The B.C. Bike Race (BCBR) is back.
The seven-day epic that traverses its way across the southwestern corner of the province is ready for another hard-hitting year and organizers expect the Squamish stage to again be memorable.
“I don’t want to dis any of the other stages because they’re all great, but when we arrive in Squamish we feel like we’re back home a little bit,” said the BCBR’s Dave Howells. “In many ways the Squamish stage captures what riding in B.C. is all about.”
Howells said the variety of terrain helps make Squamish a popular stop for the event.
“The trails in Squamish are so distinctly built for mountain bike riding,” he said. “There’s everything from doubletrack to gravel road to singletrack to faster and more flowy trails. But there’s also an energy in the air because it’s nearing the end and it’s one of the premier stages to win. It’s really the last chance for riders to make a statement and make up some ground.”
The BCBR will get underway in Cumberland on Sunday (July 1), then travel to Campbell River, make the trek across the Strait of Georgia to Powell River and head south to Sechelt and North Vancouver before hitting Squamish on July 6. Howells said there are a few new additions to this year’s series.
“We did a test pilot with gravity or enduro stages last year and it was a big success, so we’re expanding on that,” he said.
Last year saw only three enduro stages, while this year there will be 13 in total, with two at every race except for Whistler. The race-within-a-race stages will be separately timed from the actual race and give other riders a chance to shine.
“There will be a rider who excels on hills or one who is good at sprints that might take one of the stages on a particular day,” he said. “It adds another element to the race and showcases the different styles of riding that are popular. We wanted to bring another set of skills to the forefront outside of the guys and girls who are fast.”
The kids’ race will also return to Squamish. Sponsored by Shimano, last year’s inaugural race in Squamish drew several hundred youngsters to Brennan Park.
There will also be a brand new Day 7 race in Whistler. This year’s final stage will see riders travel 26 kilometres with an elevation of 860 metres. The course is similar to the one that was run two years ago and will see riders start at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, heading down Crank It Up and Heart of Darkness. The course then will see riders traverse the base of Blackcomb over into Lost Lake Trails where the final gravity enduro section is set up at the north end of Lost Lake. The finish line will be in Whistler Olympic Plaza near the Olympic rings.
Howells said the BCBR is attracting some of the top riders on the continent.
“Chris Sheppard is coming back to defend his title for the third time,” he said. “And Barry Wicks, who has won the team category three times, will be racing solo for the first time this year.”
He mentioned Jason Sager, Daniel Gathof and Neal Kindree as other confirmed top riders. As for the women, 2012 Test of Metal winner Wendy Simms is one of the favourites.
The Squamish course, which is referred to as a combination of the Test of Metal and Gearjammer tracks, is 37.9 kilometres long, with an elevation of 1,240 metres.
For more information on the BCBR, visit www.bcbikerace.com.