Day 3 Campbell River: 48km Epic Course
Cory Wallace solo for stage win: top three men within 2 seconds overall. Simms wins, but women’s overall is shuffled.
Today’s sun finally treated racers to the beauty of the Sunshine Coast under clear skies. The entire BC Bike Race operation left Campbell River this morning to take the second BC Ferries trip across the Georgia Strait to the town of Powell River. Riders were greeted by the sound of the Powell River community ringing cowbells and cheering their arrival. If that wasn’t enough to lift some damp spirits, the surrounding trails planted the biggest smiles of the week on racers faces.
The Sunshine coast is accessible only by air or ferry and it’s amazing how well the trails are maintained despite the small community of riders and trail builders.
Riders started day three from Willingdon Beach in downtown Powell River and immediately started working their way to the trails of Rolling Thunder. With a bold solo move five kilometers into today’s 48km race Cory Wallace of Kona bikes won his first stage in 17 attempts. A three-race veteran and frequent runner-up, Wallace finally had his day after riding alone in front of the favorites for over two hours.
Cory emerged first to the bottom of ‘Suicide Creek Trail’, the first Easton Gravity Enduro section, with a 45 second gap and a lot of trail left. The rain had slowed the trails down but mud was surprisingly kept at bay. The contrasting brown stitch of trail winding its way through a bearded electric green forest had to make it difficult for Wallace or any rider to keep their eye on the trail.
Out of the last section of trail through the final Gravity Enduro Section, Wallace was still holding a 45 second gap. The chase group had whittled down to Sheppard, Kindree, Wicks, Hadley, and the Team of Two Duo from Jamis. Guido Thaler (Craft-Rocky Mount) had come off the pace in the last singletrack, but his skills on the BC trails had improved enough to keep him with the lead group for most of the day. Daniel Gathof of Germany had an off day, with an unfortunate series of flat tires and lost 40 minutes on the day.
Day four in Earls Cove is the queen stage of the BC Bike Race and there are sure to be some motors sputtering as the pace heats up on the 2100 meters of climbing. The general classification has never been tighter than this year with Wicks, Kindree, and Sheppard all within two seconds of each other. Hadley, Wallace, and Carter Hovey are all within nine minutes of each other.
The story of the women’s epic race is quickly shaping up to be about the fight for the second and third steps of the podium. Wendy Simms (Kona) has wrapped her fists around the leaders jersey even though she put the least amount of time on her competitors today than the previous two.
Due to a corrected mistake that put Melinda Jackson (Team KiwiRoo) in the wrong category on the results, she has now taken over second place in the general classification. A New Zealander on a month trip around the Pacific Rim, Jackson was third on the day by a second to the rejuvenated Sonya Looney (Topeak Ergon). Soonya is now 4th on the overall, but Wednesday’s stage is sure to suit her big-mountain Colorado legs. Alex Robinette (Bicycle Sport Shop 2) isn’t likely to let her 3rd place go easily, so watch her to fight to the end to stay the first US female solo rider.
Thomas Turner and Jason Sager of Jamis Bikes made it two of three today with a commanding lead, finishing with the lead solo riders. Bad luck struck Rocky Mountain Factory Team 1 when Colin Kerr cut his hand enough to need stitches at the end of the stage. Kerr and his partner Greg Day didn’t abandoned the race, but the injury slowed them enough to fall to third on the day but not change their overall.
The Clif Bar team of the brothers Heitman (Garett and Jake) took 4th, ahead of the other team of brothers, Nic and Simon Lamond (Lamond Bros). Michael Colwill and Scott Martin of Team Monz split the two teams for a fifth place on the day but maintained 4th overall.
For accomplished South African stage racer Nic Lemond and his brother Simon “The BC Bike Race was on our bucket list the moment we heard about it.” “I’ve been to BC before and I had to come back.”
Women’s Duo gets a new stage winner.
The dominating ‘Moab Maidens’ who had won the first two days came apart a little today in the trails of Powell River. Quick to show they could fill the top spot, Team ‘Mo Crazy’ cut the finish-line first with the Maidens in disorder.
The biggest tussle shaping in the woods is between the current third and fourth place. The ‘Canmore Crazy Chicks’ have a mere 47 seconds lead over team ‘Frisky Business’. It’s a fight for Canadian pride to sit on the last podium spot and with only three days down and four to go it’s a story yet unwritten.
Men’s Master Solo
The BC Bike Race international field is represented well by Namibian rider Mannie Heimans. Heimans is an Olympian, former World Cup race and winner of the Trans-Alp, and Cape Epic.
Second place also made a long journey to ride the trails of the BC Bike Race. ‘Peiking Man’, Chad Forrest of China is only a couple minutes up on Canadian Craig Gillett.
Easton Gravity Enduro
The two stages of today’s Easton Gravity Enduro were owned by the local North Shore Olympian Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain Bikes). Josh Carlson (Giant) was second on the first stage but fell back on stage two where Matt Hadley got his first Gravity Enduro podium.
With 2100 meters of climbing in 65km the Earls Cove-Sechelt stage is traditionally the toughest course of the race. After three days of energy sapping wet trails, the climbing will surely feel as if it’s steeper and longer than years past. Fireworks will be lit and while some will sparkle bright a couple might fizzle. It will likely be a day that transforms the general classification as racers begin to enter the deeper layers of the proverbial ‘Hurt Locker’ or as Dave Toll says enter the, “Pain Cave”.