Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of contributions by MTBR guest writer and Cat 1 Pro Alex Kramer who hails from Los Gatos, CA and works as an instructor at De Anza College. Kramer has been racing 10 years, but has been riding since he was 12 years old when he received a 1988 Rockhopper as a Christmas present. He is also a long standing, active member of the MTBR forums. He recently won his age category at the Sea Otter Classic this year in the Cat 1 division. To read the first installment of his BC Bike Race Diary – (Better than a midlife crisis!) click here.
Sometimes luck is just not on your side.
Day 1 of the BC Bike Race greeted us with dark skies and the gentle pitter-patter of rain on the tents. I knew something wasn’t quite right when I felt some odd aches and pains after the 6am wake up call roused us all from our slumber. Things didn’t get any better over breakfast, as most of the food seemed oddly unappealing. I managed to get some oatmeal down and proceeded to suit up, hoping it was just a case of pre-race jitters.
Feeling unsure of how we would fare in the wet conditions, Harold and I lined up in the second wave of racers. At 8:30 sharp the the first wave was sent down the road and onto the day’s first major fireroad climb, a roughly 7 mile slog up a wet fireroad that was surprisingly pitchy in sections.
As soon as we hit the climb I knew things definitely weren’t right, as I felt like I needed to throw up, and I just couldn’t hold a pace that would normally not cause me much difficulty. After letting numerous racers pass us, we finally made it to the first singletrack, which would prove to be quite the welcome to BC trails. Wet, muddy, rocky, rooty – you had to stay focused 100% of the time or risk ending up on your butt.
Luckily the Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt proved instantly up to the task. The Thunderbolt BC Edition comes equipped for these kinds of trails, with a 130mm Rock Shox Pike up front, a SRAM XO1 drivetrain, and powerful Shimano XT brakes. A Stan’s Flow wheelset with beefy Maxxis tires rounds out the package.
Although the bike was enjoying every minute of the nasty conditions, I was feeling worse and worse as the miles progressed, and by the 2nd climb I was in full survival mode. Although the final downhill was perhaps the most fun of the day, I couldn’t wait until it was over, and seeing the finish line after 28 painful miles was a huge relief.
Unfortunately for me I couldn’t just climb into a tent and curl up in a fetal position, as we had to catch a ferry to take us off the Island to Powell River, the start of the next day’s stage. I told Harold that if I didn’t feel any better I would probably not be able to ride the next day, and sadly I wasn’t wrong, as I’ve spent day 2 as a spectator, trying to get some rest and kick this nasty stomach bug.
Powell River is another wonderfully charming town that features more world-class singletrack trails. Folks even came out to cheer us on when we disembarked from the ferry and walked over to our camp on the beach. Luckily Harold was feeling fine and enjoyed the stage, which featured more flowy singletrack than day 1, with much less mud. Other than a short shower or two, it hasn’t rained much today and hopefully the weather will continue to stay dry.
Although my stomach still feels completely out of sorts, I will be riding on day 3, even if it means just going slow and enjoying the scenery. Harold and I were lucky enough to be chosen to do the next transfer aboard a Harbor Air float plane. Tomorrow morning we’ll be getting up early and flying to Earls Cove for an 11 am start. The stage promises to be tough, as it is almost 40 miles long with close to 5k feet of climbing.
I just hope I feel even better in the morning, so that I can really enjoy these epic trails. In my next entry I’ll make sure to say a bit about more about the bike, as sadly I haven’t really had a chance to appreciate what I’m riding due to my less than healthy body. Once I start to feel better I can hopefully tease out its strengths and weaknesses, although so far there aren’t many of the latter.