The start line of any race is always alive with energy. But when you bring 450 singletrack hungry mountain bikers to a singletrack crazy town, line up the start chute down the centre of the main drag, mix in a heavy percentage of cheering locals, and remind riders that this is the first of seven straight days of singletrack heaven, well, it’s electric!
Enter BC Bike Race Stage One. On Sunday morning you could have powered the entire village of Cumberland with the energy racers exuded as host Drew Bragg counted down the launch of BCBR 2011. More than 50km of incredible riding lay ahead for the Epic riders, while the Challengers experienced 30km of the same.
The big question of the day was how would European riders Thomas Dietsch (BULL) and Marzio Deho (Olympia) fare on these trails against the defending champion Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bikes). At Saturday’s press conference, Dietsch pointed out that the European races only see about seven per cent singletrack to BCBR’s 70 per cent. And the technical levels are incomparable, so it was going to be an interesting week.
Stage one didn’t disappoint. Dietsch tailed Sheppard through the initial singletrack and attacked on the long fire road ascent. Sheppard regained the lead back in the singletrack with Dietsch – rocking a hardtail this week – lose behind. Close, but not close enough to steal the yellow jersey from Sheppard for Stage One.
Shep, who is very familiar with this terrain, held a two-plus minute lead over Dietsch going into Stage Two. The next four category finishers, Neal Kindree (Republic Bike Shop / SRAM), Cory Wallace (Kona), Jason Sager (Jamis) and Marzio Deho all crossed the line within three minutes of each other. Gravity master Brian Lopes (Oakley/Ibis/ENVE/Kenda) sits in 14th.
Racers in both Epic or Challenge categories crossed the finish line with huge grins and exuding a serious sense of accomplishment. It’s not surprising as the Cumberland trails are hand-built beauties that are guaranteed to delight every rider. Course director Jeremy Grasby knows almost every inch of the trail network and continues to craft a Cumberland stage thrill-ride every year.
The riders were in Campbell River for Stage Two on Monday. The race continues through Powell River, Earl’s Cove, Langdale and Squamish before finishing up at Whistler.
For updates, visit www.bcbikerace.com.
– BC Bike Race