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I'm going to skip the usual rigamarole about the painful travel and awkward logistics involved in getting to the start line of day one of the BC Bike Race in Sooke, BC. Let's just say there was some panicked packing, the purchase of a 29'er compatible travel case, tight airline connections, a dirty overpriced hotel room, rude cabbies, expensive beers, and mass confusion in the few days leading up to the race. My teammate Tim Dougherty (Bear Naked Cannondale SS racer supreme) and I met up in Victoria to bring our stage racing plans to fruition. Our goal was to squeeze as much fun and shenanigans into seven days as humanly possible. Unfortunately we had different concepts of the term "fun". I thought it meant a fast paced romp through the woods, but Tim's idea of fun was pulling off my legs and beating me to death with them.

We got a look at the stage profiles the day before the race. The first few stages were going to be difficult for us. We planned on doing the "pure" SS thing and use the same gear for each stage regardless of the distance or elevation gain. We geared our bikes for the climbing stages, but the first three days had an alarming amount of flat fire roads and double track that were sure to have us spinning our legs like a blender set on frappe'. We also found out that there was another SS team present, and that they were going to try to get on the men's 80+ podium by switching gears to match the challenges of the day, but we didn't let that change our decision. We decided to stick with our plan and risk being the second SS team to finish the BC Bike Race (not that anyone is keeping track of this ****).

Stage one was going to be a long one at 108 km and chock full of flat and painfully boring road work. Of course we had our eyes on the other SS team, but it was going to be an uphill battle. The showdown was going to be a Popeye-VS-Olive Oil / 26"-VS-29'er / Canucks VS Yanks / "pure" SS VS "intelligent planning". They decided to go with a regular 2:1 ratio while Tim and I were destined to struggle with our 32X20 big wheel machines. We had our fun rolling near the front of the neutral start, but when the road opened up we were eating a lot of dust. Occasionally there was a decent climb, and we would make a little progress forward in the pack, but the flats continued to put us further off the front than we really wanted to be. The stage ended with a terribly long yawn inducing rail-to-trail that lasted more than an hour, and we were passed by more than one paceline of riders cranking out the KPH's in the big ring. We ended the day 18th of 36 teams in the men's open field with 5hr 40min in the saddle. When I asked Tim what the most interesting part of his day was he said that he saw a dead snake. The most exciting part of my day was ripping a hole in my rear tire, forcing me to boot it and throw in a tube. In true teamwork style as I fixed my flat Tim decorated my bike with flowers he picked at the side of the road. Thanks buddy. After the stage was over I was forced to mount up the only spare tire I had brought along, a Rampage 2.35. I now had a 900 gram tire on the front and rear of my bike, and I was looking forward to the next six days on my heavy, energy sucking tires.

Stage two was going to offer up the same painful and unrewarding riding that we experienced the day before. We had our fun playing at the front of the neutral start again, and as soon as the pace vehicle pulled away we watched the fastest riders roll off into the distance. The 118km stage started with 53km of very flat riding that put lots of carrots up the road for us to chase once the climbing started. With that kind of motivation we attacked on the climbs and the final descent into Port Alberni and fought our way back to 16th place with 5hr 54min of riding in our spin weary legs. The other SS'ers found themselves in a pretty position as they hit the 80+ mens podium for the second day in a row, and crushed us with their superior gearing and stout legs. Things were definitely looking up for us, but we were digging ourselves a nice big hole to crawl out of later in the week. We went in search of some beer to drown our sorrows, but there was none readily available until we ran into Charlie (one of the tent set-up guys) who invited us to a soiree in the back of a Budget rental truck where Tim and I were treated to some fine Kokanees and tales of commercial fishing. A fine end to another shitty day of glorified road riding.

The 80km stage three was going to be a mixed bag for us. The first 30km was flat, the second 30km had some great climbing, and the last 20km was a fast descent with some the long awaited singletrack that we traveled all the way to BC to experience. The conditions for the day threatened to keep us wet all day, and if we got really lucky maybe even chilled to the bone. We jerked around again at the front of the neutral start, and then pulled over to the right to let the "better equipped" riders go by on the pancake flat rail-trails and fire roads. Once we got into the smaller climbs we started reeling the other riders back in, but when we hit the major climb of the day at @52km Tim went ape ****. I did everything I could to keep him in sight, or at least in the same zip code, but he was on fire. We were finally in our happy world of obnoxiously steep climbing up a 800+ meter mountain, and we took full advantage of our skinny asses and light(ish) simple machines. We clawed our way back into the field before hitting the final descent down Bucket of Blood and finishing up with 14th and 5hr 3 min of slightly more satisfying saddle time. That afternoon in Cumberland we were treated to co-ed showers with the door propped open to the changing room giving the locals a good view of our post race activities (especially the old lady who lived across the street who stood on her front porch FOR HOURS watching the free show). At least the stage ended in a twinkie little town so a few of us could head straight to the bars for some liquid pain killer. We had more than a few laughs sucking back suds with the guys from the Bicycling Magazine team (Mike Cushionbury and Damon Roberson), and I won't talk too much about the less than lucid interview I gave Mike after a few too many beers (let me just clarify that I love Tim in a purely platonic way).

Before the start of stage four we had a couple of early morning ferries to get over to the start at Earl's Cove. The ferry rides were somewhat relaxing and gave the riders a bit more time to mingle and commiserate. The start was a hurried affair as we arrived quite late after the logistically challenging boat rides, but we still managed to find our way to the front of the neutral start quite quickly. When the pace vehicle pulled away something beautiful happened. This time we did not get dropped, and we hit the trail towards the front of the field. Tim was putting the wood to the other riders on the rolling power lines, and I did all I could to hold on to the pace. In our haste to make up for the past few days of poor results we missed a turn and blasted down a fire road for a mile or so before realizing our mistake and heading back in a state of crazed anger. We had lost a few places and some time, but that only fueled our twigs of fury. We slammed our way back into a favorable position, but never quite found our way back to our place in the field we lost after missing the crucial turn early on. On the final section of singletrack we got caught up behind some slower riders, but we did our best to duke it out in a sprint finish for 7th place in the open mens category after 3hr 32min of riding that certainly foretold of good things to come. We also managed to edge out our drinking buddies with the Bicycling Magazine team by just over a minute. I guess they underestimated the power of a good hangover.

We knew stage five was going to be our chance to attack the field and maybe have a shot at beating the other SS team. Even though there was still a relatively flat start there were two significant climbs and loads of singletrack at the end of the day. We did our thing at the neutral start, and then dropped back on the early flats. The other SS team came by us at the tail end of a train of riders, but we knew we would have our opportunity to duke it out with them later. Unfortunately a few moments later we saw them sitting in a ditch at the side of the road. Pat was administering wilderness first aid to his partner applying guaze and a bike tube to Andy's leg. Apparently they had gotten tangled up while drafting the paceline and they both ended up going off the side of the road. Andy's shinbone was exposed, and their chase for the 80+ mens podium ended along with our battle royale we had hoped to have on the trails of stage five. Tim and I had a hard time dealing with the fact that our SS brethren's fight was over, but we realized we still had some death to do.

When we got to the heinous sections of singletrack we pinned it. I had the foresight to wear my IPod today to drown out the noise of my heart trying to leap out of my chest while chasing Tim at his blazing pace. We climbed with a vengeance as we were finally in our desired environment of technical riding and we put a lot of teams in our rear view mirror before the final descent. As we careened down the mountain I quietly vowed to myself that I would rather die than give up any of the places we earned on the climb. I didn't die, and we held our own on the final descent to finish in 7th place again with 3hr 52 min of inspired riding.

I promised Tim I would throw everything I had at stage six if he promised that we could have fun on stage seven. We made sure to carboload the night before (thanks Reed) to get our heads in the right place. The course was going to ascend 3,000 meters in less than 75km of riding on our way from Squamish to Whistler. To make things interesting we were going to face the nastiest singletrack we've seen yet loaded with elevated structures and super steep descents. We took our spot near the front of the neutral start and kept to the front till we hit a slight downgrade on a gravel road. We then lost quite a few places to be held up at the base of a small, tight hike-a-bike section. We had to wait our turn to start walking up, but when the trail widened we started running up the hill at full speed. We had a date with destiny, and we were taking no prisoners. We passed dozens of riders, and I was grunting and groaning as I did my best to keep up with Tim on the loose, rocky climb. At the start of the singletrack we plowed into Trash Trail for some of the most technical riding I have ever seen. Along the way I saw one of the guys from the Cromag team gushing blood from a cut above his eye. It was hardly comforting seeing a local getting torn up in his own backyard, but I did my best to ride within my abilities and run with my bike when I was over my head. After we exited the next trail loaded with elevated structures and crazy ass technical sections we started the feared Alpe d'Huez climb with it's 27 switchback rising a total of 500 meters to the top. The climb was so grueling that I passed a couple hikers on the way up and after I passed them it took six switchbacks to get them off my wheel. The following descent was like riding down the face of the devil as the steepness, exposure, and speed were beyond belief. Tim blasted it and I managed to survive the death roll into Whistler with a time of 4hr 59min and the 6th fastest time in the mens open class.

In retrospect I should have taken the final day's 25km team trial a little more seriously. The night before I didn't eat right, I stayed up late, drank beer instead of water, and I shivered through the night as I was too apathetic to put on more clothes when the temps dropped. We woke up kinda late and arrived at breakfast even later. Because we were in the top twenty teams overall we had an early start, so we were destined to ride with our bellies full of undigested bacon and eggs. Well, at least Tim said we could go at a "fun" pace so at least I had that going for me. To ensure we had as much fun as possible we decided to go with fashion over function and don some full length acid washed jean Tomasso tights that positively screamed "VH1 rules!!!". I rolled up my right pant leg for some true messenger/poseur points, and topped it off with a wife beater. We might not have a great finish time, but we were definitely going to have "nothin' but a good time".


At the start we decided for some odd reason to start the time trial like we were on bobsleds. Apparently we were the only team that thought it was a dandy idea, but we were having fun, right? As soon as we hopped on our bikes I realized I should have clarified things with Tim a little better as his idea of fun was to go just as fast as we had the last three days. We were hammering the climbs and bombing the descents just like we had been, except now we were doing it with bloated bellies, blurry eyes, and tired legs. I know how to convert KM's to miles, but 25KM of Whistler singletrack is like 50 miles of Charlotte trail. Lungbursting climbs were followed by sketchy descents which only led to more of the same. I felt like I was really holding back the pace as every time we came to a steep downhill I had to hike up my baggy acid washed tights as they were snagging on the saddle and causing me to descend with more than the usual amount of trepidation. Eventually the descents tamed down, and we meandered our way to the finish line with the 7th fastest time in our class (1hr 52min) and snagging 9th overall for the week. Not too shabby for a couple of skinny, beer drinking, foul mouthed, slacker single speeders.

Some things worthy of note:

Although we were the first SS team to finish the BC Bike Race Pat Doyle did soldier on solo style after losing his partner and completed every kilometer of the course. I am sure that had his partner not been injured they would have been on the podium in the 80+ mens class on the final day, and they woulda smoked us. Jochen Faber (mixed class) also completed the race on a SS.

There was only one other set of big wheels on the course. Reed (AKA Cornfish) was one a big ass Lenz Sport.

Tim woulda done much better with a stronger partner. He rode circles around me on a daily basis, but hopefully my entertaining company made it all worth it in the end. Besides, how many other SS'ers want to do this kinda race?

Pink wheels are faster than any other wheel known to man.

Due to the fact that there was only about 100 teams it was very easy to get to know a lot of people. I've never had so much fun hanging out in between stages at one of these things. A big thank you to everyone who made the experience more pleasant.

I tried a new lube for the race called Bio Lube. Although I screwed up the first application I eventually figured out that it should be used sparingly. I did multiple stages without ever re-applying once I cleaned the chain and started over with a less than liberal dosage. All I can say is it actually works as advertised (which is a first time experience with a bike lube for me).

I didn't get any pictures. Tim had us hauling ass on a consistent basis, so I never brought my camera for the ride. I was goofing off too much off the bike to remember to take photos, but I did snag Tim's camera to take a bunch of pictures of all the gore after one stage while we waited for the ferry. You woulda thought stitches, blood, and ice bags were a fashion statement if were hanging out at the finish that day.

I was the only rider on a rigid fork. When will these people finally upgrade their bikes and get full satisfaction from every ride?

This was the first year for BC Bike Race. The promoters definitely had their challenges and some details fell through the cracks, but I am sure they will improve upon the mistakes made and offer an incredible event next year.

Big wheels rolling out on a wet day three:
 

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Nice write up Rich

Hey Buddy, nice racing and writing. It was great to race with fine gentleman such as yourself and Tim. You guys aren't too bad to drink beer with either. The race was amazing, challenging, and fun, but for me being able to hang out with a bunch of mountain bikers at night, and race with them during the day is a highlight in my life. And Rich, you don't have to worry, I would never run you over with all of my suspension. To do so would be an abuse of technology. Hope to race/ride with you again sometime soon.
 

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Great race report as always!

I love the team work tire patch job. I'm sure the flowers helped boost your morale more than you realized.

I hear you on the pain that is loose tights. I had a pair that was way to worn out, and the woes they caused me when they caught the seat were many.

Anyhow, great job on your finishing place. :thumbsup:
 

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nice narrative. It sound like you guys put in the good fight... I definetly agree with you in the rampage tires,those just suck up energy. go 29er!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
cornfish said:
Hope to race/ride with you again sometime soon.
Hey Reed,
Thanks for the beer X 2 and the ride back to Whistler. I had a good time riding with you guys once the terrain allowed us to catch up to yinz.
Thanks for not running me over.
 

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only in wrestling. i think i had a slight advantage in that as well. just wait till i get my 29er SS, then we'll throw down again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Listen to the Bicycling Magazine audio interview with Mike Cushionbury, Tim, and I after more than enough beer to knock down a moose.
http://rodale.typepad.com/bi_audio_blog/2007/07/the-latest-fr-1.html
(I'm at the end of the interview)

You can see why Tim is riding for a crack squad like Bare Naked Cannondale, and I'm still buying Tinker's used Sidis.

Somebody please save me from myself. Now you can see why I defined my feelings as platonic.
 
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