First off, before anyone starts writing useful comments, I’d like to point out that the Trans BC isn’t actually a transient race that goes across British Colombia. The reality is that only a small part of BC’s enormous 944,735 km2 area is covered. It also doesn’t allow riders to transition themselves from one day to the next like I’ve experienced in other Trans style races. Instead, a big yellow school bus does most of the miles which lets riders enjoy quality over quantity as they start and finish each day in some of the best riding destinations that Interior BC has to offer.
Clearly, the open vastness of the Rockies doesn’t lend itself to the same style of event that can be catered for in the Alps but this is one of the things that drew me in. I can go and play in the Alps whenever and wherever I want with my UK registered van but the opportunity to ride some of the most iconic BC venues with all of the travel logistics and course routes pre-determined by organisational guru Megan Rose sounded like a dream come true. As an EWS racer, I’ve been to Whistler plenty of times and I’ve ridden various spots along the Sea-to-Sky highway but I’ve never had a good enough reason to explore further inland until now.
The next thing Id like to point out is that this is my own story and interpretation of the event so if you’d rather have a full re-cap of the action then check out tal daily race reports
In preparation for a failing memory, I took down some brief notes at the end of each day and so for me, these are the stand out features which I’ve now had time to elaborate on…
Day 1 – Fernie. Trek Warrior
There was a long gentle tarmac downhill on our transition from stage one to two. Without any intentions to show off or look cool I thought Id throw in a cheeky manual to get a feel of the bike and build some confidence in myself. As I was cruising along on my rear wheel some guy comes flying passed desperately trying to do the same. He keeps pulling up on the bars but doesn’t find the balance point and comes crashing back down again. Who is this guy with his singlet vest, roadie helmet, anklet socks, massive rucksack and a brown leather dirt-jump saddle with the nose pointing to the sky? Whats he trying to prove? It’s certainly not subtlety. Is it persistence perhaps? Either way, he continues the liaison in front of me hopping and jibbing off every curb, bump and step in sight. Surely he isn’t going to last the morning let alone 6 consecutive days?! I assume the reason he was playing about on his bike was the same reason that I had. It was a strange sensation to get thrown in the deep end and race the first trail wed come across after having just built the bikes up the night before.
Stage 1 was a nervy affair but by the time I reached stage 2 I started to feel a bit more in the zone. Stage 3 was one of my favourite tracks with steep gradients, tight turns and plenty of natural gaps that could be doubled up. Stage 4 was a short physical stage that was a more open and easier to read. After what felt like a hard day out (40 km with 1720 m climb and 1950 m descent) we managed to finish surprisingly early with enough time to hang out in the hot tub at our accommodation before dinner.
Day 2 – Panorama. Sat beside Rene on the bus.
Rene Wildhaber is a legend. Jerome Clementz refers to him as the Godfather of Enduro but I prefer to think of him as mountain biking’s equivalent to The Terminator. He is fearless and determined and I have so much respect for the guy. Even just the way he speaks is cool.
I remember chatting to him one time about the line-up for the Megavalanche. I think he’s won that race a total of 6 times and he used to go along the front of the main race to shake everyone’s hand and wish them good luck before the starting procedure. I always took it to mean, Good luck today͛…You’ll need it͛…I will beat you͛… but I’ve asked him about it and he said he genuinely meant it because it’s a dangerous race. He just wanted people to be relaxed and have a good time. Instead, when he did it to me, it only added to the need to shit myself. Anyway, now we all know The Terminator has a soft side too. He even waves and acknowledges passing cyclists from inside the bus on the off chance that they see him smiling through the window with his big shiny Red Bull helmet still on his head. It was a long journey (3 hrs perhaps) from Fernie to Panoroma but the time flew by. As well as bikes, we talked Swiss politics, farming and girls…
Day 2 was supposed to be the big helicopter day but because of the roaring fires across BC, the helicopter was pulled for firefighting purposes instead. Despite the smog in the air and no helicopter uplift we still had another epic day with 5 stages and around 3000 m of descent.
Day 3 – Golden. Risk and consequence.
Despite being covered in battle scars from the previous days, the Trek Warrior was back once again. I thought he would have learnt from past experience that he should cover up. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, the damage had already been done. If he wore sleeves now then they’d just stick to the cuts and scabs that ran across his arms. As for me, I was also building up a decent tally of bumps and bruises. I spent far too much time on the ground and in the bushes during the first two days. The trails were fun but difficult to race blind with so many tight, sudden corners. It was far too easy to come in hot and disappear down off the side of the track. So, from day 3 on I tried to reign it in and ride a little bit more consistently. Of all of the days, it was probably a good time to start being sensible. After a long hike-a-bike climb through mosquito hell, we arrived at the start of one of the steepest, gnarliest trails I’ve ever ridden. The top section was so steep in fact that we weren’t even allowed to race it. Once we were gathered at the official starting point on a narrow traverse/ledge I read the orange information card that described the stage as being not safe to race which sounded ridiculous at the time but I soon found out why…We plummeted straight down through the trees and I was literally trying to go as slowly as I could for most of it and yet still gaining speed. By halfway it felt like I literally couldn’t pull my brakes any harder and I had to resort to two-finger braking which is something I haven’t done since riding with v-brakes! Stage 2 was a fairly generic trail but the presence of a family of bears created an interesting but temporary feature for some.
After another exquisite lunch stop we had a 7-mile forest road climb in the scorching heat of the day before getting pick-up by some shuttles and taken to the top of the famous Psychosis DH race track for stage 3. Riders were given the option of taking the long way round or the straight down approach at the beginning of the track. The top guys and girls obviously went for the direct approach assuming that it would be faster but there was tension in the air as we all eyed it up for the first time. Now that I’ve done it I would say that it was relatively easy but it was quite scary for the first time without knowing how good the catch berms were at the end of the straights. Thinking back on it now puts a smile on my face as I basically just did the longest skid in my life for what must have been well over a minute. The worst part of the trail, in my opinion, was about halfway down when I thought the dodgy stuff was over… I came flying into another steep shoot of seemingly never-ending length without having a clue how good the run out was going to be at the bottom. Coming into that at speed was terrifying! I don’t know how everyone survived unscathed. The final stage was more of a groomed DH track but once again it was hard to ride fast without knowing what was on the other side of the high-speed jumps, drops and rises. With so many opportunities and variations of death to be had, this 28 km day with 2970 m of descending was easily the most memorable.
Day 4 – Golden. Sore legs.
After multiple days of steep hiking, my legs were getting really sore. I do a lot of training but embarrassingly I hardly ever walk anywhere. Thankfully Day 4 was nice and short with only 920 m of climbing and 2050 m of descending thanks to the Kicking Horse Golden Eagle Express Gondola.
With such little uphill to be had and a 2 pm finish, I decided to run my full face helmet for some added security. In the afternoon, we had plenty of time to rest and relax so I treated myself to a 20-minute ice bath, loads of food and a solid sleep. By this point in the week, I was finally catching up on my jet-lag. For most nights I was waking up at 2 am and struggling to drift off again. Id now come to a happy compromise where I was wide awake for our 7 am breakfasts which is good because usually I’m not a morning person and 7 am back at home would feel like the middle of the night!
Day 5 – Revelstoke. Remi hit his head.
I’m not sure what happened exactly but Remi Gauvin who was hot on the heels of Jerome Clementz for the overall lead landed on his head and snapped his bars in a crash during Day 5 Stage 3. After losing so much time he was clearly fired up for the afternoon and came pissing passed me on the penultimate stage. That was a serious demonstration of drive and determination. I rode the top of the stage really well but once the fatigue had set in I was just a passenger looking ahead for the stage to finish. Seconds from the end I was given a shock by a shout from Remi who was still ploughing on and wanting to pass. What a boy – he was lit.
Despite winning the last two stages of the day, Remi decided not to race the final day which left Jerome in a comfortable position out front and everyone’s attention now turned to the closely fought contest for third…
Lo and behold, it turned out that it was between New Zealand EWS racer Joseph Nation and my new favourite rider – the Trek Warrior. It seemed that not only was he persistent and lacked subtlety but he was also totally pinned! I’m terrible with names and faces but eventually, I figured out that his real name was Brendan Edgar and he’s actually one of Canada’s top riders with almost 40k Instagram followers. Eventually, he finished just 6 seconds behind Joe which is quite impressive considering he hasn’t done this kind of racing before. Goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover…
Day 6 – Revelstoke. Jank.
The word janky wasn’t in my vocabulary but after riding certain trails I now have a good understanding of its meaning. Day 6, stage 1 lived up to its description on the orange information card. It was a tight, awkward trail with tricky rock features and steep pinches that really interrupted the flow and kept us on our toes. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite style but its good to have some variety and the 2017 Trans BC had it all from high alpine to sweet BC singletrack, bike park riding and jank. We were even treated to a brand new, freshly cut, loam trail to finish with that was also accompanied by some pre-ride shots to keep the spirits high!
The week ended with another big dinner, a showing of the last day’s video edit and a quick prize presentation. With no big emphasis on results or winners, the general feeling I had was that the taking part is what counts. On Day 1 I was in 7th position and that is where I ended up at the end of the week. After that first day, everyone had a reasonable idea of where they stood and self-seeding for the stages became a friendly and easy affair. From then on in it was all about enjoying the ride.
If you want to know exactly how it felt then go and get yourself an entry for next years event. I can guarantee it’ll be worth it. Although everyone did the same route (apart from a few confused riders on liaisons), I’m fairly sure that everyone’s experience has been unique. Unique because of their own interpretations, skills and abilities or unique because of who they chose to ride with, sit beside for dinner or who they shared the bus journeys with. Everyone also had their own approach to the week and I tried to look after myself. I don’t really enjoy a lack of sleep or getting drunk but for some of the others, this race was a mini festival of bikes and beer. I think those guys deserve the most respect. There were some older guys, carrying a bit of extra weight who were on the drink every night and yet still getting up early the next day to complete the challenge. They were out on their bikes the longest and stayed up the latest. These guys definitely made the most of their time! Whatever your interpretation is, its hard to imagine it not being a good one. The days were challenging but still manageable for all levels of fitness. The terrain, although insanely steep in places was also just about spot on. There weren’t that many difficult features so it was more just a case of how fast could you go. On that note, congratulations to Jerome Clementz and Casey Brown for winning their categories and thanks to the event crew who made it all happen!
Photos by: James Shirley (Instagram – @Jamesy_boy_shirley)
Noah David Wetzel (www.NoahDavidWetzel.com; Instagram – @noahwetzel; Facebook – Noah Wetzel Photo; Twitter – Noah David Wetzel)Riley Seebeck (Instagram – @flowphoto_co; Facebook – FlowPhoto co.)
Dane Cronin (www.danecronin.com; Instagram – @danecroninphoto)
Words: James Shirley Photos: James Shirley, Noah David Wetzel, Riley Seebeck, Dane Cronin