Riders on Cumberland singletrack (pic: Dave Silver)
Graham Fitch, Team Harbour Air, ripping the singletrack (pic: Dave Silver)
Before the third stage of BC Bike Race was even underway today, event organizers were dealt a potentially show-stopping challenge this morning on course: sabotage. The course had been completely flagged for the third day and racers were lined up in the start chute ready to ride when the word came in over event radios.
Without hesitation, course director Jeremy Grasby jumped on one of the safety team dirt bikes and blasted onto the course to replace the critical missing flags while riders fidgeted on their bikes in the start chute. Sabotage is not uncommon during races like this; community members opposed to using the land for mountain biking make their point by removing flagging, placing obstacles on the trail and more. Beyond being a huge inconvenience for race organizers, such interference can be downright dangerous for riders. Incredibly, less than 8 minutes later, the flagging was fixed, the start gun fired and racers were off, spinning through the Village of Cumberland streets enroute to the trailhead.
The slight morning delay did not slow down the action on course. This was another lengthy day of almost all singletrack and riders appeared to really enjoy flowing with the trails, many of which were purpose built by local mountain bike enthusiasts or this segment of the BC Bike Race. Local course designers also conduct trail maintenance and preservation in an attempt to keep the trails active and open for riders.
Canadian mountain biking phenom Geoff Kabush joined the starting ranks as a guest rider for the past two days of Vancouver Island riding. For those not in the know, Kabush is tearing up the world cup circuit and was ranked 4th overall in 2008. He’s currently tied with legend Ned Overend with 4 US national XC series wins and with John Tomac for most XC wins ever – 14.
Kabush, who cut his teeth on the local Cumberland area trails, was on a mid-season break in his regular racing schedule when the opportunity to join in the BC Bike Race came along. “It’s pretty fun to come back and just do a fun ride with a bunch of the guys I know,” said Kabush referencing the Day Two ride. “They’ve done a lot of work there – it’s super fun, flowy, buff. There’s also been a ton of development in the trails up higher… it’s pretty easy to see how I got into mountain biking from growing up here.”
Kabush’s approach to Day Three was much different, “Today I decided to ride with the front guys and just kinda stay out of their way. And it was amazing how hard they were battling it out day after day.” Kabush was riding with the top Open Men teams which are caught up in a fierce battle for the leader jersey.
A fierce battle, indeed. Today, Team Jamis/Santa Cruz, Seamus McGrath and Chris Sheppard, blasted through the trails in a blistering 2:51:53, with rivals Team Kona, Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks literally on their heels at one second later. McGrath and Sheppard retain the coveted leader’s jersey for the GC but will have to work hard to keep it, with Team Kona only 73 seconds behind overall.
Third place today went to Team DCM Chrome 1, Max Knox and Brandon Stewart, who crossed the line ahead of the BC Bike Race 2008 Champions, Trek/VW’s Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk.
The other category that’s getting interesting is the Open Solo Men. Colin Kerr, (Team Kerr) relinquished the stage win to Tony Hogg (Tony Hogg RnR Sport New Zealand). Hogg is racing in a Canmore, AB area 24hr World Cup race at the end of August, and is using the BC Bike Race as a serious training opportunity. Depending on how things shake out in this category over the remaining four days, Hogg might find himself with an overall BCBR title in hand as he makes his way to Alberta.
Despite the hot action in the Open Mens’ Solo and Open Mens’ team of two, there were no real changes of note in the remaining categories for today.
For Day 4, racers face an early wake-up call in order to make 3 scenic ferry rides from Vancouver Island to the Earls Cove ferry terminal, where the familiar Bear-on-Bike starting arch will beckon the start of Day 4.