Words by Simon Lay, BC Bike Race newbie, aka @TransAlpUk,
It's almost like it's not a race. Looking around at the 600 competitors seated in an ice-hockey arena listening to the event briefing there is a wide range of age and weight with a healthy mix of the sexes.
The briefing emphasis is on being a good sport, having fun and looking out for one another. Plus of course at 310 km over 7 days doesn't sound like a tough race, not when compared to the Cape Epic or the TransAlp. Even the elevation of 10,000 m doesn't sound too daunting on the face of it. So maybe this is a jaunt. An adventure for the many and only a race for the few?
Racer Briefing Day 00
That would probably have been my opinion if I hadn't been out riding local trails the day before and managed an average moving pace of just 7.5 km per hour (up and down) with a total of 7.7 km covered in a two hour ride. The lost hour being down to punctures, mechanicals and recovery from the heat. A kilometre on these trails could be worth 3 km on an alpine track. Each kilometre of rocky rootfest that formed the tight, steep switchbacks beneath our wheels equal to 5 km of UK double track.
This combination of climbs and technical singletrack marks the BC Bike Race out as a unique XC event. It's also what makes it definitively a race. Some stages have 13 km climbs gravel climbs, the big wheeled XC riders will master those. But then you'll be hurled into a dark, twisting singletrack, carved through the lush forest, rock rolling over boulders as big as a truck, their exit hidden, your heart in your mouth as you trust the trail builders to have provided something for your front wheel to drop onto. Riding this singletrack needs more than athletic ability or skill, it demands commitment and faith.
Recce Ride Suggests The Technical Riding Could Severely Test Many
Perhaps this mix of technical and cardio punishment doesn't suit the purists. Maybe they think a race should be a downhill event or an XC event and never the twain shall meet. Well that's not how most riders spend their saddle time. The BC Bike Race was Enduro before Enduro.
any racers believe in the idea that if you don't crash sometimes, you are not trying hard enough. The BC Bike Race will punish the gung-ho. When a single kilometre of trail can contain 20 significant technical features, going out too hard means rolling the dice and your luck will run out at some point.
Before the caravan has even arrived at the start line, there is two people in plaster and the bike tech team are busy fixing broken kit. This is a race that requires strategy and patience as well as stamina and skill. It may be the most holistic race of the year, it certainly promises the racers to be the best week of their lives.
More personal insights from @TransAlpUk at https://transalpuk.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/bc-bike-race-2015-day-00-get-set/