunshine Coast, drive down the coast and hop on another ferry into Earl's Cove. Jump off the ferry and start racing with dead weight legs 30 minutes later. At 7am I had told Norm that I felt like I had rockstar legs but by the time the race started at 11am I felt like crap. My window was gone. I was also feeling a bit queasy after my "sunshine breakfast" (it will blow your mind) but we eased into the race pretty well. Norm had finally admitted he was sick and I was starting to feel the tickle in my throat so we backed off a bit. Just that little bit and Katie Compton and her husband Mark (Spike Shooter) came a chargin'. We battled it out with them for most of the race but managed to gain a few minutes in the lush Sunshine Coast singletrack to keep our winning streak alive. 3:41. Four for four. We were getting a good collection of jerseys. Up ahead teammates Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks had taken the stage win and moved into the overall lead so they would be in yellow the next day. Kris Sneddon was from the Sunshine Coast so it was a matter of pride. His parents lived 5 mins from the finish so we blew off some fireworks and headed to the Sneddon's for a BBQ.

The boys looking good in yellow with Demo Dave. photo by John Gibson

Stage 5 Sechelt to Squamish~65km
Another "short" stage with lots of travel. But this was a racer favourite from the year before so everyone was excited. The course ended with a 12km downhill into the Langdale ferry that heard many hoots and hollers. By now Norm's cold was full blown and Katie and Mark were finding their groove so we always had to keep looking back to keep tabs on our lead. At one point Norm said "Spike is right behind us" so I said "well, shouldn't we pick it up?" and he responded "I HAVE been picking it up! can't you tell??" 4:12. Dave shot off some more roman candles as we crossed the line but a few wayward sparks lit his rocker hair on fire! (FYI he may look rocker but he is all country). Onto the ferry and a drive up to Squamish and we were all fried. Everyone was tired and a bit cranky. Gibtron cranky. We got to Malaika's house and were pretty much socially retarded by the time she got home. Communicating through grunts and clicks. Five days of racing was making us stupid. But both Kona teams were wearing the leaders jerseys so we couldn't complian. There were teams that were out riding twice as long as us everyday, some with head injuries, stitches, eye patches and beat up bikes so we had to keep our mouth shut. Demo Dave and the Gibtron were keeping us glued together.

Kona in the leaders jerseys. photo by John Gibson

Stage 6 Squamish to Squamish ~65km
Kona had 4 guest riders for this stage (Mark, Dik, Pat and Eddy) so Kona jerseys of varying vintages were scattered all over the course. Pretty cool bike company if I do say so myself. The boys had been drinking into the night so they were a bit fuzzy on the start line. (I am pretty sure Matson was still drunk as he had a stupid grin on his face and a glazed look in his eyes). Apparently Matson blew chunks so violently at the top of 9mile climb that the rest had to turn away with goosebumps for fear of puking too. But we missed all the antics. Until he drank a beer at the finish and dry heaved under the trees. This was my absolute favourite stage. The Squamish crew had given us the best singletrack of the Gearjammer and the Test of Metal to pull together an absolutely amazing day. 3:53 of BC's best riding. Two more jerseys for the pile. Norm's new rule of new clothes in=old clothes out was going to devastate my closet.

The Kona crew. Pre-puke. phot by John Gibson.

Stage 7 All Whistler, all day ~47km

Everyone was pretty shattered going into this stage but the distance was "only" 47kms so we all planned for a shorter stage. I was pretty queasy at just the thought of gels and gatorade so I hoped I could keep my energy intake to a minimum. But this was by far the hardest day of the lot. They sent us STRAIGHT up Whistler mountain. Ouch. This was followed by 40kms of pure singletrack which, when your body is battered, is a tough feat. At one point Norm asked me if it felt like I was drunk because we felt so fuzzy and slow. I bounced off roots and rocks like a pinball. It was definitely not my smoothest day on a bike. At one point I hit the dirt so hard I was frazzled into submission because I had no clue how it had happened. 3:37 of absolute great singletrack that I could only grit my teeth through. The only thing that kept me going was the push to keep our top 10 overall position.

Finally done. photo by John Gibson.

The post race party was a great success as Sneddon sealed the deal and noone puked. But we all felt pretty dull and beat up the next day. Thanks to Demo Dave and the Gibtron for being the best support support crew ever. The bond of fireworks is a lifelong bond. Thanks to all of our homestays for keeping us well rested and well fed. Thanks to the BC Bike Race crew for pulling together such an incredible event. And thanks to Kona for letting us race in memory of our friend Denis Fontaine. He popped into our thoughts throughout the week.


Morgan said...

Wendy, great write-up and congrats on a clean sweep. I read your write-up for TransRockies 2007 and it got me pretty fired up. My friend Matthias are racing it in August. Any advice for a TR / mtn bike stage race newbie? I'm (Seriously.) Thanks and rest up for cross.

BTW Barry's our new neighbor, kinda. We're in Oakland and he's an hour away in Santa Cruz and we see him at some of the local cx races KILLING IT! It's fun.

WOO. said...

congrats on the win. what a fun time. great account of the week especially the president of Port Alberni. If you go to the Tall Ship Festival, have a few brewski's for me. ;)

Barry and Kona's Favorite Hitchhiker,

Steve Woo

Keith said...

Good job Wendy. I have been saying to Catharine that we should do that some time.

Tell Norm that I too am enforcing the same clothing rule with Catharine.

See you at Nationals.

Anonymous said...

Anybody seen my Safeway reading glasses? Gib T.

Kristenn said...

W & N, congrats again on the 'full pull!' It was inspiring to see you guys do so amazingly well! What a great week!

Trevor Wurtele said...

Loved the day by day report. That was good reading for sure!
All the best to you and Norm.

Wendy Simms said...


you can cut my sleeves off anytime


Wendy Simms said...

Norm is hoping some of your "old man knowledge" will rub off if he wears your big ass glasses..... W.

Wendy Simms said...

Kika has a few bigger fish to fry right now...maybe next year. W.

dynamicduo said...

Holly shit...I thought you were just avoiding our email..I guess you kids were pretty buzy this week.
Great job...keep on putting deposits in the suffer bank.
D n N

Anonymous said...

I found my reading glasses so everybody can stand down from the search. Thanks. G.Unit