Another splendid day of MTBing on the BCBR today. Cooler temperatures and an early start made the initial climbing from sea level to aid station one at just over 300m bearable although the predominantly gravel surface was utterly forgettable. Onto some fresh singletrack for yet more climbing and the legs were really starting to feel it was the peaty/mossy ground was so spongy it was granny ring all the time as wheels sank into the fresh surface. I hope it was better for the later riders. At least it afforded a comfy ride for those without full sus!
Later singletrack climbs gave way to mature dirt under our wheels which made life easier although numerous stream and gully crossings on conventional footbridges (ok) or simple tree trunks cut added variety and focussed the mind.
We reached 550m elevation before any significant down tracks but these were a joy with grippy surface and full tree cover to keep the sun off. I was managing to limit losses to the oppo and move up through the front runners very nicely on the climbs when ….. I took a wrong turn. The good news is that I found some brilliant, wide double width track with bermed corners and a powdery surface that allowed the bike to drift right up to the lip of the corners; the bad news was that it was a good 10 minute climb back up in bottom gear to regain the course. DOH! Worse still, one of the riders in the 2nd placed pair overall followed me down and suffered a lot more than me on the up. I could only apologise!
Back on course it seemed that we were climbing on what would normally be up singletrack which was quite a challenge with tight bends and only just enough traction to ride. Payback was a glorious 4km stretch of downwards singletrack during which the other off-piste rider caught we and we rode line astern for some time. I apologised again. We were in close company for all of the climb back up to aid station 2 and beyond; his skill balancing my climbing ability. Leaving aid station 2 the least I could do was attempt to tow the poor fella back to his buddy so put in a long pull up a couple of km of gravel track with him on my wheel until the next singletrack section.
We were waved off the road and warned that there was a 4ft ramp to crest on the way into the forest, obscured by scrub from the road. Charging at this at not inconsiderable speed I managed to lift the front wheel and lunge over the bars as the front wheel crested the top of the boarded ramp. The steerer tube hit me in the chest and the bike hovered tantalisingly on the verge of going over only to succumb to gravity and I made a perfect backward roll, still clipped in back to the ground. Fortunately on one was directly beneath me (although it might have cushioned the impact). This is not XC racing as we know it. At a rough estimate, the ramp was a good 4ft tall with a downward approach and no transition. One fella I talked to at the finish said he cleared it – I imagine that most climbed around it on foot.
No harm done and we proceeded to climb on yet more glorious singletrack through the forest. Visions of the Ewok dwellings popped into my head as we crossed ever more elaborate and challenging wooden walkways which spanned steep gulleys, streams and the like. Some had a 6in wide strip of wire mesh stapled to them, others didn’t. Some were straight, others had on or more significant bends in them (somewhat unnerving when they’re only a foot wide). Some required a burst of speed on approach as they climbed steeply; others made of small diameter logs laid across the direction of travel rattled teeth, chains and pretty much everything else. One or two had rope “handrails” but I imagine that these would only provide rope burns before a fall of anything up to 12ft onto fallen trees or stumps. Gulp.
Once over the top of the highest point at 750m the descent got progressively steeper but with only roots to contend with rather than rocks I was beginning to think that the increase in tyre pressure recommended by the mechanic before the start was overkill. 4km later and the first Enduro started and what an Enduro! 2.5km might not seem long but when the track hugs the side of a mountainside with lush vegetation and trees obscuring most of the track ahead, soft edges such that the track was effectively only 6 to 8 inches wide in places, ups, downs, roots, occasional rocks …… it was brain frying. Many of the turns were full lock on a 26er so the 29er guys were at a disadvantage – hurray – and sliding the rear wheel with the brake was the most effective way around.
A short kilometre section of similar singletrack followed and then pretty much the same again for the second Enduro! A-w-e-s-o-m-e. A much overused term this side of the pond but with over 10km of singletrack descent of the most varied and high quality type it’s fully justified. Brain well and truly fried the final couple of km into town were down what I assume was a storm drain so into the big ring and pound the pedals to make up some time. Only to find rocky sections with some the size o basketballs to contend with and no time to break or think clearly. No punctures for me but I did hear of several rides getting them, tubeless or not. The last km was a steep tarmac descent through the town streets with a fast left turn over a verge onto the parking lot of the ferry terminal. There were marshals making the international hand gesture for “slow down” but when you’re doing well over 20mph and the finish line is literally in sight it’s not the most obvious thing to do. A 6ft drop at over 45 degrees was an unpleasant surprise an much air was had, fortunately with a happy landing. This was to provide the fascinating backdrop to post-race snacking with several spectacular pileups.
After bike washing and showering we boarded a ferry for the crossing from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay. More stunning mountain scenery, deep blue ocean and idyllic shore front homes – yawn. Then a bus to Squamish along the famous Route 1 which passes The Chief, Canada’s premiere crag: a towering granite dome with numerous 400m routes up it’s face. Awesome? Yup.