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A BC Party

24 October 2023

Words & Photos: Craig Oliver & Priscilla Thompson

The BC Bike Race (BCBR) has been on my hit list for a while now. Advertised as "the best week-long single track experience on a bike", they're not wrong. It didn't take much to convince my partner Priscilla to join me on a trip to British Colombia, Canada for a racing holiday, our kind of holiday.

BCBR is held at the start of July, a quiet time of year for Priscilla's 'Wai-Ora Apiaries' beekeeping business and for my 'Custom Cycle Coaching' business. So it was relatively easy for both of us to escape our day jobs for four weeks.

The Plan

We set aside ten days to acclimatise to the heat after training in the Kiwi chill, and allow for course reconnaissance to scope out any sketchy sections. A few days based at a good friend's place on the North Shore had us on our feet, with a rented van and sim cards sorted for the mobiles.

Course recon went well with a nice mix of van life and ripping unreal trails on Vancouver Island. Acclimatisation to the anticipated heat wasn't so effective, temperatures were pleasant in the mid teens. The one day of hail, rain and sub zero conditions caught me out in the middle of nowhere using Trailforks to navigate every turn, with a wet phone and numb fingers. My Ground Effect Rivet really saved my butt that day. I also had some rear suspension issues which took three days, three bike shops and 800 Kiwi dollars to sort. It's not all rainbows and butterflies when you're traveling, but was good to get the big complications out of the way prior to kick off.

The Race

Stage 1 Prologue - Second place after a short 25-ish minute blast, three seconds behind the leader. A good sign for the rest of the week, and an excellent way to blow the cobwebs out after not racing since the NZ summer season. But at the same time frustrating not to get the stage win, being so close but held up by a bit of course traffic.

Stage 2 - A super hot day at Maple Mountain, lots of fluid drunk and ice cubes down the jersey. 1st place in the stage but second across the line by a wheel. How you may ask? I asked myself the same thing, timing is mat to mat, not gun. So I got the stage win by 0.05 of a second not the clear stage win I was after...

Stage 3 - Another super hot day, pancakes and not porridge for breakfast this morning. A stage win by a handful of seconds. Yes. Goal one to win a stage, tick. Might have pancakes again tomorrow... oh and I am in the leader's jersey now.

Stage 4 - Elbows out bar to bar racing, second by a wheel on the stage and retained the leader's jersey. Hot again. A swim in a dam afterwards and a litre of chocolate milk really hit the spot. The maximum temperature on my Garmin was 38 degrees and felt like I had water in my shoes the whole day. It turns out it was sweat.

Stage 5 - Cumberland you beauty, it's like the Hanmer Springs trail network on steroids. Defending the lead and doing nothing silly was the plan. I was leading just before dropping into the longest descent of the day which had I planned on taking chill, controlling the pace, not risking a flat tyre or mechanical. But unfortunately I missed the entrance to the descent - normally there is tape across the ground, but not this time. Bugger. Now on the back foot and chasing down a dusty descent with poor visibility I had a huge OTB (over the bars ), but managed to shrug if off and keep chasing. After a one hour chase I caught the leader but was buggered not far from the finish, and having run out of water I settled into my own pace not losing too much time.

Stage 6 - The lush forest and flat rough trails of Campbell River awaited us. I suffered like a dog from my crash and didn't get time to take in the scenery. The 2nd and 3rd placed riders overall did a good job of tag teaming me with coordinated attacks on the first long fire road. I struggled for seat power and lost the overall lead. Sitting in 3rd with one day to go.

Stage 7 - All or nothing. Comfortably sitting in 3rd it was time to give it a few berries and see if I could work some magic. It was nice to be dishing out some pressure instead of receiving it. I pushed the pace early trying to force an error but the top 3 three were stuck together with glue. A stage win was still on the cards so I was saving a few watts for the sprint but unfortunately dropped my chain 3 km out from the finish. My only mechanical issue the whole week, impressive considering the terrain we were racing on. I put my chain back on and got to relax and enjoy the last kms. Only then did I realise that with my P3 I achieved my goals for the event. I hung around at the finish and got to see Priscilla cross the line with a smile. Only setting out to finish the event she smashed it, and got top 10 in the pro women's field. Bravo.

Stage 8 - Unofficial. Relax: eat ice cream and sushi; find bakeries; do easy rides; see friends; swim; BBQ; and get into some higher mountains on foot.

My kind of party with a shirt to match.