The 11th annual BC Bike Race wrapped up in Rainbow Park last week, bringing a number of hometown and high-placing Whistler riders full circle.
“We had perfect weather, a couple days were hot but it started out cool in the morning, which was beneficial for everyone,” said race spokesperson Andreas Hestler. “We’re in a really special place in B.C., with amazing trails, trail builders and planned access. That’s why people keep coming back.”
Competitors from Canada and the world had a tour of the best of the province over the seven days of the course, which took place this year from July 7 to 13.
The route starts in Cumberland on Vancouver Island into the dark forests and beaches of Powell River, through the Sunshine Coast and up to coastal hills in North Vancouver, Squamish and mountainous Whistler.
Hestler said even for hardcore locals who spend a lot of time on B.C.’s bike trails, the experience of being in a seven-day race and getting to know other competitors is a unique experience.
“It’s a bit of a pilgrimage, you’re setting yourself (up for) something that is difficult and hard. There’s no out — you set yourself a goal. Some people ride just to finish it, and some to win their category,” he said.
Despite her original intentions, the competitive spirit won out for Whistlerite Trish Sinclair, who finished in third place in the women’s open team division with partner Chrissy De Vall.
Sinclair’s journey had a special significance. She was originally set to travel with Whistler’s Wayne Katz as her partner, but he was forced to drop out of the race when blood work results revealed an unexpected leukemia diagnosis.
“He had a really tough go of it, and I wasn’t sure I was going to race,” said Sinclair.
Katz encouraged her to ride. In the end, De Vall and Sinclair partnered up while he followed along from home with his wife.
“It made for a different kind of race,” said Sinclair. “It was especially hard when we got to the Sea to Sky, Squamish and Whistler, because we’d trained there. We rode the race together and it was our Ride for Wayne, BCBR 2017. We were doing it for him, and I wasn’t expecting to really race it, but Chrissy is a little more holding on to her racing past.”
“We made a little name for ourselves as being super technical. There were times when guys would be on our wheels and we’d say, ‘Do you need to go by?’ and they’d be like, ‘No, your lines are awesome.’ That felt good. The camaraderie on the trail feels great.”
Sinclair said her favourite part of the race were the downhills in Sechelt and the evening spent in Powell River — including the sunset ferry ride, tents on the beach and a candlelit dinner with live music and real cutlery.
“Of course Whistler is special too, because we’re home,” she said.
Hometown competitor Jesse Melamed also placed well, coming in ninth place in the solo men’s division.
This year’s course included two new additions to the Sea to Sky days: Leave of Absence and A Cut Above. Local trail builders Rob Phoenix, Penny Deck and Martin Newman also participated in the race.
The event finished in Rainbow Park on Thursday, on a finish line Hestler called “magical.”
“Grass field, mountains in the background, lake right there, then again, the sun came out. Voila. Celebration,” he said.