Well folks, this race update is a bit late as you can tell, but I definitely have been thinking about it, and send my apologies for the delay (especially since I wrote up the latter stages already!). Day 4 was a bit of a ‘transition stage’ in terms of the BCBR. We had to get up super-early in Cumberland in order to make our way to the starting line back on the mainland. That’s one of the main reasons this post is so late. We ended up getting out of our tents before 4:30am in fact. As most of you know, I’m not that much of a morning person, so I wasn’t in any shape to write up a post at the end of the long day ahead of us. However, now that I’ve had time to soak it all in and recover a bit, I can tell you my tale. For starters, you may want to check out the pictures from the day, as well as the custom Google map that I put together. Once you’re done that, click on back here and read the rest of the story.
Timing was going to be so tight that we were piled into buses pretty much straight after we got out of bed. We just had time to pack our bags and get them loaded on the trucks. We also packed our little red day bags with our biking clothes to change on the ferry. Before even getting to the start line we were going to take a bus to get one ferry, eat and change on that boat, then get loaded on buses on the other side and driven to yet another ferry before finally getting off the boat at Langdale where our start line awaited. From there, a nice long day in the saddle before finishing off the day in Sechelt. Hello Sunshine Coast! The scenery while getting to the start line was going to be as good as anything we’d be seeing along the race route, but since it was so early, I just didn’t have the energy to enjoy it very much.
The first ferry ride was also our host breakfast location. It was quite a sight to have 300+ athletes lined up to get our BC Ferry Sunshine breakfast. Kudos to the crew for having things well organized for us. Everyone had plenty to eat, and even be able to take a little extra with us for the bus / 2nd ferry. I tried to take a couple cat-naps under one of the benches on the ferry, but even that wasn’t really working. I resigned myself to be very tired at the end of the day, even though, as the calendar would indicate, it was July 1st. Normally, Canada Day is a big day off and a day of celebration in Ottawa, but this year, there wouldn’t be much pomp and circumstance. Just a long day of traveling and racing 🙂
Another neat part about our first ferry ride was the fact that they set an entire passenger deck aside to act as a changing area. Half of it for the females, half of it for the men. We were on the viewing deck level, so they actually papered over all the windows on that deck as well. They even managed to move most of the seats / benches, so it was pretty wide open. So here in this deck, all the guys were crammed in, changing into their spandex outfits and buttering up with the chamois butter (yes, I was using lots of that to keep my butt in shape). We had to get changed on this leg of the trip because the second ferry would be too small to accommodate us all changing, and once we de-boarded, we’d be going right on out bikes to the start.
I should also mention at this point that I was not sure where my bike actually was. The day before I dropped my bike off with the techs for a race tune-up, and they told me that they’d take care of washing it and getting it to the start line. I could only hope that was the case. So you can imagine that when I got off that second ferry, I was anxious to be re-united with my steed. Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found in the racks. Uh-oh. I headed to the bike tech area, and saw it on a repair stand. Luckily, they were working on it right away, so it would be ready before the 30 minutes were up to race start. All in all, pretty impressive, given that those guys would be working on probably 80-100 bikes each night, and also have to re-locate their mobile workshop each day/night. Basically, these guys would work all night on bikes to have them ready to go first thing in the morning. No small feat for a full week. Without these guys though, a lot of riders wouldn’t be able to finish the race.
The day’s stage was slated for about a 60km ride to Sechelt, starting right from the ferry terminal, and shortly after that hearing into the local trails. When the starting gun went off, the race almost immediately started heading uphill, to the riders started to spread out fairly early, which is a good thing before we plunge into the technical trails in the woods. I was feeling pretty good, so we decided to try and push things a bit and see if we could move up in the general rankings.
As far as the trails go, there was a pretty good mix of stuff, single track, double track, powerline trails, and some nice custom work as well. Our equipment was working pretty good for us in general. We did have to stop at one point so that Carl could fix his chain (it had a bend in it causing really bad shifting). We hadn’t realized the problem was repairable, so unfortunately, Carl suffered for quite a while with the bad shifting, which undoubtedly caused us to lose a bit of time. However, after the first aid station and the bike fix, we came out fighting. There were a couple fairly exposed climbs, one of which was pretty much impossible to ride, so we had to slog up a tricky path in our shoes while pouring sweat. As a result, we stuck diligently to our hydration plan, which of course also means we have to stop a little extra for pee breaks, but the alternative (a visit to the medic) was well worth the small delays. After all, there were still 3 full days of racing coming up.
Overall, the trails were a lot of fun, but not quite as nice as the day before. I think for me, my favourite overall stage would go down in the books as Stage 3, the trails around Cumberland. At one point in Stage 4’s trails, we came across a spot where there was very low branch. It was flagged in pink tape, and luckily I’m pretty short, so I got under it easily. However, in my mind, I was thinking that it would be pretty dicey for a tall rider who might not be paying too much attention. Sure enough, when we got to the finish line, we came across a friend of ours, JR who looked to be in pretty rough shape. Turns out he took that branch full in the face! His teammate, Nathalie, called out ‘tricky’ as they were going to that area, which is the way to alert people about obstacles. Unfortunately, rather than looking up, he looked down for the obstacle. The resulting impact was not very pretty.
JR’s face was quite badly beat up. His lips were nicely split and swollen, as well as half of his face and around his eyes. By later in the evening, there was some quite obvious swelling. Unfortunately, things were so bad the next morning that he couldn’t start. His eyes were too swollen so that he couldn’t even get his contacts in. Ouch.
The end of our day found us in Sechelt. We had a great meal in the nearby arena, washed and tuned our rides, attended the awards for the day, and then basically crashed pretty early. We also learned that an extra 5k or so had been added to this stage at the last minute due to land use issues. There were a few unhappy riders, as they are so tuned to the distance of a race that they had mapped out their food and liquid needs, but ended up running short. In an attempt to make up for that, the organizers promised to chop a little distance off the next day. On the final run-in, I had also witnessed a very impressive view down along a valley and water. I had hoped to make my way back there to snap some shots around sunset. Unfortunately, to get there would have meant a hike of several kilometers. I had already checked my bike in, so I had to resign myself to a long walk if I wanted to get the view.
The problem is that I didn’t walk the right way. I ended up going for a long walk DOWNHILL to get to the waters’ edge. Of course, that meant a long walk back up the hill to get back to the tent. D’oh! Not that much fun after a long day. Oh well, at least it was nice to steal a few minutes to myself in the week. I didn’t get exactly the view I had hoped for, but it was nice nonetheless. When I got back to base camp, I had been hoping to score a beer to celebrate Canada Day, but in the end, that never materialized, and I decided getting some sleep might be a better idea. Luckily, we were starting the next stage at the same spot, so we didn’t need to scramble to get on buses or anything. It was a nice reprieve. Well, that should wrap it up for my Stage 4 report. Stay tuned for my last and final report, which will be the Stage 5 report.