Residents of Cumberland celebrated Canada's birthday in bike style.
The seven-stage BC Bike Race started on July 1 in the small Vancouver Island town with a ceremony that included the Cumberland Marching Band and a helicopter from the Canadian Air Force Base at Comox. The field of more than 500 riders in the seven-day event will roll into Whistler on Saturday to finish what they started with stops in between at Squamish, Sechelt, Powell River and Campbell River.
The mid-race highlights have included a tight race up front featuring Barry Wicks, Neal Kindree and Chris Sheppard setting the pace.
In the first two days of racing the trio finished within seconds of each other.
"It's gonna be exciting, fireworks all week," Wicks said after crossing the finish line in first place on the first day of racing.
Wendy Simms opened a huge gap in the women's solo race with a lead of about 40 minutes over her fastest competitor.
"The trails were amazing," Simms said after the first day of racing. "Cumberland put on a great course."
Hanna Thorne of New Zealand placed second behind Simms in Campbell River on day two while Sonya Looney was third.
Looney went off course and became lost on day one but rushed back up the general classification once she found her way back on course. Alex Robinette and Pam Frentzel-Beyme are also in the top five solo female competitors.
The duo teams of Colin Kerr and Greg Day, Jason Sager and Thomas Turner and Kevin Calhoun and Keith Stark are also doing well in the early stages.
The BC Bike Race includes races within the daily races called Gravity Enduros. Sections of each day's courses are marked off and recognition is given to racers who complete the sections the fastest.
Megan Rose, Wendy Simms, Josh Carlson, and Olympian Andreas Hestler have all claimed Gravity Enduro wins.
The early stages of the race have been anything but summer like. Event founder and director Deane Payne noted the challenges presented by the wet weather after the first day of racing.
"We do live in a rain forest and today was classic west coast wet riding," Payne said after the first stage. "The riders were awesome, people didn't complain, they endured."
The race swings into Squamish on Friday, July 6 with the epic competitors riding trails that are used for both the Test of Metal mountain bike race and the annual Gearjammer, which takes place every July in Squamish. The total race distance in Squamish will be 48km and the elevation gain is 1,660 metres.
The final day of racing in Whistler offers a 26km course and an elevation gain of 680 metres.
The Whistler leg of the race starts and finishes at Whistler Olympic Plaza. Comfortably Numb is one of the trails competitors will use and the course also takes the riders through the Lost Lake trail system.
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