Day 4 started with the usual gorgefest of a breakfast and a bus ride to the ferry terminal at Saltery Bay taking about 30 mins and providing views of the spectacular mountains, forest and shoreline. Dom and I were one of the lucky few to get out of breakfast early and onto the second bus which meant that we were to take river taxis for the crossing to Earls Cove.
Each river taxi took 12 riders with an open cockpit at the stern from which 2 or 3 of us took photos as we departed the ferry terminal. Once we were clear of the marina we were advised to sit down as the skipper opened the throttles, the boat took on a 30 degree pitch and we lunged towards open water. I was old by a veteran of the race that the bay we were crossing was one of the deepest inshore bodies of water in the world and was used for submarine testing by the military. I can believe it as the shoreline plunges abruptly to the water. Truly spectacular and great that the race doesn’t just do the cheapest alternative for travel.
The ferry was late arriving and also took an hour rather than 15 minutes to make the crossing so the lucky few loafed around in the shade at Earls Cove, eating the small cafe out of buns and muffins whilst trying to avoid the increasingly strong sun for the best part of 3 hours.
The race finally got underway at 1pm with the whole field starting simultaneously but in group order. The initial climb was on tarmac followed by gravel with the latter providing clouds of dust to invade the eyes and lungs. The dappled shade of the gravel climb gave way to an open grassy climb which was borderline for grip but the pros at the front of the field who’d clearly decided that trying to break away from the masses on the gravel wasn’t going to work just cleared off! As we crested the first hill of the day I was only 20m off the wheel of the lead old git form the last 2 days and closing. Heading down the gravelly doubletrack large rocks began to appear and despite avoiding them I had a rear wheel puncture. Fixing the flat was relatively painless, especially as I had a CO2 cartrige to inflate the tyre in an instant to what felt like rock hard. I decided against reducung the pressure again and even put a few pump strokes of air into the front tyre for good measure to ward off further flats.
Fortunately, our pace over the first few km had created a significant gap and I was passed by maybe only 30 riders before i was able to resume. However, despite higher tyre pressures I had another rear flat a matter of a couple of km later, this time seemingly just caused by hitting a depression at the bottom of a fast descent despite being out of the saddle.
In went my final tube and much pumping later I proceeded with a very firm rear tyre, knocking the pace off the descents in order to avoid popping my final tube. It was another day of passing riders, as during my second stop lots more had ridden past.
Early singletrack was wonderful. Reasonably smooth and with several lakes and streams to cross to keep things interesting. Much of the trails were barely distinguishable from the forest so it would seem that they aren’t heavily used, at least until hundreds of bikers form around the globe descend on them for the BCBR. A steep singletrack climb for a km or so brought us to the first aid station and having finished both bottles a double refill was in order. I also got the crew there to check my tyre pressures and top both up to be on the safe side.
A mixture of gravel roads and glorious singletrack lead to aid station 2 with some ridiculously steep climbs on singletrack which I’m sure is usually ridden down resulting in much forced unclipping from all.
Through aid station 2 in a hurry as I’d only emptied one bottle and more brutal singletrack climbs and descents before the grim grind up the gravel to the start of Enduro 1. Pinballing down this with high tyre pressure was frustrating but the few pedalling sections were more my thing. I was only passed by a couple of riders who I was able to dispatch on yet more brutal singletrack climbing leading into Enduro 2. This was a different kettle of fish – very steep in places but with a few tricky elevated boardwalk sections and my gears were beginning to slip in the middle ring which was distracting. An easy traverse across a steep gully was my downfall with a marshall giving enthusiastic support. I turned to thank him, lost concentration and slipped off the edge to fall into the logs below. Very embarrassing; bu the fella was good enough to hlp me salvage my bike as I scrambled to regain the track.
I think I’d forgotten to account for the loss of grip with high pressure tyres as I had a number of other falls on the steep descents on what was an exceptionally long Enduro totalling nearly 300m vertical descent over 2.4km.
From here it was a shot section of great singletrack and he customary 2 or 3 km of tarmac into town.
The results show that I was only 20 minutes off the old gits stage winner so without punctures and reduced grip a podium was certainly on. Stll, 9th in category means that the damage was minimal but a real missed opportunity.
Dom came in with a lost Garmin watch (found and returned by a fellow rider) and tales of gear selection woe and generally feeling out of sorts after what is the longest stage of the race.
Beer and dinner next!