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B.C. Bike Race shows off the province

Seven stage endurance race putting province on the map

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If the Tour de France is really just a marketing tool for French tourism, is it a coincidence that France is the most popular tourist destination in the world?

But if bike races are the way to show off the natural beauty of a region, the seven-stage B.C. Bike Race, which wound up in Whistler last Friday, may one day be Tourism B.C.’s greatest asset.

Certainly the competitors who completed the 550 km race, which started outside Victoria, took in the southern half of Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, Squamish and Whistler, were singing the virtues of B.C. singletrack. At least those that had the energy to sing.

One testament to the popularity of the race, in only its second year, was the list of countries represented at the start line. Riders from Columbia, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Germany, Norway, St. Maarten, French West Indies, Morocco and Oman made the trek to B.C., as did Americans and Canadians.

Team Kona, which was made up of B.C.’s Kris Sneddon and American Barry Wicks, took the open men’s general classification title in a total time of 25 hours, 58 minutes, 24 seconds. Last year’s B.C. Bike Race winners, Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk of the Trek VW Mountain Bike Team were runners up in 26:19:17. The Australian Flight Centre team of Tim Bennett and Adrian Jackson wound up third in 26:40:33.

Matt Ryan, riding with teammate Jason First, was the top local rider.

The open women’s GC was dominated by Americans Sara Bresnick-Zocchi and Kelli Emmett, team Taint Slo, who led from start to finish, finishing in 32:08:16. The Helly Hansen Vancouver Island team of Kristenn Magnusson and Lisa Ludwig was second in 35:40:23, followed by Americans Katie Lindquist and Amy Harris in 36:07:32.

The Mixed category was won by Kona Riding in Memory of Denis Fontaine, made up of Wendy Simms and Norman Thibault. Their time was 29:10:27. Mtt Ohran and Sue Butler were second in 31:12:16. Spike Shooter, made up of Mark and Katie Compton, was third in 31:19:53.

There were two veterans categories, 80-plus and 100-plus.

Dave Harrison and Matt Luhn took the 80-plus category in 30:36:54, followed by Andrew Handford and Pat Doyle in 30:38:41. Mark Thompson and David Overstreet were third in 31:16:27.

Brian and Bruce Johnson combined at team Double Shot to win the 100-plus category in 36:38:39. Andy Klumb and Kent Erikson were second in 37:53:27. The Harbour Air team of Greg McDougall and Graeme Fitch came home in 43:10:58.

While some of the categories saw one or two teams set the pace, the men’s open category was extremely competitive, with a variety of stage winners. The standings were also affected by mechanical problems and time penalties. The Rocky Mountain Bikes team of Andreas Hestler and Max Plaxton, for instance, were assessed a one hour penalty for finishing more than two minutes apart on stage four. On stage five Hestler snapped a bolt halfway through the stage, which forced him to withdraw.

On stage six, in Squamish, their luck held out and they won the stage by six minutes.

The final stage was a sampling of the best trails Whistler has to offer. It started at Creekside with 300 metres of climbing, followed by a descent on the Bear Creek trail, Home Run and Lower Babylon By Bike toward Function Junction. The Riverside Trail took riders to Lower Far Side and High Trail to Tunnel Vision. Big Timber, Lower Sproatt, River Runs Through It, Bob’s Re-Bob and Cut Yer Bars led to the Zappa Trails and the finish at Spruce Grove Park.

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