The 2016 BC Bike Race has officially begun it’s 10th anniversary edition with 600 riders from 36 countries completing a cool and rainy stage 1 in the forests surrounding Cumberland on Vancouver Island.
On tap was a 28-mile trail romp with 3800 feet of climbing. Average finishing time was 4 hours, 12 minutes. Classic island singletrack in the magical forests were the highlight, while a sheen of mud on the rocks and roots upped the difficulty level. Featured trails included Bucket of Blood, Truffle Shuffle, and Blockhead which has a 9km descent. (See full stage 1 results here.)
But this is not a one-way equation. Since the BC Bike Race started coming here in 2007, the community of Cumberland has seen an explosion in growth. New families and businesses have been steadily moving into the region in search of the outdoor opportunities that were off the radar a decade ago. Effectively, the BC Bike Race has been a major source of recreational advertising for the area on both the national and international scales.
Since the surrounding land used by the race is owned by logging companies, no tourism dollars were going towards promoting the growth of the local outdoor recreation industry. Fortunately, a recent land use agreement with the timber company has resulted in a mutually beneficial arrangement leading to more promotion of Cumberland’s goldmine of trails.
In the race for the podium, Cory Wallace (Kona Bikes) and Kelli Emmett (Lululemon/ Juliana Bicycles) gave notice that they were ready to rumble and finished the day standing on top of the pyramid. Wallace, a BC native, has roots and rocks in his blood, and Emmett has always been one of the sport’s best XC racing descenders.
Wallace, who has raced the BC Bike Race four times before and knows the trails probably better than any of the other men, has returned after taking a two year hiatus. He took the opportunity to bolt out front when early leaders Manuel Weissenbacher and Andreas Hartman (Rocky Mountain Europe) fumbled in the singletrack’s generous portion of roots and rocks.
The day’s eventual second and third place finishers, Stephen Ettinger (Focus/ RideBiker) and Spencer Paxson (Kona Bikes), rode a steady pace to manage Wallace’s lead and navigate incident free through the first day of seven days of riding. Quinn Moberg (Rocky Mountain) finished just thirty seconds off of Paxson and Ettinger. Interestingly enough the top four riders were all on Shimano’s new electronic Di2 XT drivetrains which got high praise from everyone using it in the muddy conditions.
The current French Marathon Champion Frederic Gombert took the fifth position just under four minutes off of Wallace’s pace. The presence of more Europeans at the front of the race this year (4 of the top 10) is a new development and hopefully they are able to keep challenging the regional riders who seem to constantly dominate in the trails of the BCBR.
Last year’s winner Tristan Uhl (Rocky Mountain) finished seven minutes back from the leaders. Uhl admits to doing more road racing since the recent floods in his home state Texas have washed away many of the trails beyond use and hurt his preparation for this years event.
In the women’s race Kelli Emmett had no trouble establishing an early lead leaving the rest of the women to contend for the other podium spots. The Texas State Crit Champion Sammi Runnels (Ride Biker) showed that her talents veer off the road into the woods as she grabbed second place on a challenging day of trail riding. Her road knowledge and climbing strength gave her enough of an advantage to hold off by 21 seconds the 2016 Transylvania Epic winner Kaysee Armstrong (LIV Giant/ Nox) of Knoxville Tennessee. Armstrong was scheduled to race last year but came as a volunteer instead after a concussion two weeks before the event sidelined her and deferred her entry a year.
Overall, racers battled through a physical day with finishing times ranging from 2hrs and 21 minutes for the leaders to 7 hours for the last rider over the line. The evening ferry ride across the water into the sunset gave the riders a chance to reflect on their first stage of the 2016 BC Bike Race and calibrate their compass for the remaining days of this adventure they’ve signed on to.
What awaits them when they disembark is a singletrack heaven with a passionate community who always greet the ferry riders with cheers and bells as they step off the boat and walk to their tents on the shores of Powell River. They’ll have two nights to settle into a routine they are just starting to understand before moving further down the Sunshine Coast in search of the next golden singletrack vein to tap into.