RED HILL RIDER BRUCE NEWTON TAKES ON BRITISH COLUMBIA BIKE RACE
Some of you know exactly what this is, others wouldn’t have a clue. You’re on this email list for one of number of reasons; you’re family, friend, a cyclist or sports enthusiast or someone who has expressed interest in this crazy project I have just landed in Canada to undertake.
The BC Bike Race is a 7-day mountain bike race in British Columbia. 625 riders, 7 days, 300km, 10,000m of climbing,80% single track and … well, that probably says enough.
I’ve been working towards this race for about 18 months. Strava – which I joined around the time I started training says I’ve ridden 5247km. That’s probably not a lot, but it was all off-road (except for a couple of rides at the Tour Down Under last January). Elevation gain so far in 2018 has been 50,120m. So you can see that’s what the emphasis has been on.
Anyway, today was my first ride since I landed yesterday morning. I was part of a guided group that rode part of the day 6 course at a place called the North Shore (or more especially Mount Seymour). This is a legendary place amongst mountain bikers, a bit like Bathurst for car racers – technical and steep up and down. I’ve attached a couple of pics of today’s action.
It was fun, the stuff we rode reasonably challenging. The trails wander up and down through an amazingly beautiful forest, the surface is incredibly grippy, but littered with rocks and roots (more rocks). Something is always happening. The photos are on a black trail and I could ride almost everything. The stuff I couldn’t get was weird – an uphill ess bend (I completed harder ones later) and an up and over on a log roll. I also felt pretty knackered on the climbs
(we did 430m in 10km) and my heart went a bit nuts. It’s jetlag, lack of sleep and all that I reckon. I am out there again tomorrow so after a better sleep and a couple of good meals see how I go.
To finish up, I have to acknowledge a few people: Mostly my wife Jane who despite falling seriously ill just three days before I was due to leave insisted I still come and do this. Sadly, she can’t fly at the moment so the holiday we planned in BC post-race has been postponed for 12 months.
Also, many thanks to Justin, Phil, Damo, Anne and the rest of the crew at Bicycle Superstore Mornington. the Giant Trance Advanced 01 is riding beautifully. I dropped the stem again today Phil – popping the front uphill. A huge debt of gratitude to Jeremy Stainforth at Chain Brain; I wouldn’t have got here without you bro! Adrian Wale, Mark Gardner, Tim Robson, Justin Walker – who organized my stay at Pinnacle Hotel on the Pier in North Vancouver (thanks Justin,
pity you’re not here enjoying it too). There are others, sorry to have missed you.
And sorry, I’ve rambled on so long. I’ll send a daily update, but they’ll be shorter from now on. Promise! If you’d like me to drop you off this list just fire back an email and let me know. If you’re hanging around, hope you enjoy the ride with me.
PS: Feel free to pass this on.
Well, that was a lot better!
With another half decent night’s sleep the return to Mount Seymour with tour guides Endless Biking was more enjoyable.
I got put straight to the test with a big, long fire road and bitumen climb that set us up for four technical descents that will all be in the race.
The good news is I didn’t pop on the climb – okay I fell off the back of the group, but not too far. So that was encouraging. Yesterday, I would have had to stop a couple of times to recover.
The hardest of the descents were Lower Dale, which had one steep, rocky, rooty feature after another. Canadians say the tough stuff is ‘janky’ and this was pretty janky as far as I was concerned!
Our guide Ryan was awesome, showing us the best lines, assessing and modifying our riding styles and being very encouraging.
Each time we’d walk through the feature and then he’d ride it and we’d do our best to emulate him, some better than others. I did ok, getting better and more confident as the day went on.
I’m amazed by what the Trance is letting me do. With 150mm of front suspension, 140mm at the rear and a dropper post all I need to do is get low in the ready position, keep my eyes forward, roll in with the right amount of speed and follow the line. It works.
But it’s still a challenge to control my nerves, anxiety and breathing. Everything is within my capability and fitness level I just have to believe it. If I can do this, I can do anything in the race.
Anyway, tomorrow is orientation day followed by a ferry ride across to Vancouver Island and the first of seven nights sleeping under canvas. Then on Saturday, it’s race time!
Chat again soon.
It’s the calm before the storm and to continue the watery analogy I feel well in over my head.
Today was all about registering for the BC Bike Race, getting everything packed and loaded on the trucks and from North Vancouver getting across to Duncan on Vancouver Island.
So it went something like this; taxi from the hotel to Capilano University, register etc, sit through a very amusing hour of briefing of which the upshot was you can beat a black bear in a fight, you can’t beat a grizzly and clean your hands properly after a pooh.
Then it was on the yellow buses, on to the ferry across to Vancouver Island, then back on the yellow buses to Duncan, where we are now ensconced in a tent city.
I’ve now had the chance to appreciate the sheer scale of this event. The 625 riders are supported by 250 travelling staff, the beloved red shirts. There’s a wellness centre, a chill out zone, a massive bike maintenance area and full-on catering that feeds us all twice a day and has snacks on hand to feast on after we cross the finish line.
Speaking of which, tomorrow is day one, only 41km but 1692m of climbing, about double what you would expect in a race of that length at home in Australia.
I’m not as nervous as I thought I might be. I think that’s because I am still not getting my head around the full enormity of what I have committed to do.
I’ll let you know tomorrow whether I have a better understanding of all that. In the meantime. Here’s a few photos that capture the day.
That was a hard day at the office. And just six more to go.
But 471st out of 598 finishers feels like a big win to me on a pretty tough day. My time was 3:55, just over two hours behind the stage winner. I am 59/91 in over 50 men (and 337th of 441 men overall), so last 25% of the field and at the front of the last 1/3 of my class. About where I expected to be.
As I mentioned yesterday, 1691m of climbing in 41km is full-on by Aussie standards. And so it proved for me two-thirds of the way up the final big climb of the day.
A track that got tougher the higher we climbed, my legs simply would not punch up the rock faces and steep pitches anymore. Ah cramps, experienced so rarely in recent years, how I haven’t missed you!
So there was a fair bit of walking in the last 2km of that final ascent. I even stopped at the aid station, something I never usually do in races, and gobbled down a banana and four pieces of watermelon before pressing on.
The good news is an amazing descent called Maple Syrup came next. Steep, steep, steep. Blind commitments over rock rolls and drops, loose dusty descents into berms and lots of seat post dropping to negotiate them.
Which I did, cleaned the lot on the fabulous Giant Trance Advanced 01 (I am falling in love truly) and claimed back a few of the many places I lost on the way up, including one bloke who face-planted over a rock roll right in front of me. He was alright after … a while.
Waley, Leachy, Gunny, Mark, Stu and the rest of you gravity enduro fiends; I get it, I really do. I am a member of your club now!
So in the end it was more relief than joy to finish the first day of the BC Bike Race. Since the race there’s been a bus ride up the Vancouver Island coast to Cumberland, a mountain of food and a 30 minute massage. Now I am looking forward to tomorrow with anticipation rather than trepidation.
Less than 1200m in climbing and 40km long, it reads easier than today. Having said that everyone whose done this stage in previous races says it’s bloody hard … I am not surprised.
Talk to you tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a few photos from today:
The elites start
My view from the back
Me wondering what I have got myself into!
Day two is run and done and it certainly went better than day one.
A 3:50 time across the 40km course was good enough to get me to the finish 432nd outright and 55th in-class, both improvements on yesterday.
No cramps either, in part because most of the 1200m climbing was over and done within the first 15km. Yep, pretty much straight up from the start-line in the main street of lovely village of Cumberland.
I didn’t get over-excited, just did what I had to do without getting into the serious pain zone.
That didn’t mean the rest of the course was a doddle. Once we got to the top it was down some very muddy, slick rocks and roots.
Which brings me to my first crash of the week. Having coped with the initial challenges quite well, I rolled at a decent pace down on to a wooden bridge over a creek. Next thing I knew I was on my arse and headed for the water. A strategically placed pine tree prevented an early bath!
That slowed me down on the mud and slush. Enough that I walked a few rocky rolls that would have been fun in the dry. It was wet, by the way, because we had a big thunderstorm overnight, which hadn’t dried under the trees.
I quickly learned that sunshine and open ground made for better grip! Which made ripping through Lumberjacks – where the trees have been cut down – a hoot; downhill, big loose berms and no pinchy climbs.
They came later, in the last 10km, which was totally devoid of flow pumped a couple of pedal strokes down and a couple more up, then down, up and . I think you get the message. But the overall trend was up, which finally brought me exhausted to the top of the hill and charge back to the finish.
It was satisfying to progress in the field and results. I can’t tell you where I sit overall in the race or the over 50s blokes but I should have moved forward a little.
Post-race my lower back locked up and it was straight to the massage crew. An hour later I feel 100 per cent better
Tomorrow, it’s Powell River; 1046m of constant ups and downs, so after the first two days it’s less climbing and more distance.
See how we go.
PS: No pics today, here’s one supplied by the organisers of me in action on day one.
Tick, another day down. A 3:46 effort at Powell River was good enough for 414th out of 600 finishers, 294th out of 439 men (yes, into the top 300!!) and 52nd out of 89 finishers in over 50 blokes.
This was my best time and finish and it translated into 433rd overall (up 25 positions) and 55th in class (up a couple). Still down the back, but sneaking forward.
To be honest the 50km loop around this pretty village on what BCers call the Sunshine Coast (nothing like ours absolutely no sign of skyscrapers or fat millionaires on the beach prancing around in budgie smugglers) was straightforward compared to the last two days.
A gradually escalating gravel road climb fed into long kms of lumpy forest single track, sometimes offering hero grip and sometimes a bit wet and slippy over the roots and dead trees.
At different times it reminded me of the Blue Tier, Bright and even our own beloved Red Hill.
Essentially, this was the cadence of the day, interrupted by an amazing construction in the middle of the forest called Aloha, which was a figure eight bridge where the locals were doing the hoolah and handing out pineapple juice.
That’s one thing about this race, everyone embraces it. Last night, arriving here we got piped off the ferry by a lone bagpiper while about 100 locals clanged their cow bells and gave us a big cheer.
So no cramps and back pain under control, but a massage is now a prerequisite each night. My body actually feels better on the bike than off it at the moment. The process is simple; I’m either riding, eating, rehydrating, massaging or sleeping (or at least trying to).
Tomorrow is the queen stage, 60km plus and 1600m of climbing. I won’t be doing a sub 4hr time. The goal will be to keep myself nice, finish in under five hours and set myself up for the final three days.
Final. bloody hell, I can’t believe I used that word.
Today’s pic is Powell River at sunset.
And that, folks, is that.
I crossed the lane at the end of day seven of the BC Bike Race to complete my goal, the belt buckle hangs around my neck soon after the proof of that.
But to be honest I was a bit numb. The plan had been for Jane to be at the finish line to see me finish this epic adventure. It would have been so appropriate considering the sacrifices she has made to allow me to train for this for the last 18 months.
We are both gutted that she couldn’t be there. There’s been a few tears of late and more to come no doubt.
The other factor was that I have been riding pretty much on empty since day 5, just not had the energy I needed to push hard forward like I wanted to.
Today it all caved in on me a bit; I had some stomach troubles overnight, I’ve got multiple cold sores bubbling up on my top lip and a painful blister in the middle of my left hand.
Once the race got underway today my back, which massage had kept under control all week, flared up too. Sorry about the litany of excuses. Just trying to tell you where I am at.
So to the race itself. It was long, lots of climbing and some really sweet singletrack. Just like normal.
I battled on the ups and tried to make some ground on the downs, but paid the penalty with my worst crash of the week on one of the most technical trails. Basically, a root finally reached out and got me.
A gouge in my left leg just below the knee, a five minute sit-down and I got going again. But it was just that sort of day. After,wards the medics told me the injury will scar up nicely. Cool
The highlight of the day for me was the fans, who popped up in the oddest places to cheer us on. When you’re deep in the hurt box in the middle of the forest there’s nothing better to lighten the mood than high-fiving a person inside a giant McDonald’s golden arches.
So the results; not pretty today. A time of 5:11 meant I finished 451st outright, 323rd among the men and 59th in over 50 blokes. Overall, I ended 422nd out of 570 finishers (14 hours behind the winner and 14-hours ahead of last). In my div,ision I was 52nd out of 82 finishers.
Tonight, it’s my first beer (or alcoholic drink for that matter) for two months, and a chance to catch up with the many friends from many countries I have made on the trails and in tent city this week.
I am sure later tonight, a bit drunk, a bit more relaxed, I’ll be smiling.