By Andrew Mitchell
More than 72 teams of two and two teams of four have signed on for the first B.C. Bike Race, a seven-day, seven stage mountain bike race that gets underway in Victoria on July 1, Canada Day, and finishes in Whistler the following Saturday, July 7.
En route riders will cover roughly 525 km of ground, with more than 40 per cent of the race taking place on technical singletrack trails on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Sea to Sky.
Grant Lamont, one of the race organizers, is happy with the turnout this year.
“The limit was 100 teams this year, and we expect to see a few more teams trickle in near the end,” said Lamont. “We know we have a lot of new sponsors on board, and some of them want to enter teams as well so we should be over 80 teams by race day.
“It’s actually a good level we’re at with the numbers, given all the transportation issues and the size of this race we wanted to keep the first one small. When you look at events like the TransRockies, they had 50 teams in the first year and now they’ve sold out (275 teams) for the second year. And that race hardly has any singletrack.”
Next year Lamont believes they can expect between 250 and 300 teams to take part in the B.C. Bike Race, based on the number of inquiries the organizers have received.
“(Next year) will be big,” he said. “A lot of riders had already signed up for the TransRockies or TransAlps or TransGermany races this year before they heard about the B.C. Bike Race, and after doing those races a few times they’re looking to mix it up. (Co-organizer) Andreas Hestler is getting 50 or 60 e-mails a day from people asking about 2008, which is why we’re opening the registration for next year the day after this race is over, July 8.
We’ll give them a taste of real West Coast riding, and what it’s all about, with a big emphasis on having fun and enjoying some more technical riding. We want everyone to leave with a good experience.”
The longest stages of the race are during the first few days. The first leg goes from Victoria to Cowichan Lake, a distance of 112 km. Day two finishes at Port Alberni, a distance of 115 km, and the third day will bring riders to the Comox Valley, a distance of 83 km.
The fourth stage starts with a ferry ride to Powell River, and after a short ride participants will take a second ferry that will bring riders to Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast, for a total distance of 60 km.
Stage five, which is 55 km, finishes at the Langdale Ferry, after riding trails at Halfmoon Bay, Roberts Creek and the hills outside of Gibsons. After that stage riders will be loaded onto buses and transported to Squamish for the sixth stage.
Stage six will follow some of the Cheakamus Challenge route to Whistler, finishing at Meadow Park where riders can camp and shower. That day is 75 km and will be moderately difficult.
Although the seventh stage is the shortest at 25 km, it will also be one of the hardest with a ride up to Cougar Mountain and a chance to ride the Skyline cable line. The singletrack includes Kill Me Thrill Me, the first stage of Comfortably Numb, and a section of Green Lake Loop.
According to Lamont the race has been a logistical challenge involving 23 organizers from the different sections of the race, most with experience running races and events.
“The support for this has been amazing. Harbour Air is our major sponsor, and the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts has been a big help — Stan Hagen, the Minister there, has fully bought into it. B.C. Ferries is helping us out, all the communities we pass through have been helping us out — I think people really see the potential of this event, and the attention it can bring to some of these communities.”
Teams in the race are from across B.C., the U.S., and from as far away as Europe and Costa Rica. The organizers also signed a partnership with La Ruta de los Conquistadores in Costa Rica that includes two spots in that race for the winners of the B.C. Bike Race.
Lamont is looking for a few more volunteers to help out with the Whistler stage of the race, which should take riders less than three hours to complete. If you can donate a few hours on Friday July 6 or the following Saturday, contact Grant Lamont at firstname.lastname@example.org .
For more information and registration, visit www.bcbikerace.com.