BC Bike Race is well under way on the rugged west coast singletrack that has made the mountain bike stage race famous.
While the pre-race favourites are looking comfortable early on, a cast of new faces are shaking up the standings before Day 1 officially got under way.
Day 0 – North Vancouver Prologue
New for 2019, the race started with a short prologue stage in North Vancouver. The teaser of trails to come helped sort out start order for the following days mass start Day 1 in the Cowichan Valley.
While short, it didn’t take long for new challengers to establish a presence in the race among the pre-race favourites.
Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team) dominated the women’s race, kick starting her campaign for a fifth consequtive BCBR win. Behind her,Courtney McFadden (Pivot-Maxxis) and Jenna Greaser followed, within 10 seconds.
In the men’s race, though, it was Felix Burke (Rocky Mountain) who caught out veteran BC Bike Race winner Geoff Kabush (Yeti-Maxxis) to take the early lead. Kerry Werner crossed the border from Washington State to calim third.
In the Open Mixed race, two American cyclocross racers from Cannondale were making themselves comfortable in new surroundings. Katlin Keogh and Stephen Hyde, moved into the early lead. “This is my first time in B.C.,” Keough said, “so I’m super excited.”
Day 1 – Cowichan Valley
While Felix Burke looked fast in the Prologue, the first official, full day of racing would be a much bigger test for the young Rocky Mountain racer. A win in N. Vancouver meant Burke would be starting in the leaders jersey, along side women’s leader Katerina Nash.
Lining up with them on the front row were Payson McElveen (Orange Seal-Trek), U.S. Olympian Sam Schultz (Rocky Mountain), Kerry Werner (Rocky Mountain), Courtney McFadden (Pivot-Maxxis) and Jenna Greaser.
After a long dry spell on Vancouver Island, BCBR’s “Lucky Year” 13 was living up to it’s reputation early on. A light rain and cool conditions granted riders a break from the summer heat as they tackled Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain in the first real stage of racing.
Racing on his home trails, Enduro World Series racer McKay Vezina (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) made a push to drop in first on Tzouhalem’s berm-y flow trail, Double D.
Soon, it was Burke back on the front, followed by Kabush, and Werner. They would cross the line in that order after a full serving of Maple Mountain singletrack. While he doesn’t add time to his lead, Burke stays in the leaders jersey going into Day 2’s racing in Cumberland, B.C.
Following close behind was Benjamin Sonntag (Clif Pro Team), Schultz and McElveen, in fourth and fifth and sixth.
Not far back, Katerina Nash was working her way through the men’s field as she tried to distance her chasers in the Solo Women’s category. The Clif Pro Team Olympian finished in 21st overall, well into the men’s field. McFadden followed in second, five minutes behind, and Greaser third.
Further back in the field, ex-British serviceman, and lower leg amputee Craig Howorth was engaged in his own personal challenge. The first-time BCBR racer, part of a group of four veterans taking part in the race, was working his way up the winding switchbacks of A Grand Traverse climbing trail.
Howarth is a member of BLESMA, a military charity for limbless veterans. Howorth is taking the B.C. singletrack challenge after hearing about it from fellow BLESMA member, Jez Scarratt, who is also back for another year of BCBR.