PACIFIC TRAVERSE: STAGE 4

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B.C. Bike Race: The Pacific Traverse
Stage 4: Earl’s Cove to Sechelt

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Getting out of bed at 5 a.m. is never easy, but the prospect of two spectacular ferry rides made the task a little easier for the riders and staff of the B.C. Bike Race: The Pacific Traverse.

After finishing stage 3 with a thrill ride down the technical trails outside Cumberland, then spending a restful night on the soft patch of grass between the town’s water park and BMX track, stage 4 kicked off at dawn Wednesday, with the entire B.C. Bike Race entourage loading up for the short drive to the BC Ferries terminal at Little River.

Once aboard it was chow time, with the friendly ferry staff dishing out bagels, egg sandwiches and lots and lots of fresh coffee. The partnership between the race and BC Ferries was one of the keys to pulling off the year’s inaugural event, bridging the watery divide between Vancouver Island and the beaming Sunshine Coast, where stage 4 was contested.

After breakfast, everyone involved in the race headed topside to smile for the photographer and videographer who were perched several hundred feet above the boat in the helicopter owned by Harbour Air Seaplanes boss Greg McDougall.

McDougall’s seaplane operation is the race’s top sponsor, but he wasn’t flying his commuter craft on this day. Instead McDougall was there among the BC Ferries crowd, readying for day four of the seven-day race that will finish in Whistler on Saturday. Turns out McDougall is an endurance race junkie himself, with finishes at Cape Epic and La Ruta de los Conquistadores on his impressive race resume.

With the group photo in the books, it was time for a quick transfer from the landing at Powell River over to the second ferry ride, which disembarked at Saltery Bay. By then light morning clouds had burned off, giving way to clear blue skies, a crescent moon and panoramic views of the western flanks of mainland British Columbia. You’d be hard pressed to find a better bike race transfer in the entire cycling world.

When the second ferry pushed into its dock at quaint Earl’s Cove it was game time, as riders readied for the 11:15 a.m. start that sent the field on an undulating, 58.5-kilometer run south to the tourist town of Sechelt. The Rod Camposano-designed course was a balanced mix of logging road, doubletrack and famed Sunshine Coast singletrack. There was also one nasty uphill that had most riders on and off their bikes most of the way up the steep, singletrack climb.

The action at the front of the race was a near repeat of stage 1, with the Trek-Volkswagen duo of Jeff Schalk and Chris Eatough taking their fourth stage win in as many days, while maintaining their commanding lead in the overall standings. Hot on the American’s heels were B.C. natives Andreas Hestler and Kevin Calhoun (Rocky Mountain-Haywood Securities), who ceded just 35 seconds and remained entrenched in second place overall. Third place on the stage went to Manuel Prado and Jason First (La Ruta de los Conquistadores), who rode with the front four for most of the day, before losing touch in the final section of singletrack.

The names remained the same at the top of the standings in the other two-rider categories, where teammates must stay within two minutes of each other or be hit with a one-hour time penalty. That team aspect is unique to events such as the B.C. Bike Race, fostering a bond of camaraderie and support between riders that’s lacking in traditional mountain bike events.

Cynthia Young and Michelle Newton (Shore Girls Don’t Cry) took their fourth 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 own commanding G.C. leads in their respective categories.

There was one new stage winner on Wednesday, as the Spike Shooter duo of David Overstreet and Mark Thompson broke through in the veterans 80-plus, derailing the three-stage run of Richmond and Mitchell.

Stage 5 of the B.C. Bike Race features another round of famous British Columbia singletrack, with racers making the 58-kilometer journey south from Sechelt to Langdale. Racing kicks off at 8 a.m. in downtown Sechelt, as riders take on a 6km ride along the paved road bordering Porpoise Bay.

From there it’s into the singletrack and a steady but steep ascent up a power line toward the area’s main logging road. One more climb brings racers to the Rat Race trail system, with its buff and fast rainforest trails.

The day ends at the Langdale Ferry Terminal where a 40-minute ferry ride awaits. There will be two ferry runs — one for the early group at 2:50 p.m., and another at 4:20. That’s followed by a bus transfer from Horseshoe Bay up the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway to Squamish, where the Day 5 Base Camp is located and stage 6 will start.z

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