The inaugural B.C. Bike Race wrapped up in Whistler on Saturday, July 7, following seven grueling stages. The race started in Victoria on Canada Day, made its way north on Vancouver Island for three days, crossed over to the Sunshine Coast and then rolled up to Whistler on the sixth day. The seventh day was entirely set in Whistler, with some of the most technical riding of the journey.
In total, teams of two and four covered about 525 km of ground, roughly 40 per cent on singletrack.
The goal was to create a stage race in the spirit of the TransRockies Challenge or TransAlp Challenge, but featuring more technical West Coast singletrack.
The title in the first year went to the team of Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk of Team Trek-Volkswagen. Both are experienced long-distance and stage racers, and they had no trouble with even the most technical trails. They won all seven stages of the race, posting a cumulative seven-stage time of 25 hours, two minutes and 50 seconds.
Team Rocky Mountain Bikes, which included race course setter Andreas Hestler and partner Kevin Calhoun, came on strong in the second half of the race to finish with a time of 25:45:03. Team La Ruta/Sho-Air, with riders Jason First and Manuel Prado, placed second in a few stages but dropped off in the technical trails to finish third in 26:28:52.
The only Whistler riders in the Men’s Open category were Julian Hine and Kevin Phelps, racing as Team Chromag-Sram. They posted a total time of 29:11:52, making their best time on the technical stages of the course.
On the women’s side, Cynthia Young and Michelle Newton of North Shore Girls Don’t Cry won six stages out of seven to finish with an overall time of 35:19:15.
The Jennerators, Jen Keefer and Jen Sawrenko, took second overall with a cumulative time of 36:31:03. Team Tunnelvision, with Whistler residents Emma Smith and Sarah O’Byrne, placed third in 37:52:26. More amazing is the fact that this is only the second year that Smith and O’Byrne have been mountain biking.
Riders in the mixed category produced the scariest moment of the race when David Harris and Lynda Wallenfels had a serious crash on Kill Me Thrill Me on the seventh day. Harris was riding over a bridge and fell off the side, hitting his head and sustaining a concussion. As a result he was taken off-course on a backboard as a precautionary measure, but turned up later at the finish line.
Up to that point Harris and Wallenfels had won every stage in the mixed category, but their crash put them well off the podium. Pemberton’s Hilary Harrison and Ryan Watts — both veterans of La Ruta and the TransRockies — moved up to first while racing as Crystal Mountain Hotels with a cumulative time of 31:16:20. Harrison and Watts stayed with Harris until the paramedics arrived, which slowed down their own time.