June 30, 2008 (Port Alberni, BC) – Sunday’s Stage 2, from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni, the longest stage of the week, threw racers onto 124km of active logging road cutting through the Cowichan and Alberni valleys enroute to Port Alberni. Though the race profile appeared to highlight massive, gruelling climbs and descents, the actual elevation gain only capped out at 193m, making for a fast, undulating course.
Seasoned race MC, Drew Bragg, teased racers about the lengthy road-race style stage before the start, “How many of you are here for the ultimate singletrack experience? “¦well this isn’t it!” Racers caught on early that this would be a road-style race, and planned their strategies accordingly.
For the second day in a row, the sun beat down on the 400+ BC Bike Race competitors, making hydration a key factor again. The continued hot, dry conditions turned the unpaved logging road into a dust bowl that stirred up quickly and settled on racers from head to toe, but that didn’t slow them down. Riders formed into huge pelotons early on and powered through the first 114km until the pack-thinning climb ultimately separated the strongest from the bunch.
The final 2km of fun, swooping, zippy singletrack made the logging roads fade to distant memories — just long enough to bring racers across the finish line thoroughly exhausted, dusty and happy.
Guy Dutil, a soon-to-turn sixty racer from Quebec is back for his second BCBR experience with new partner, 47yr old Mark Cox. Dutil, who finds this year’s event more challenging than the last year’s, decided he’d go easy on the trickier trails after hammering out close to 120km of logging roads. “We played it smart. We can smell the finish line and adrenaline is flowing, but we don’t want to make a stupid mistake being tired. The singletrack trails were amazing, but I’m going to save the steeper descents for rides back home when I don’t have five more days of racing ahead of me.”
Dutil and Cox (Veteran 100+ Team Camacc) met in the BCBR Team Finder forum, each looking for a race partner. A series of emails and a few phone calls later, Dutil decided that Cox was a good match, “He’s much faster than I am, but he’s such a nice guy about it. He’ll drop back if he’s pulling too fast because he doesn’t want to pressure me. We’re both in agreement that we want to finish together each day and have fun doing it.”
Though Team Camacc were constantly caught between pelotons that formed throughout the day, the top racers pulled together quickly and tightly and stayed that way for close to 90% of the race.
Once again the Trek-Volkswagen pairing of Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk found themselves in the heat of a sprint finish — this time a three-team battle for top honours in this stage. When the dust had settled, Australians Tim Bennett and Adrian Jackson (Team Flight Centre) were first to blast both riders across the finish line in a very fast 4:21:48. Eatough and Schalk were a tight second also stopping the clock at 4:21:48. Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks of Team Kona were only 11 seconds behind, snagging third place.
With a frustrating start yesterday that left them 25 minutes behind the race pack, the Trek-Volkswagen team are fast becoming the story of the race. They now sit merely two minutes back from the overall race leaders, Team Mona Vie Cannondale’s Jason Sager and Bart Gillespie who suffered a flat near the end of today’s stage that left them 10 minutes behind Team Kona for the day.
“It felt like a recovery race for the first half; but the last half turned more stressful. We were in a race with Kona and Flight Centre from the singletrack onward,” said Trek-VW’s Eatough. “The race is starting again and it’s good to be back in it.”
Eatough’s partner, Jeff Schalk commented on their hard-fought battle to the top, “It just takes consistency. Yesterday we were 30 minutes back. A lot can happen in a 7-day race.”
On the women’s side, Sarah Bresnick-Zocchi and Kelli Emmett (Taint Slo), repeated their yellow jersey win with a time of 4:51:50, which places them more than an hour ahead of their competition in the overall standings. “We heard it was a road day today, so we got in a group and played it like a road day,” said Emmett.
It was repeat top honours in all remaining categories – Wendy Simms and Normon Thibault (Kona — Riding in Memory of Denis Fontaine) in the Open Mixed category; Veterans 80+ jersey to Different Bikes / Deadgoat Racing partners Andrew Handford and Pat Doyle; and brothers Brian and Bruce Johnson (Double Shot).
Next up: Stage 3 from Port Alberni to Cumberland. Competitors can put their pack riding skills to good use on the day’s first 60km of logging road, after which they’ll sample some of the flowing singletrack trails that are quickly putting the small town of Cumberland on the mountain biking map.
Full results here.
For more information: www.bcbikerace.com