BCBR-Canadian XC Nationals

BC Bike Race:

BC Bike Race is always a highlight of the year as we get to race some of the best trails in the World in our own backyard.  This year was no exception as my Kona teammate Kerry Werner and myself tackled the 7 day stage race with 620 other racers which included the deepest field ever of Elite riders.   After winning the race in 2016 and pulling up sick in 2017, my goal this year was to regain the title.  Day 1 in Duncan went pretty well with 8 riders all coming within a couple minutes of the leader, Geoff Kabush.  This set the stage for a battle royal in the coming days.

Stage 2 in Cumberland started with 5 time Cape Epic winner, Karl Platt from Germany, and myself breaking away on the first climb to set a high pace for the day.  The group would come together over the top of the climb before Kabush and I started attacking each  each other which gave us a gap on the rest of the field as we raced about 5-10 seconds apart down the amazing trails in Cumberland.  They were a bit slick from a light rain shower the night before and I hit a slippery slab rock on a steep pitch and went hard into a tree. My bike (Kona Hei Hei) took most the impact while my shoulder took the rest.  Stopping briefly to readjust my brake and shift leaver, the chase group of 3 riders came barreling by down the descent.   On the next climb I would get by them and tried to close the now 30 second gap to Kabush before he hit the last 15 km of trail to the finish as I knew he could open a large gap on us if we weren’t on his wheel.  Unfortunately I came up few seconds short of getting on his wheel, blew up a bit, and would eventually cruise in to claim 5th on the day, nearly 3 minutes down of Kabush.

Stage 3 in Powell River is always a favourite as the 50 km course flows through mossy old growth forests on a new generation network of XC trails. After a rad night of camping near the Ocean we geared up for one of the flatter stages at BCBR.   Karl Platt broke away early from the group as we rode at a steady pace before the one decisive climb up Aloha trail mid race. Pushing the pace up this climb I dropped everyone, then waited briefly for my teammate Kerry and Rocky Mtn ride Quinn Moberg to join in as I figured the 3 of us could work well together to the finish and hopefully put some time into Kabush and the other riders behind.  Unfortunately, Kerry would drop his chain about 10 minutes later and would have to stop to fix it.  With Kabush just 10 seconds behind with some other riders there was no time to stop to wait for Kerry so I opted to keep it pinned and possibly catch up to Platt who was ahead and then be able to team up with him to the finish.  The next 1 hour of racing was hard as Kabush and a couple riders worked well behind to keep the gap at 10-30 seconds while I closed the gap from 2 minutes down to 20 seconds on Platt before rolling in for 2nd on the day. Unfortunately Kabush and the other boys would roll in 9 seconds later which meant I had burnt a pile of matches for not much gain.

Stage 4 is the Queen stage at BCBR as  the course is the most physically demanding heading over 60 km over a mixture of fire roads and trails to Sechelt.  The legs were feeling great this day but after breaking away early without anyone coming along I decided to sit in with the lead group and save all the bullets for a late race attack once everyone was a bit weaker.  With 20 km to go there was a good climb and then the final 10 km included some good single track to the finish which my teammate Kris Sneddon and I had scouted out earlier in the year.  Patiently cruising along, waiting for the final climb, our group of 5 was cruising down a overgrown fireroad at nearly 40 km/hr when I ate shit  It was an easier part of the race and I made the mistake of losing focus a bit.  Not being able to see what was coming due to the riders ahead my pedal clipped a rock and I rocketed over the bars into a rock garden landing hard on my ribs, knee and arm.  My buddy Quinn Moberg sacrificed his race to stop and help me, along with the lead moto that was following our group.  I was pretty sure I had broken some ribs and possibly my knee as blood was coming out and everything was numb.

 It was a full yard sale with my gps, multi tool, sunglasses and energy food all over the place so I started searching around for everything.  Eventually I got back on my bike to find the stem and brake levers all distorted, so after fixing this I started slowly riding to the finish trying to find the fastest way back to town to see a medic.  After a couple minutes of riding the adrenaline really kicked in and the knee loosened up a bit which allowed me to set a steady pace to the finish line which included catching 3 riders and coming in 4th on the day.   From here it was straight to the great Medic team at BCBR to get checked out.  They did an initial clean up and assessment of the wounds and sent me off to the Hospital for a further analysis and stitches.  Patched up, they were guessing a rib was broken, gave me a bunch of pain killers and sent me on my way.  

Stage 5, waking up after a pretty rough sleep I popped a couple more painkillers and headed off to the start line. Now sitting 4th overall, 8 minutes out of the lead and with a bunch of bandages on the wounds it seemed the best days of the race were behind me.  Heading up the first climb the legs actually felt ok so pushing the pace a small breakaway formed with myself, Karl Platt and American Jeremiah Bishop. We worked well together for the first 40 km of the stage before French rider, Francois, amazingly bridged up to us solo from the chase group behind.  It stunned me as he was blown apart at the end of Stage 4 but now he was looking fresher then anyone.  Trying to drop him on the last single track climb before the big decent to the finish, he turned the tables and in turn ended up dropping all of us and going in for a decisive stage victory.  The final descent down to the finish is a classic on this stage and left all us riders grinning ear to ear as we were now headed back to the mainland for the last 2 stages.  

Stage 6 on the North Shore was a short 18 km race on some pretty gnarly trails.  After the big effort the day before, I woke up after a patchy sleep and could hardly walk on my knee or really get out of bed properly with the sore ribs.  It was a survival day and after getting through the stage it was back to Dik’s place in Deep Cove for an afternoon curled up in his basement trying to recoup a bit before the grand finale in Squamish the next day.

Stage 7 in Squamish is always a favourite as the 50 km stage is a mixture of fire road climbs tied into some great trail networks.  It was a tough day in the saddle but I was pretty keen to try and hold onto my 4th place position so I made the effort to stay with 5th place rider Karl Platt for the stage.  We had similar riding styles on the climbs and descents and enjoyed a great ride together to cap off another amazing week of singletrack racing at BCBR.   It was also my birthday and it would be tough to ask for a better party then the one BCBR threw that afternoon and evening to celebrate the end of the race.  Stage 8 went pretty deep into the night before it was time to shut it down and get ready for our Canadian XCO Championships the following weekend in Canmore.  My teammate Kerry had a great first BCBR riding a steady race all week to take 3rd place overall once the dust settled. 


Canadian XCO Championships:

After missing the Canadian XCO Championships in Canmore last year due to illness, I was stoked to have the opportunity to race this year.  It’s the one time of year all the top XC riders from Canada get together which makes it pretty fun to be out there training and riding together for the big day.  The race itself  was damn hard as the 4 km course was relentless with a mixture of steep pitchy climbs and technical descents.  It was one of the toughest courses I had ever ridden when you combined the physical and technical aspects over the course of 7 laps.  The pace was full gas from the gun as our top World Cup riders took off with the rest of us in hot pursuit.  Unfortunately I was missing the top gear and would have to settle into a steady endurance pace for the day which doesn’t factor well into these full gas 1.5 hour races.  Riding just inside the top 10 it was still a pretty rad day as the course was lined with friends and family cheering loudly which created a great atmosphere.  With two laps to go I was in no mans land, not quite able to get up to the chase group from 8th-5th, and a big gap to the rider in 10th behind me. Thus it turned into a pretty cruisey ride for the last couple laps in which I soaked in the atmosphere and just enjoyed riding my bike. Rolling in 9th wasn’t quite what I was eyeing up but it capped a solid day on the bike as these short 1.5 hr races are a fair bit different then my specialty of 24 hours. Post race was a party at the finish line as the pressure was off and we enjoyed our endorphin highs under the impressive Rocky Mountains looming above.

On Sunday Mike Charuk and I formed a Kona team for the team relay with two of Canada’s up and coming XC stars, Emily Johnston from Cumberland and Jake Yells from Campbell river.  Both these riders are in the U17 category but wholly shit can they ever ride hard.  The team relay normally conists of 4 riders, but we only had three so I did the first and last laps while the young guns did laps 2 and 3.  I was blown away how fast my teammates were riding so the pressure was on me to not drop the ball on the last lap.  We wound up taking 2nd in our category and 6th overall.  After watching these two ride there is no question the future of Canadian XC racing is looking bright!  Big shout out to Mike Charuk for being such a great coach for these young riders and for organizing our team for this event.  

After the highs of both the BCBR and the Canadian Championships the past two weekends the body shut down pretty hard this past week.   The downtime has been good to finally give the body a small break to heal up and recover from all the hard racing and crashing.  Another Canadian Classic, the 6 day ST6 stage race is set to take off on Saturday in Golden BC.  I’ve been looking forward to this one but at the moment the cards are up in the air on whether the body will be ready in time or if a small break might be smarter to let the wounds fully heal up before the 2nd half of the race year which will include the Canadian Marathon Championships and defending my title at the WEMBO World Solo 24 HR Champ in Scotland 🙂   

Thanks Candace Mihalcheon for the Pictures from MTB Nationals!

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