Back in September Mike and Steve competed in the Kootenay Sufferfest 100km
mountain bike race. A 100km point to point event with over 4500m of
Though struggling with knee pain Mike finished the race in 7 hours 26
minutes. Steve however ended up off course due to questionable course
marking. Instead he ended up traversing an old railway line perched on top
of a 1000 foot cliff.
After a month of sorting through over ten hours of GoPro footage, here’s
the edit of their adventure at the Kootenay Sufferfest.
With the Canada Day holiday on a Wednesday this year, it only made sense to make bookend cycling trips to maximize the holiday time. At least that is the perfect justification to take a week off and going mountain biking in Fernie, Coleman and Jasper.
Multi-day stage races has been hosted in Fernie by the TransRockies racing series, Furious 3 and now the Fernie 3, and there is good reason for this as the trails are challenging, varied and right in and around the townsite. Fernie 3 is in its second year, and it has some problems with its inaugural race last year that has been somewhat resolved, but new ones had developed in this year’s race (I will discuss more about this later). I crashed pretty heavily on my left shoulder last year and I was still healing up from a broken right elbow so I was disappointed with my race. I even didn’t start the third day because I felt like I couldn’t ride effectively or safely in my condition. As it turned out, they didn’t count the third day due to most of the field getting lost because of poor course marking. While I actually got a finishing time and placement for the race, it didn’t assuage my disappointment that I abandoned from the race.
This year, I wanted to make amends and have a solid showing at the Fernie3 so I started by getting a bike specifically for the race. I chose the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt BC Edition because it had the Rock Shox Pike 130mm travel fork that I needed for the long and rough descents in Fernie as the downhill portions is where I lose time. I don’t fancy myself as a climber so this makes me very sad. I put on a set of gossamer Beard built Enve/Tune/Extralite wheels to help with the grueling climbs (F-you HyperVentilation).
With a proper gun heading to a gun fight, Brad picked me up Friday afternoon and headed to Mike V’s house, but we got delayed by a fellow cyclist with a huge bike trailer taking up an entire lane. Was this prescient for things to come this weekend? Anyways, once we were on the road we were surrounded by montage painted RV’s on Highway 2. My favorite one was this Lion King themed portrait on the back of a huge RV going 140km/h. We didn’t get to the condo till 1:00am so instead of going right to bed, we drank beer till 2:30am. How else would you reward yourself after a 6-hour drive in a lowered Subaru Forrester with floodlights attached to the roof.
The first day of racing at the Fernie3 started at The Cedars, which is a new development on the resort side of Fernie, and the reported high that day was 34 C so managing the heat and hydration was paramount. I took a risk and took only one waterbottle with me as I knew there was going to be a lot of initial climbing and there were two aid stations-or so we were told. After the massive dustbowl that was created at the start due to the dry conditions and a twig stuck in my rear derailleur, we started the singletrack climb right away. Perhaps it was the one bottle strategy or the new Giro Synthe helmet keeping me cool, but I felt strong behind Steve Martins. We passed numerous racers who started faster than they should have so I knew we were in the top 20 at that point. At the first aid station, I filled up my bottle and continued on with Neil as he rode by. Similarly to the early ride with Steve, we set up a good pace together and caught and passed more racers. The three of us were riding well together, but then came the downhills-my nemesis. This time, while I did lose contact with Steve and Neil, I didn’t lose any spots from racers coming from behind me. The Thunderbolt allowed me to keep my speed up and take the faster, more technical lines. “Blue Thunder” kept me upright and smooth on the downhills without any crashes. I finished the day not getting lost which a significant number of other racers did due to a tricky turn in the Dark Forest trail. Overall, the first day was full of long and steep climbs, and with the heat, it was a day of sadistic attrition where racers had to show their mettle. The big bonus was that the race organizers had free beer at the end of the race; the rest of the day was a blur.
The second day started at the Aquatic Center and the race organizer promised us more cross-country trails despite starting us up HyperVentilation, which is an infamous switchback climb with a fantastic view that you can’t actually enjoy due to your heart rate hitting its max. But, after the climb, we rode Kush and The Coal Discovery Trail which were fast and flowing and added a fantastic sense of ease during the pain. This is why Fernie is known for their mountain biking trails. Continuing with the sadistic tendencies, just before you hit the finish line, you have to climb Sidewinder up for almost no other reason than for added suffering. Brad was quite upset about the emotional let down of that climb and the boring descent so close to the end, but I was just glad it was the last climb. The second day was significantly more enjoyable than the first day due to the sheer amount of amazing singletrack riding. I got mesmerized at one point in Kush and didn’t go race pace and I kinda didn’t care. At the finish line, most of us were wondering why the race organizer didn’t make the single day racers race the second day instead of the first. There was almost just as much elevation, but the course was mostly singletrack instead of the loose gravel trail on the first day and the climbs were more steady.
The third day was like a classic XCO race as the climbs were shorter and the course had some long stretches of flat trail-it was absolutely a pisser of a race. Great steady switchback climbs, flowing downhill, punchy singletrack. It had everything a mountain biker would want. It suited some racers really well as Jason R and Bob W rode with me that day and looked very strong. I was also mesmerized by Bob’s luscious blonde hair blowing in the wind behind him. At the finish line, everyone was very happy with the day’s race as it was the finishing one and the most fun. The race was so fast the times were very close from group to group. We even had some secret beer at the finishing area for those of us in the know.
Without the egregious course marking from last year, people were significantly more celebratory at the end of this year’s race. There were some obvious criticisms that the Fernie3 race organizers should seriously take as sage advice. We were not impressed with the cheap paper number plates and the twist ties they gave us to fasten the plates to our bikes. They didn’t have enough marshals, properly stocked aid stations, ambassadors or EMS on the course. First aid was non-existent at the finishing area, there were no timed downhill sections and they ran out of jerseys. I know that putting on a race is onerous, stressful and ultimately thankless but hopefully they will make the appropriate changes for next year. The one thing they got right was having free beer at the finishing banquet. Things got slightly out of hand.
We finished the weekend with a guided tour of the Coleman trails by locals Troy and Lance. It was another hot day, but the trails were worth it because they were technical and rough. I didn’t bring enough water or food so I bonked on a very long climb to the top, but thank goodness Trevor is always prepared and saved me from being left in the woods to die. It has been quite a while since I’ve been in the back end of asshole intervals.
Now it’s off to Jasper for two days of more climbing and descending.
Today, in Whistler, was the final day of my 2015 BC Bike Race experience. The stage was 21kms with and decievingly tough 850m of climbing. 850 meters doesn’t seem like a lot when all the other stages had more than 1,500, but the trouble for me, was that a lot of the elevation game came all at once, and the opening climb up the ski hill just got harder as we hit the single track. Easily ridable on day one would be The trail ‘Yummy Numby’ but on day 7, with 300 Km’s of racing in the legs, this super technical climb proved to be very hard. I sort of went backwards today…but that’s okay. Bringing it home one last time. The XC trails around Whistler are very technical, with lots of roots and large rocks to navigate around / over. I’m pretty sure I broke my pinky toe by slamming it into a rock as I transitioned from pedalling to the ‘attack stance’ of pedals at 3 & 9 o’clock. My foot began to throb and sort of distracted me from the task at hand of finishing up BCBR on a strong note. Receiving my Finisher’s Belt Buckle from my lovely ladies Enjoying some post race watermelon (a staple around these parts) with Women’s solo winner Katrina Nash Filling Scott from Rocky Mountain in on my day. Awesome support from the Rocky crew really made a difference in my race. Sharing stories with Dwayne, a local Squamish dude who still rips super hard. It was really fun racing with him all week long. This is what MTB Racing is all about. My second post race staple – potato chips! One last bike wash. Another routine task of racing BCBR. Pro Freerider Geoff Gulevich rocked the skinsuit for the final stage. ALN and I thought he looked pretty good in an XC racing kit. I ended up loosing too much time on Day 7 as I was thoroughly punched so I slid down one spot. My final ranking was 12th overall in Solo Men covering ~322kms in a total time of 18:46:12. A super solid result that this working dad can be proud of. I learned a lot about my riding and myself and made some new friends along the way. This is such an awesome event that I encourage anyone who mountain bikes to serious consider entering. Myla is happy to have her Dad back 🙂 Thank you to Tyler, Scott, & Ben @ Rocky Mountain Bikes for all the great support through the week. It really takes a mental load off by knowing your machine will be taken care of. A last minute cable change was stress free. My Element worked awesome all week. No mechanicals and my bike worked perfectly each stage. Thanks to our team title sponsors, Kokanee and redbike, for helping me get to this great event with super support and encouragement. Brent had the forethought to reach out to Rocky, and it made a big difference in my race. Danielle Baker, racer relations kingpin, keep on being awesome. You always answered my questions as if it was the only one you were asked each day. You made this experience really fun and memorable for me. Thank you. Thank you also goes out to Andreas Hestler, one of the big cheeses at BC Bike Race, for inviting me to participate and share my experience to Pedal Mag’s readers. Dre still shreds as evident by his top 10 result, and it was super fun to ride hard with you each stage. A happy family at the finish And of course, a huge thank you to my family. To my inlaws who traveled to Vancouver & Whistler to help Liesje take care of our daughter. To Liesje and Myla, you ladies where so supportive. You helped me do my selfish racer thing and celebrated my achievement together as a family. It was really special to me to see you as I finished to get my belt buckle. I love you ladies! Well, that’s it. BCBR 2015 is in the books. What an awesome event, awesome experience, and awesome adventure. Thanks for reading, Mike
Squamish, the place near and dear to many MTBer’s hearts, was the setting for Day 6 of the BC Bike Race. A big day of climbing was in store, with over 1900 meters of climbing across the 53 km course.
Wake up call via a dying chicken call (Photo: BCBR)
It was one last day of sleeping in a tent for me and by this point of the event, many racers have departed for the luxury of a clean bed and flush toilet spoils that a hotel room provides. So my tent mate and I split up (amicably at least) and had a tent each for ourselves. It was so HOT in Squamish, well over 30 degrees, so I’m pretty sure I could have cooked a mean flatbread pizza in my tent. But luckily, once the sun went down, so did the temperature, and I enjoyed one of my best nights sleep soloing in my tent.
Pretty bikes all in a row
On this queen stage of BC Bike Race, legs really twinge and people who haven’t already, start to crack. I started out way better than yesterday, and my legs felt good again. I maintained my pace and didn’t go too hard at the start because Squamish is a long day in the saddle. Ridding ahead of a few of my competitors I’m trying to best, I ended in a good group (Andreas, Dwayne the local strong guy, and a couple of German riders from the Rocky team) and we clicked away the kilometres until the fun bermy trail called Half Nelson where I was dutifully dropped.
The second half of the race I spent riding on my own and with a few guys that were having really good days as they came up on me and passed even thought they’d had been racing behind me all week. I was feeling pretty good, so these guys were having really good days.
Another dusty day in the books
Riding solo for a while, I had a chance to really reflect on this experience and re-confirm how much I love to race my MTB. Pushing myself to my limit day after day is such an awesome experience. Sadly this journey is coming to an end but there is always a new adventure around
My family picked me up after the finish, and I gave the girls a tour of basecamp with all it’s amenities, shower trucks, water station, Bears Den, and the toilets…you know, all the necessities.
Liesje and Myla visiting my basecamp
The final day is set for Whistler. We have an awesome condo rented in Creekside, away from all the noise of the village, and with Air Conditioning! It is super hot in Whistler right now, so I feel like a king with my A/C.
Thanks for Reading,
Hump Day! The forth stage of BCBR, from Sechelt to Lansdale Ferry Terminal, is the middle stage of this week long adventure. Covering 50kms with 1500m of climbing, this new route took a few people by surprise as it took most, including me, longer to complete than expected. Yesterday was considered the ‘hardest’ stage of the race, but today’s could be considered just as tough. Although it was 10kms shorter, it featured more elevation gain.
This week has been powered by Nutella.
I’ve been snacking and eating a lot – comes with the territory when you’re burning over 2,200 calories per stage. Nutella has been a treat of choice. On the ferry early in the week a German guy asked me if I was European since I was eating Nutella!
Breakfasts and Suppers have been wonderful too. Check out this menu from Sechelt. The Quinoa and Kale bake was amazing.
Today’s stage when 90% to plan. I rode the climbs super strong and was ahead of most of the group of dudes that I was riding with for most of the week. At the 1hr mark, I even had the lead group in my sights, about 20 seconds up ahead, but I was wiser to stay on my own pace rather than push hard to join the leaders for a few moments of glorious suffering. My water conservation was just about right, as I just had to ratio my water to for about 20 minutes prior to Aid Station 2. The last push to the 20 minute decent to the finish line, 4 kms of fire road climbing sort of did me in. I just did not consume enough calories in the day, and my empty tank warning light was starting to blink. Instead of railing, hooting, and hollering my way down the fun trail, I hung on for dear life just to finish in one piece.
I ended up 16th overall and 10th in Solo Men on the day, creeping my way up to 11th in the GC (overall cumulative) results.
With over 200kms of hard mountain bike racing in the legs, you need to get your recovery in whenever you can. Here I took the opportunity to put my legs up on the ferry. I was able to catch the early earlier ferry, enabling me to hang out with my family for a few extra hours this afternoon / evening in North Van.
It takes a lot of power to recharge everyone’s connectivity to the internet
Tomorrow is going to be hard, again. The same amount of climbing as today, but in 10 fewer kilometres on the North Shore. I say bring it on, as it’s another chance for me to crawl my way up the standings.
Thanks for reading,
Well here I am on the eve of my main target for bike racing in 2015, the BC Bike Race. Dubbed as the “Ultimate Singletrack Experience”, BCBR races over 7 days from Cumberland, to Power River, to the Sunshine Coast, North Vancouver, Squamish, & finishes in Whistler. It is an adventure and an experience; a tour of British Columbia’s West Coast – the trails, the towns, the lifestyle.
My build up to BCBR has been solid and insightful. I trained mostly to and from work, and sprinkled in some Alberta Cup XC races to get some speed and intensity. The first race for me was the Hardcore hosted Royal River Valley Rumble. It was a great way to debut my Provincial Champion jersey by taking the win over a hard charging field. Feels good big time.
Cool and Collected. 📷: Robert Photography
The following weekend, hump day of the triple-header of MTB racing in May, was the Devon River Raid XC. With self-inflicted high expectations after my win in the previous weekend, I crateored hard with some bad luck combined with poor judgement. I pushed the boundary on PSI and paid the price with a couple of unfortunate crashes. The body can only take some many shots of adrenalin (post crash) and I bonked my way to an 8th place finish. Far from what i wanted, but that is racing – take the good with the bad and learn from it.
Hit the Dirt – A couple of times!
There is always next weekend, and the trifecta of races took place in Alberta’s mecca of MTB, Canmore. A double header weekend with the Iron Maiden XC Saturday and the 5hr Organ Grinder on Sunday. Good friends Josh & Stef surprised us with a place to stay in Canmore, so instead of commuting from their house in Calgary for each day, we were sitting pretty in Canmore (literally, look at the view!).
I dialled in the Organ Donor drop (slaying one MTB demon of mine) and was ready to go for race day.
Riding the Organ Donor. 📷: Masa Higuchi
But life is a funny thing. I’m a family man now, and super pumped about that. 3 weekends of racing was just too much for this family man, and I really lacked the killer instinct at both days. I lost the sprint for 3rd in the XC to fellow Dad Jamie Lamb, and Sunday I decided to end my race at the 3 of 5 hr mark since it was too nice of a Canmore day to not be hanging out with my girls.
Charging Soft Yogurt in Canmore. 📷: Ken Anderson
So a much needed mental break for competition leaves me here – well prepared, well tapered, and mentally sharp for BCBR. I’d really be happy to finish in the top 10, and that’s my goal. But more importantly, I really want to enjoy the adventure, live the experience, and enjoy life!
310kms, 10,000 meters of climbing, 600 racers, 24 different countries represented. BC Bike Race is going to be a fun adventure!
Thanks for Reading,