Posted by Editoress on 07/2/07
B.C. Bike Race - The Pacific Traverse
Stage 1: Sooke to Lake Cowichan
On a day when Canada celebrated its 140th year of nationhood, nearly 200 mountain bikers from all over North America and beyond commemorated a birth - the birth of B.C. Bike Race - The Pacific Traverse.
Indeed, July 1's Canada Day was also day one of the seven-stage mountain bike epic that will see riders cover over 500 kilometres as they make their way from the southern reaches of Vancouver Island all the way to the famed trails of Whistler.
Up first was a 108-kilometre, northward journey on Vancouver Island from the working class town of Sooke to scenic Lake Cowichan. The Andreas Hestler-designed course featured everything from smooth logging road and reclamated rail trail, to swoopy fast singletrack through dense rainforest.
"We started with the basic premise of getting from A to B, then found some of the areas sweetest singletrack and worked it in," explained stage 1 and 2 course director Bryan Tasaka.
Before competition commenced, race officials and staff led the field in a rousing rendition of Oh Canada. Many entrants showed off their national pride, attaching Canadian flags to their bikes or temporary tattooing maple leafs to a variety of body parts.
Top honors for stage 1 went to Trek-Volkswagen teammates Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk, who grabbed a close-fought sprint victory over local favorites Hestler and Kevin Calhoun of Rocky Mountain-Haywood Securities.
The American duo of Eatough and Schalk posted a blistering time of 4:22:32, good enough for a 5-second triumph over their Canadian rivals. Manuel Prado and Jason First of La Ruta de los Conquistadores-Sho Air were third at 2:14.
"There were a couple of stiff hills in the beginning that broke up the field," explained Eatough of the race that features teams of two who must stay within two minutes of each other. "That first selection got us down to four teams, then later it was just three. After that there were a couple moves here and there, but nothing serious. No one ever got more than 10 or 15 seconds until we got close to the finish."
That's not to say there wasn't any drama on day one. Hestler's right cleat came loose early in the race, and he had to stop and tighten it on several occasions after discovering he'd lost one of his cleat bolts.
Both of the front running teams also spent brief moments off course, and afterwards Hestler and Calhoun's scratched legs showed evidence of a short bushwhacking adventure.
"That's why it's important to look at the map," joked Hestler, who helped out with course design and is the B.C. Bike Race spokesman.
The race at the front was down to three teams at the second of two aid stations that lie just past the famous Burnt Bridge and Can-Am trail riding areas. But while Rocky Mountain and La Ruta stopped to refill bottles, the hydration-pack outfitted Trek duo sped through the final refueling station.
"We had to do a four-man team time trial to catch them, but we got them back pretty quick," explained Hestler, about the final run to the finish that included sustained time on the arrow-straight, reclaimed railroad track.
The La Ruta team was the first to falter on the run to the finish after First ran out of gas with about four kilometres to go.
"I pulled him a little with my jacket, just holding it in my hand while he held it on his handlebars," explained Prado. "He came around and was able to do the last 2km on his own."
Back at the front the Trek team edged their Canadian rivals at the finish after Calhoun bumped wheels with Schalk, scrubbing most of his speed within 100 metres of the line.
"It was a little tricky because none of us knew exactly where the finish line was until we were right on top of it," said Eatough, who's a six time 24-hour solo world champion. "It's not really going to matter, though. It wasn't much time and there's a long way to go. It's going to be a good battle."
The North Vancouver pairing of Cynthia Young and Michelle Newton (Team Shore Girls Don't Cry) were the first women's duo across the line, stopping the clock in 5:45:45.
David Harris of Durango, Colorado, and Lynda Wallenfels of North Vancouver (Team Desert Cyclery-HealthFX) topped the mixed field, finishing in 5:03:24.
Team Out There Guys from Bragg Creek led the four-ride category (two riders contest each stage) stopping the clock in 5:57:27
The B.C. Bike Race - The Pacific Traverse continues its northwest voyage on Vancouver Island Monday, with stage 2's 118-kilometre run from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni. After a gentle spin along the lake, riders will tackle the grueling climb to Duck Lake, a 700-metre ascent that is sure to separate contenders from pretenders. Stay tuned...
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