PACIFIC TRAVERSE: STAGE 3

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B.C. Bike Race: The Pacific Traverse
Stage 3: Port Alberni to Cumberland

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While hot spots like Whistler, Squamish and the North Shore draw the bulk of the attention when you think mountain biking in British Columbia, the sleepy town of Cumberland is rapidly earning it’s own place among B.C.’s fat tire elite.

With a growing network of technical singletrack trails all within a quick pedal of downtown, it’s an ideal destination for anyone looking for a little adventure on the eastern shore of Vancouver Island.

On Tuesday, the adventurers were the 180 participants of the B.C. Bike Race: The Pacific Traverse, who made the grueling 83-kilometer journey from Port Alberni to Cumberland, which finished on some of the area’s best trails, including the devilishly name Bucket of Blood.

“Those were the best trails yet,” said Trek-Volkswagen’s Jeff Schalk, who along with teammate Chris Eatough, took a third consecutive stage win and now own a 14-plus minute lead in the overall standings of the seven day race that ends in Whistler on Saturday.

The Rocky Mountain-Haywood Securities duo of Andreas Hester and Kevin Calhoun are second overall, with La Ruta de los Conquistadores-Sho Air teammates Jason First and Manuel Prado entranced in third.

There was no change at the top of the standings in any of the other two-rider categories, where teammates must stay within two minutes of each other or be hit with a one-hour time penalty.

Cynthia Young and Michelle Newton (Shore Girls Don’t Cry) took their third stage win and continue to lead the women’s overall. David Harris and Lynda Wallenfels (Team Desert Cyclery/HealthFX) in open mixed; Randy Richmond and Sandy Mitchell (Gerick-Nelson) in veterans 80-plus; and Doug Nottebrock and Con Diamond (Kootenay-Okanagan Cooperative) in veterans 100-plus also all pulled stage wins No. 3.

Tuesday’s stage started with a lap around the Port Alberni Multiplex athletics track, before riders headed out of town and onto the famed Log Train Trail that cuts a smooth, straight path through second growth Douglas Fir. Occiasonal breaks in the treeline offered glimpses of rolling, green farmland, the Beaufort Mountain Range and the lush Alberni Valley.

As the Alberni Valley gave way to the Comox Valley, the Log Train Trail widened into logging road. Finally at the 50km mark, the crux of the day unfolded: an 8km climb that varied between granny gear steep and nasty hike-a-bike. The only real respite was the stunning views of the valley below.

When the pain finally ceded, it was grinning time, as the course blazed a rapid path down towards the Cumberland trail system, before racers reached the finishline in front of the Riding Fool Hostel, which is owned and operated by day 3 course director Jeremy Grasby. The hostel caters to mountain bikers and Grasby is one of the towns leading trail advocates and builders.

Next up in British Columbia is a 58.5km ride from the Earl’s Cove Ferry Terminal to Sechelt. Before racing begins, the race caravan will rise at 5 a.m. then take a pair of B.C. Ferry rides across the Strait of Georgia: one from Little River to Powell River (1:20 crossing time) and another from Saltery Bay to Earls Cove (50 minutes).

Once off boat and on bikes, racers will head up through rainforest to Klein Lake Park. Highlights include spectacular views of Ruby Lake and Sakinaw Lake, and time on the Suncoast Trail, singletrack that was designed to allow people to get from ferry to ferry exclusively on trails and back roads.

The stage finishes in Sechelt, which literally means, “land between two waters.” Base camp is at Sechelt Indian Band Reserve.

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