Holy Cow! I can’t believe that I’m writing this post. Day 7 means that the race is over, and that Carl and I have successfully completed every single stage, and become official finishers of the 2009 BC Bike Race! Woo hoo! Party time indeed, and time to finally vacation for a few hours. As I write this, I’m actually flying back from Vancouver, and am not even sure just where to start to try and summarize the totality of the event that culminated in the final day. So, to keep it simple, I’ll just do what I always do, I’ll kick things off by inviting you to peruse the pictures that I took from the final day, as well as the customary Google map that I threw together showing where we rode for the final day. After another tough day of climbing and fighting our way through the Squamish trails, our final days took us up to the sub-alpine regions of Whistler, on some of their sweet singletrack trails. Read on for the full story.
Oops,this paragraph finds me over a week after returning to Ottawa. My apologies. After returning, it’s been a really busy week, with work, Bluesfest, another upcoming race, so on and so on. Not to mention trying to get through some PVR Tour de France coverage! I’ve just really not had the energy to get back to my blogging and wrap up my big effort for BCBR. However, I’m determined to at least get this post out of the way, and hopefully my summaries for stages 4 and 5. Anyway, rewind to the start of Day 7 in BC. Morning came early, and I shook myself out of my sleeping bag in Squamish around 6am. I knew that this was the last day of racing, and that at the end of it, I’d be sporting the coveted finishers’ belt buckle, as well as laying my head down on a real bed in a suite that Carl and I had booked at the First Tracks lodge in Whistler Creekside, right at the finish line of the race! As with the rest of the week, the sun was shining brightly, and the sky was cloudless. We really couldn’t have dreamt more perfect weather for the entire race week. Thank you weather Gods!
First off was the final race breakfast, this time in the community center once again. Granola with yogurt was my main fuel for the day, and was pretty tasty. After breakfast, a final pack-up of the tent that we’d lived in for 2 nights, then off to the buses for transport to Whistler. We’d be climbing up to the higher altitude of Whistler for the final day. Not so high that altitude would be a factor, but high enough that it might be a little cooler for us. After all, the exposed long climbs have been getting kind of tough. The other thing we had to keep in mind for this final stage was that it would only be about 30km. They decided to give us a fast, technically tough final stage. There would be a couple of tough technical descents, but at least you knew that in a few hours, you’d be done the entire day, as well as the entire race.
Of course, this knowledge meant a few things for Carl and I. The first and foremost thing we realized is that we’d have to keep the pressure on in order to keep our current position. The day before, we finally passed our nearest competitors, getting a couple minutes in the bank. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for us to be able to play tourist. In some ways, I’d hoped the standings would be suspended in stage 6 so that we could sort of take it easy. I would have loved to stop and take pictures of the trails to show you all the kind of terrain we spend our days riding, but with only 2 minutes between us, we had to put the pedal to the cranks in a big way. The jockeying for position started right in the starting corral, when we saw our nemesii (I dunno, plural of nemesis?) lined up pretty much even with us. We hadn’t really talked much, but we were pretty sure that they were well aware of who we were, and what our relative positions were.
Without focusing too much on them, we had to get things underway the way we always do; at our pace. Using our strategies and playing to our strengths. As usual, the start had us at the back of the pack due to our cumulative time, which meant we’d have to pull ourselves through the pack to keep the momentum going. Also as is typical, the first kilometer or so were just a touring pace, passing through the village of Whistler creekside. However, before we knew it, it was game time, and hill time. Very early on the stage we hit our first killer climb. This one? Basically straight up the damn ski hill. Ok, it was actually a sweeping climb, but it was still a brutish push in the hot sun on an exposed mountain face. The sweat was pouring off me in no time. So as usual, Carl and I also focused on our hydration strategy. We’ve stuck to that plan all week, and I think it was paying off, as our times were improving in comparison to other teams throughout the week.
In case you’re wondering, we had absolutely no idea where the Bonsai Brothers were at this point (our name for them) in time. After the hard climbing, we were rewarded by the toughest descent of the day, which I believe was called See Colours and Puke. It had a particularly nasty section where the motocross riders wouldn’t even dare descend. It was at this point where Carl suffered a little crash that he had to dust himself off from. However, given the adrenaline and desire to finish strong he got back on pretty quick and we rolled on. We were looking forward to an aid station in what we though would be about a kilometer, but it ended up being a few km before we got to it. Kinda frustrating when you’re hungry and totally out of fluids. After checking in there, we were having a snack and filling up when who should I spot, but our competitors! I told Carl we should probably get going, as he hadn’t noticed them yet.
It was too late though, as we all eyed each other before gritting our teeth and pressing on. Unfortunately, we were on another tough slog of a climb, and I could see they didn’t want to let us get past them at all. My sole focus was to stay on their wheels all the way up, then try to take them on the descent, and finally put things in the bank on the final long climb. A few times on this climb they seemed to be getting a little away from us. However, finally, on the way back into some trails, it looked like we’d pass them, as they had to pull off for a second. My moment of excitement was quickly put out when my chain came off while shifting! Luckily, I was able to put it back on quickly, but now, Carl and I were sandwiched between the Bonsai Boys. Carl in front, then one of them, then me, then his partner. It was a pretty crazy situation.
We kept pushing hard, and I dare say riding pretty awesomely on the technical terrain. Finally, they broke on some gnarly stuff, and I told them I was going around.From that point on, we just kept driving hard. We eventually hit the next technical descent, known as ‘Tunnel Vision’. We had to truly focus on this one, so the Bonsai Boys slipped our minds for a bit. Then came the final climb. Another fairly long slog to the top before our final descent. We’d ridden a really smooth cross-counrty trail to get to that point, and we hoped we’d put a big margin in the bank once again. However, once comfortably working on the climb, I looked back to see the Boys on the climb as well. Damn! Back to work. I felt really strong, so I actually offered to pull Carl for a bit to get us further up the hill. I was very surprised at the strength I had, and we were actually passing teams while I was pulling Carl for a bit. That time was key for us. We made some new friends on the climb, and spirits were high.
We hit the final bend and then into the technical downhill. From here, it was basically a straight shot to the finish. Yes, it was technical, but after a week of really challenging trails, this one didn’t look like it would pose too many problems. Just had to focus and ‘git er done’. We pulled off some great moves, and soon enough popped out beside the creek and could see the tell-tale gondola station at the base of the mountain where we’d be crossing the finish. We finished the stage and the race with arms held high and giant smiles on our faces Before I even had time to wipe the sweat from my brow, I could see the Bonsai Brothers coming around the corner to the finish. We went straight to them to congratulate them and chat about the push. They confirmed my suspicion that they were definitely pushing their hardest to try and pass us in the standings. Mutual compliments all around about the days’ ride, and it was time to party!
To finish off the race, we checked into our awesome suite and cleaned up. I also packed all my gear for the return flight so that I wouldn’t have to get up early to do it. We then headed back to the finish area to enjoy some beers and the atmosphere of the finish line of the 7-day race. It was a pretty emotional time for us I think, thinking back on the amazing week of racing we’d just gone through. We’d made some good friends over the trials, and this was finally the time we could really just relax and chat with everyone. Good times. After being sufficiently ‘relaxed’ we decided to head to a nearby lake for a dip to cool off. More fun ensued :-). From there, a bunch of us opted to head to the Players Chophouse for our final meal. The food was good, but probably slightly overpriced for what we had. After that, back to Dusty’s bar at the finish line to enjoy a final few drinks with racers, volunteers, and some of the race crew. It was my chance to have some good talks with the race organizers as well, and to give them props for a tough job well done.
Whew! After all that, I was well and truly ready to lay my head down one final night in BC in a big king sized bed. I’m not sure what time I finally went to sleep, but I was just happy to know I didn’t need to get up till about 8am. Next morning, I woke Carl up and convinced him we should help ourselves to one of the hot tubs outside. They weren’t officially open, but we pulled the blanket off one, and got in for a soak in the early morning sun. It was, in a word, glorious. Probably the nicest feeling of the whole week. Once dried off, I had to grab breakfast quickly, and get myself to my shuttle bus for the ride to the airport. Once again, I shared the bus with some other racers, and we enjoyed the drive back with a colourful driver providing commentary the whole way. Like, for example, did you know that Happy Gilmore was filmed almost entirely in BC? Yup, in a place called Furry Lake. Cool eh?
Flight back was very uneventful, and I was happy to hit the hay once again at home, since the first week back was promising to be tough. Well, that’s it for the Stage 7 wrap-up. Stay tuned, and I promise to fill you all in on the missing stages in the next little while 🙂 Till then, keep the cranks turning!