July 07, 2011 (Sechelt, BC) – Racers woke up this morning to the pastel palette of a west coast sunrise at their beachfront Base Camp in Powell River. It was a beautiful farewell as racers made their way to the Saltery Bay ferry terminal for a sailing to Earls Cove, the start line for Stage 4.
Twenty-four racers missed out on the morning’s picturesque sailing with BC Ferries. Instead, BC Bike Race founding sponsor Harbour Air generously provided scenic floatplane flights from Powell River to Earls Cove for those racers randomly selected the night before. The two groups of 12 lucky winners were treated to incredible panoramic views as they cruised the skies southbound along the coastline to Earls Cove.
Harbour Air was also pivotal in helping a racer whose bike was misplaced while being shipped to the BCBR last week. Obsession: Bikes, the BC Bike Race bike tech provider, worked to track down the wayward steed, build it, and, in partnership with Harbour Air, transport it from North Vancouver to the Earls Cove start line where it was reunited with an incredibly grateful racer.
And what perfect timing for a reunion with the bike! Today’s stage, the mid-point of the week and often referred to as “hump day”, was a test of endurance and willpower as racers made their way from Earls Cove to Sechelt via plenty of hand-built singletrack and double track trails including ACDC, Cabin Fever, Elevator, Escalator, Brat, Over Easy, Desoto, Rockabilly, Bypass, Easy Street, Skullduggery, Beaver Pond, Par Back, VFR, Adanac, and Lee’s Big Easy. Whew! Strategically integrated fire roads offered racers the opportunity to refuel and replenish, which was a critical part of the hot, sunny, dusty day that put the epic in Epic.
Fortunately for racers, Ryders Eyewear has been staged at aid stations to provide a sunglass-cleaning service to everyone rolling through, so the dust and sweat weren’t permanent on their shades. Every racer received a pair of custom BC Bike Race logoed Ryders sunglasses at the start of the week Ryder’s own Brent Martin, who usually races BC Bike Race, wanted to support racers in a tangible and unique way, as he’s ridden many miles in their shoes. So Brent devised the sunglass-cleaning service and is along for the week with BC Bike Race, cleaning sunglasses at Aid Stations. And he couldn’t be happier. Feedback on the trail is that racers love the Aid Station sunglass service. An original BC Bike Race sponsor, Ryders is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The action on the trail was intense and challenging all around today. The Epic Solo Men category saw current yellow jersey leader Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bikes) and second place GC racer Jason Sager (Jamis) wheel-to-wheel for the duration of the Stage. European Thomas Dietsch (BULLS) was in the running with them in early stages, but suffered a flat and mechanical that would drop him back in the pack. Sheppard and Sager wound up in a sprint finish, with Sager nipping Sheppard at the line by a mere second. Sager took the stage win while Sheppard retains the “golden fleece” for the 4th consecutive day and holds a commanding 14 minute lead over Sager in the GC. Kona’s Corey Wallace hung on to claim third place for the stage and GC. Yesterday’s winner, Neal Kindree, suffered a mechanical and was eighth for the day, fourth in the GC.
Hometown boy Kris Sneddon and partner Barry Wicks (Kona) had their sights set on a victory in today’s stage as Sneddon grew up riding these trails. “Of course we wanted to win the stage,” said Sneddon, “It’s like a hockey team playing on their home rink.” Wicks decided he’d let his partner do what he does best, “Following Kris downhill is super fun but really scary. I just have to put all my trust in him. It’s amazing how fast he descends.”
The Kona boys retained the yellow jerseys for the 4th consecutive stage and have created a 30-minute lead over 2nd place Marty Lazarski and Ricky Federau (Nativo/Devinci). What had at one point been a hard fought battle for 2nd and 3rd place has now spread out. Colin Kerr and Greg Day (Rocky Mountain Bikes) are 15 minutes behind in 3rd.
While some categories saw a reshuffling in the top ranks for today’s stage, the yellow jersey wearers remain the same as yesterday.
Up next: Racers get to sleep in a little longer as the Day 5 Sechelt course had to be modified to due a creek crossing that’s running at a higher volume than normal. With approximately 10km less to ride in the first half of the course, racers will have even more in the tank to thoroughly enjoy the day’s highlight: a close to 12km flowing descent to finish at the Langdale ferry terminal.
Today’s Rocky Mountain “Love the Ride” trail of the day: Escalator