Don’t let the smiling faces fool you. Simon and I had our lives flash before us on Day 1 of the BC Bike Race… more than usual. I crossed half the world to be here. So there was a lot riding on the fabled British Columbia trails living up to their hype. The good news is they delivered adrenaline by the bucketload.
Yesterday Simon and I spent the day talking the international language of bike, mingling with 502 fellow riders as we climbed on and off buses and ferries – crossing from Vancouver, on the mainland, to Vancouver Island and finally getting to Cumberland, our host village for the night. I discovered that Canadians are about the friendliest people alive. If aliens ever visit Earth, send them to Canada for an introduction to the human race. They really are the best we have to offer.
And if you like your mountain biking fast, technical and packed with moments that make you question your sanity, then you better get here too. Oh, and bring some mates to share the beers and campfire stories. The riding is insane. And I mean that in the old-fashioned sense.
Today’s 50-odd kilometre stage was one of the toughest days I’ve had on a bike in a while. It started with flowing singletrack early on, but the sheer speed and tight, serpentine looping trails meant you were concentrating so hard there was no opportunity to chill. The surface was muddy dark soil. And roots. Lots of them. The rain over the past week had added a slick sheen to each exposed root. They required a 90-degree angle of attack. If you hit them at anything less than perfectly square they’d send you slipping and sliding into oblivion in an instant.
When that assault on the senses abated we were sent up to Forbidden Plateau on a lung-busting open logging road. Simon was on fire, and dragged my jet-lagged legs to the top. Then the real fun began. Our first water station appeared – and our first Gravity Enduro section.
The Gravity Enduro concept is a race within a race, and involves one or two timed downhill sections each day. In addition to leaders’ jerseys handed out to the overall category leader after each stage, green number boards are awarded to the fastest riders within the timed gravity enduro sections.
We attacked the section with typical enthusiasm: fast and loose. Greasy Canadian rocks and roots spat us off the line regularly, but it was one particular near-vertical precipice that had Simon and I seeing our lives flash before us. Only the hand of God kept Simon upright as his front wheel grabbed the rock face and his rear wheel balanced overhead. I was only inches from his rear wheel as he disappeared down the face. When he came into focus again moments later he was trying his front-wheel circus trick.
Amazingly, both of us recovered and rode out without putting a foot (or face) down. But that was just the beginning. The arm-pump from the remaining singletrack was debilitating. Just as we were wondering whether we’d last the descent, it would pop out onto manicured flowing trail for some respite.
And it’s probably worth mentioning that this was a typical Lamond show. With any adventure my brother and I sign up for comes the essential drama. We started the day with a tyre that just wouldn’t seal. A last-minute trip to a local bike shop almost sorted it out… but I took a bike with a faint hiss to the start line. Somewhere deep in the Cumberland forest it sealed. Along the way we took numerous wrong turns. And with about 10km to go my seat realigned itself at a 45-degree angle, basically up my arse. This took a lot longer than we’d anticipated to fix as I had just picked up a brand-new Trek SuperFly 100, and they have a proprietary seat adjustment that isn’t obvious to fix for two adrenaline-fired riders on the side of the trail, with severe arm-pump.
But after a day of insane riding like we endured you couldn’t wipe the smile from our faces…