July 11, 2011 (Whistler, BC) – What an incredible backdrop for the final stage of BC Bike Race 2011! With beautiful mountains reaching toward blue skies and the Olympic rings watching over the finish line, the picturesque Olympic Square in the heart of Whistler was the place to be.
Racers set off for their final stage, the Whistler ‘victory lap’ at 10am to the cheers of a huge crowd of spectators. Course Director Grant Lamont shared some final insights and anticipated that the fastest racers would cross the finish line in approximately 2 hours.
Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bikes) had worn the yellow jersey since Day One and had created a solid cushion from second place Jason Sager (Jamis). Barring any unforeseen incidents, Sheppard was likely to win BC Bike Race for the second year running. But would he win the final stage?
The answer came much quicker than expected. Squamish rider Neal Kindree (Republic Bike Shop / SRAM) astounded BC Bike Race spectators and crew when he shot through the finish line in a blistering 1:22:01, nearly 40 minutes earlier than anticipated. The question of who would win the Whistler stage had been brewing since the hard-fought battle for the win in Squamish. Kindree was one of the prospects, as were Sheppard, Sager, and the Kona combo of Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks. Very strong performances all week saw Kindree on the podium five times, three of which were stage wins.
Kindree shared some of his Whistler-winning strategy with the finish line crowd, “I’ve ridden these trails quite a bit and knew that there were going to be some sharp rocks out there. So, I put extra air in the tires and throttled through the descents. I just kept telling myself, ‘Ride smooth. Ride smooth’.” A smooth ride it was. Kindree rode into a 2.5-minute gap over the next closest racers to cross the line: Brian Lopes (IBIS), Chris Sheppard and Jason Sager.
Yes, Brian Lopes. After winning the Rock Mountain Bikes “Love the Ride” timed sections in Squamish yesterday, Gravity legend Brian Lopes put in an unbelievable effort to win second place in Stage 7. BC Bike Race was Lopes’ first crack at a mountain bike stage race and he was clearly stoked, “This is way more than I’d expected. My goal this week was a couple of top 20 finishes and I had two or three top 10 before today. But I never thought in a million years I would get in the top three!”
Lopes’ performance—as well as the impressive 3rd place finish (Stage 7 and Overall) for gravity diva Katrina Strand (Troy Lee Designs/Oakley/Maxxis)—has shown that events like the BC Bike Race are accessible to riders from a broad spectrum of disciplines.
Sneddon and Wicks won Stage 7 in the Open Team category in 1:25:04, which gave them their seventh yellow jersey of the week. Mitchell Hoke and Brady Kappius (Clif Bar) were second and Greg Day and Colin Kerr (Rocky Mountain Bikes) took third.
Other highlights of the day include Trish Grajczyk winning Stage 7 in Master’s Women category. Grajczyk, who clocked the fastest female time of the day in 1:51:22, earned her seventh yellow jersey at BC Bike Race 2011. “I loved the race,” said Grajczyk, “I would recommend it to anybody!”
In the Veterans 100+ Team category, Canadian Nordic and cycling legend Pierre Harvey and his partner Daniel Auclair won Stage 7 and also claimed the yellow jersey for the seventh time this week. “It was a great journey. Every day was perfect,” Harvey told the finish line crowd, “It was the best week of my life, that’s for sure!”
In essence, every single racer who crossed the line today was a highlight of the BC Bike Race. Each finisher earned a BC Bike Race belt buckle medal, a finisher’s t-shirt, and bragging rights to have completed more than 400km of West Coast singletrack in seven days. All that remains is to celebrate the accomplishment, which will happen at the final awards ceremony and banquet tonight in Whistler. These riders have earned it!
Some racers had such an incredible experience at the 5th BC Bike Race this week that they already want more. Several racers are hoping to return in 2012, including European pro Thomas Dietsch (BULLS).
Registration for the 2012 event opens at 10am PDT HERE. Limited early bird pricing is in effect.