Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some final videos for you

On Day Four, racers were transferred from Cumberland to Earl's Cove. This involved two ferry crossings starting at five in the morning. We had crossed the night before to prevent hassle and sleep in, so we were there to see the racers being reunited with their bikes at the terminal.

Earl's Cove was a bit crowded that morning...

And finally, some actual riding. On Day Seven I had nothing in particular to do so I followed Mel, Christie and Eric on the course, popping up to surprise them at various points.

The majority of this clip is from A River Runs Through It, one of the most pleasant cross country trails in Whistler.

More videos to keep you entertained

Again, low on quality but definitely a look at how the race works.

Inflating the Bear's Den tent at the finish line. This tent provided shade for supporters and racers in a location where they could watch others crossing the finish line each day.

Terry cramps up. After Day One, Terry had some issues with leg cramps. I've never seen quadriceps like this before. We were trying to get some electrolytes (salt tablets) and water into him but Mel had a fit of the giggles at Terry's expense.

At Port Alberni, the racers were sent off with a two-cannon salute, courtesy of the local frontiersmen reenactment group. Cough Cough.

BC Bike Race in video

I didn't have time to edit this stuff while we were at the race, and I haven't really had time now so it's rough, but here's a little insight into the race experience.

Mel and Terry discuss race strategy on the way up.

Pre-riding at Shawnigan Lake. We were amazed that they let us use the school as a registration and starting point.

The day of the race - Mel knows that Chamois Butter is essential for a comfy day in the saddle.

Day one - the start.

More to post as they come off the production line.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Post Sleep Race Re-cap - The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The Ugly
That’s me! Bruised, scratched, bitten and baggy! I only remember one real fall, and that was on day 1 – a wipe out on a rock slab descent that resulted in one scabby knee I had to carry with me the rest of the week. The rest of the bruises and scratches I don’t really remember where I got them, but I look like a victim of domestic violence, only most of the damage is on my legs. I have so many mosquito bites on my ass it looks like small pox could be making a come back! At least the itching has taken my mind off my saddle sores. And as for the bags under my eyes, I don’t’ think I could fly right now without having to check them into the baggage hold.

The Bad
The worst part of this race for me was pulling out only 15Km from the end on day 2. Seeing a good friend and riding buddy succumb to the effects of heat and dehydration was devastating for both of us. This was the right decision to make, but oh so hard. So close we could smell the end, but any further and we could have been taking a helicopter out of there instead of a truck. Sometimes it takes as much (if not more) strength to quit as it does to continue on blindly ignoring reality. I will always respect Terry for this smart decision. I was so sorry have lost my team mates though.

The 2nd day was also the worst ever mountain bike race day I’ve ever had as far as terrain is concerned. 125Km of dirt road does not the ‘ultimate singletrack’ experience make! Only marginally better was day 1 and 3 with more singletrack, but plenty of it was unrideable because of it being either freshly cut or log-jammed with racers as it was too soon after the start for racers to thin out. I think the race should be re-named ‘The Ultimate Wait for Singletrack’, because we didn’t really get good singletrack until day 5. This is regrettable because I don’t think I’d go back to Victoria to ride given what we rode. I’m sure there are better trails there, but maybe they are trying to keep the good stuff to themselves?!

The Good
New team mates! I couldn’t have finished the race without being picked up by another person lacking a partner, or a team willing to become a team of 3. Eric and Christie took me on as an addition to their team and for that I will be forever grateful. As a team of 3 we still had to abide by the ‘not being more than 2 minutes apart’ rule so we had to learn how to ride together as a team. I think we managed this pretty successfully and I think I only swore at Eric a couple of times for ribbing me about being in my granny gear on a couple of climbs! He was only pissed off because he couldn’t climb so slowly through the throng of hike-a-bikers on some of the climbs. He had to resort to fancy trials skills, doing track stands and hopping around, not ‘real’ biking ;-) Christie was a real champion and however many racers overtook her on the climbs she pulled back that many and more on the descents. Now that’s real mountain bike racing!
I knew the racing through Squamish and Whistler would be good, I can now include most of the sunshine coast too. Some unbelievably good singletrack that I’ll be playing through in my dreams for a long time.

A stage race like BCBR isn’t just about getting on your bike and racing. It’s everything around the racing too. It’s being ready for the next day, having bike and body in good enough shape to do it again, and again and again. I can truly say that I could not have done this race without the support of Chris – the real unsung hero of the week, taking on every task to keep us going through the week. Champion bike mechanic (I never had one mechanical issue – the burped air from my front tire on day one was solely due to my bad lines on the trail), cook, and bottle washer, he was there doing it all. THANK YOU CHRIS. I don’t think Terry realized how hard this job was until he spent some time with Chris on the ‘other side’. Chris deserves his sleep of a ‘King’ today.

Stay posted for more pictures to be published and a video when my ‘King’ awakes later today.

Day 8 – Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Ah sleep, there’s nothing better than a good lie in after being chronically deprived of sleep for a week! I’m back in the land of the living again and can just about manage a blog posting of my own again! Nothing much to do besides pack/unpack and SLEEP whilst Chris drove us home. The only blip in this day was being ‘randomly selected’ by computer at the US border crossing for a more thorough passport inspection. We were initially really worried about being selected because we thought the car was going to be inspected too and with all the crap we had in the back of the car it would not have been a pretty site. I’d managed to wash most of my biking clothes before leaving, but there was still a few pairs of shorts that could have done battle with a customs official. Turns out we just had to wait in a very long line of similarly confused folks who had to have their passports checked for various reasons. I really wanted to sleep some more, but given that I had a sore throat and looked like shit, decided that it would not be prudent given the warning on Bird Flu posted around the office. I really didn’t want to spend time in quarantine on top of everything else!
On top of the sleep on the way home, I think I slept for a solid 12 hours last night.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Whistler has the best riding

Day seven took racers on a tour of some of the nicest cross country trails in Whistler - Riverside, River Runs Through It, Cut Yer Bars and Lost Lake. I think that for some riders it was a bit of a shock, because the Whistler trails are technical and twisty with rocks and drops. However, for people who enjoy real cross country mountain biking, this is about as good as it gets in a race.

Mel, Christie and Eric raced today. The ten o'clock start was great for Mel who was already up in Whistler, but Eric and Christie had to catch the race bus from Squamish so it was a regular wake-up time for them. Because we are staying in Whistler tonight as well, I was able to concentrate on following the race rather than packing up and moving to the next location. Also, because of the circular nature of the ride and the easy road access, I could drive between locations and surprise the team on the trail. It also meant that I could take some action photos for the first time rather than just start and finish line photos.

Mel has promised to post something soon summing up her experiences, so I'll leave her to describe the racing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Familiar trails make for great riding

After Christie's derailleur issues yesterday, she decided to sit out the day and save herself for the wonderful Whistler trails tomorrow. As a result, only Mel and Eric started this morning.

Food is getting harder to stomach as the days go on. Mel didn't go across for the catered evening meal last night, so I brought some food back. I wasn't sure what she's want to eat so I brought her a lot of everything. Eric said that it would be impossible for anyone to eat that much food. Mel proved him wrong. Mel also skipped the catered breakfast, choosing to have some of her regular cereal instead. Even that didn't go down too well.

It was only a short ride from the hotel to the start line, but I still didn't make it in time to see them off this morning as I'd only just finished fixing Christie's bike. I had intended to do it the night before, but the bikes were not unloaded from the semi trailers until after we'd left and gone to bed. However, I was there soon after the start and Terry, Christie and I rode up to watch the racers at a couple of points on the trail. Having the start and finish for the day in the same town makes it much easier for the support crew, so I actually got a ride in. After cheering our heroes on at three locations, we headed back to the finish and just snuck in before the reduced Team Bike Boo Boos. Eric dragged Mel around the course today. After rushing to catch the cut-off yesterday, Mel had very little energy left for the long climb up nine mile hill today. In the Test of Metal race, Mel climbs that section in around fifty minutes. Today the same section took her over an hour.

After that climb however there is a fast doubletrack descent followed by "The Plunge" - a short but extremely technical area with steep drops and some wooden bridges. Mel and Eric had no trouble riding through, but plenty of other riders were caught out by it. Many had never ridden anything even remotely like it before. It's definitely a trademark Squamish trail.

The racers stay in Squamish again tonight, and are bussed up to Whistler for a slightly later 10am start tomorrow morning. We reserved accommodation in Whistler this evening and were here before 5pm. Hopefully we'll get some good sleep tonight so that Mel can be well rested for the final day of fun tomorrow.

There are plenty of new photos on the Bike Boo Boos photo site, so take a look at how the week is progressing.

Day 5 = Great singletrack for some

I already mentioned derailleur hangers when I talked about Chris Eatough's issues on day one. Carrying a spare one is always a good idea. However, when a manufacturer makes two different hangers which are almost but not quite the same size, and when you trust the shop you buy it from to tell you it's the right one, it's a bit of a surprise when you are out on the trail and your shiny new derailleur hanger doesn't fit on the bike.

This was the situation that Christie found herself in on Day 5. After an hour of trying to make it work, and eventually converting the bike to a singlespeed, Christie decided she wasn't prepared to pedal the remaining distance with a bodged bike. She retired at Aid Station 1, and Eric and Mel rode hard to beat the Aid Station 2 cut-off time of 1pm. They made it with ten minutes to spare, and were rewarded with the smooth, flowing, bermed trails of the Rat Race course.

Christie meanwhile was transported to Aid Station 2 to wait for "extraction". After the Aid 2 cut-off time, riders are either redirected on a faster route to the finish or they are taken off the course in a truck. As Christie's bike was relatively unrideable at this point, she had a ride in the truck.

One reason for the early cut-off was that the finish line had to pack up and move from the Langdale ferry terminal and set up again at Squamish that evening. This included the two semi trailers full of bikes (45' long, two layers of bikes, filled from front to back), the start/finish tent, the medical tents and RV, the bike wash and mechanics, the announcer and timing people, and all the cyclists. Cyclists walked on to the ferry at Langdale and caught a bus from Horseshoe Bay up to Squamish.

Obviously because we had our car there was slightly less stress, except that Eric was out on the trail, Christie was at the finish line, and both of them needed to check in their bikes and get on to the ferry. Luckily, after pushing through Aid Station 2, Mel and Eric enjoyed the singletrack so much that they were done in just over six hours despite the hour of down time on the trail. This meant that they could both shower before we drove for the ferry line and Eric and Christie walked on over to the terminal for the 3:25 sailing.

Langdale to Horseshoe bay is a scenic crossing but we have no photos to show for it because we were all pretty wasted after the day. Terry was with me in the support car, and we actually thought we'd have some time today. We got ten minutes to look at the sea at Roberts' Creek and just sat down with a coffee when Christie texted with her news.

At that time, we imagined that Eric and Mel would have zoomed off towards the finish line, not realizing that they spent an hour trying to do the fix. If Eric and Mel were zooming, we figured that we'd have to zoom too. We both finished our coffee and dashed out to get to Langdale, just to have to hang around for several hours. Terry still hasn't had his tourist attraction time.

In Squamish that evening we found a new derailleur hanger for Christie in Tantalus bike shop. They were just about to close, but took pity on Eric and swapped his wrong hanger for the correct one at no charge. Thanks Tantalus!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Day 4 = better singletrack; Day 5 = great singletrack

Mel, Eric and Christie were excited to set off today even if it didn't show too much in their faces.

At this point in the race, body parts stop responding as fast as you'd like, and stomachs start rejecting food. However, once you get on the bike things start to move the way you expect.

After a short road section today, the riders will be heading off into some wonderful singletrack areas. Mel and I have ridden here before, as the Rat Race is held in this area on the same trail system. That is a three hour race. This is more of a six hour day. Terry and I may even have time to do a ride of our own before meeting the racers at the Langdale ferry, and if not then when we arrive at Squamish there should be time to spin our legs out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day Four - will the real ultimate singletrack please stand up?

So far, the BC Bike Race - billed as "The Ultimate Singletrack Experience" - has had little more than 15km of singletrack per day. For the uninitiated, singletrack trails are the narrow, twisty trails that mountain bikers live for. I asked Terry how he'd explain them to someone who'd never ridden, and his is a good description - tough hiking trails.

Some singletrack is smooth, buff and covered in pine needles with banked turns and swooping descents. Other singletrack is rocky, rooty or even elevated on wooden bridges. The appeal is in getting good flow and "cleaning" technical sections without putting a foot down.

There is also such a thing as bad singletrack. Newly created trails aren't bedded in well, which means that as you go over a drop, your front wheel can sink in rather than rolling onwards. That causes endos (descriptive enough term, I think). Day 1 and Day 3 both had new singletrack. Loose, newly cut in, still edged with snagging branches and probably not routed the best possible way.

Day 2 had 2km of singletrack in the total 130km - and that was right at the end when everybody was too blown to enjoy it.

Today, day 4, will need to have some very sweet sections of singletrack in order to up the proportions and allow the race to live up to its label. If it doesn't, there may well be mutiny.

Luckily, we know that days 5, 6, and 7 cover some of the best singletrack in the world. But the question that lots of competitors seem to be asking is why follow the other trails just to keep this as a point-to-point race?

Day three, the support perspective

Mel rode with Eric and Christie today, and Terry rode with me. I think that if he ever gives up his racing career, there is hope for him as a soigneur. Last night he took care of all the washing and drying. This morning, our day started with Terry preparing breakfast for the racers while I cleaned up Mel’s bike and changed out the saddle to give her slightly different pressure points so that her saddle sores get no worse.

We gave Eric and Christie a ride to the race venue as they had been staying in the same Motel as us. After dropping them and their race bags at the staging area, Terry and I made sure there were no last minute issues for our competitors before doing the obligatory start line photos.

Then, a quick hop back to the Motel to pack everything up and get on the road. We stopped at the pharmacy to stock up on butt cream (zinc oxide based diaper/nappy rash cream) and were soon heading for the finish area. Terry did show his naivety as an apprentice soigneur at one point by asking whether we’d be stopping at the tourist attractions along the way. I quickly filled him in on the extent of his responsibilities, explaining how personal interests are mere diversions and are not permitted in the rigorous life of the support team member.

We arrived at the finish line just in time to see the lead men roll in after three hours and forty five minutes in the saddle. After we found a spot for the car in the shade and scoped out the shower truck and restrooms for our returning riders, Terry was finally allowed to pursue his own interests. He went for a quick spin to work his leg muscles out while I found some shade to sit in.

From then on it was just a question of waiting until our racers showed up at six hours twenty four minutes. Although we had nearly two and a half hours of down time, we knew that Mel, Eric and Christie could come in at any point so we had to wait around. On other days it would have been possible to leave them to their own devices for a while after they got in, but on this day we had to quickly clean up and then drive to the ferry in order to be in line for the final crossing of the day.

Although we'd been warned that the ferry would be busy, I think we left earlier than necessary as we were the first in line. Ferry terminals aren't known for their shade, so we made do as best we could.

After a one-and-a-half hour crossing, we drove for maybe an hour to get to the second of our two ferries of the evening. This one was a shorter crossing which would probably have been spectacular during daylight, but as it was already 10:30 when we boarded, there really wasn't much to see. We reached our Motel in Earl’s Cove as just gone midnight, and I think I was finally in bed by 1AM. Terry my apprentice was asleep on the second ferry and although he helped drag things up the two flights of stairs to our room, I let him off early and he was already asleep before I finished up.

This ferry rush may seem crazy, but the alternative was to get up at four in the morning and drive Terry and Mel to the start line where they would get on a bus, be driven to the morning ferry, be fed on the ferry, drive to the second ferry, and finally arrive at Earl’s Cove at around 10:30 the next morning. All of that standing around is hard on the legs, and the long sit and wait in cycling clothes is uncomfortable. Instead, Mel got to sleep in until 7:20AM and we still arrived at the ferry terminal before the ferry did.