PACIFIC TRAVERSE: STAGE 6

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B.C. Bike Race: The Pacific Traverse
Stage 6: Squamish to Whistler

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In every stage race there is a defining day that stands above the rest. In the inaugural BC Bike Race: The Pacific Traverse that day came Friday during the arduous 58-kilometer journey from Squamish to Whistler.

The sheer amount of climbing — over 2500 meters — was daunting enough. But when you added in an extensive menu of technical trails and black diamond descending, it was enough to make some of the event’s 160 hardened riders cry — literally.

For others it was all smiles and laughter, relishing the chance to ride some of the amazing trails that have made Whistler a Mecca-like destination in the mountain biking world.

But no matter what emotions were elicited by stage 6 of this seven-day, 500-plus kilometer race, racers could rest easy at Base Camp in Meadow Park, knowing they were just one day from making history. Each finisher of this daunting test of courage will forever be part of an exclusive class that finished the first BC Bike Race.

“It’s definitely something I’ll proud of — if I get through tomorrow,” said Rod Dagneau, a 47-year-old environmental technician from North Vancouver, who along with his partner Mike Charuk took the stage win in veterans 80-plus category. “I suffered all week. But I’ve gotten a little stronger each day and persevered. I’ve always dreamt about doing something like this here in this place I love, and now it’s almost reality.”

The rest of the stage winners roll call from day 6 included Jeff Schalk and Chris Eatough (Trek-Volkswagen) in open men, Cynthia Young and Michelle Newton (Shore Girls Don’t Cry) in open women, Davis Harris and Lynda Wallenfels (Team Desert Cyclery/HealthFX) in open mixed, and Doug Nottebrock and Con Diamond (Kootenay-Okanagan Cooperative) in veterans 100-plus.

In the overall standings with one stage to go, Trek-VW leads the Rocky Mountain-Haywood Securities duo of Andreas Hestler and Kevin Calhoun by more than half an hour. The Shore Girls and Desert Cyclery also have commanding leads in their respective categories, while it’s Randy Richmond and Sandy Mitchell (Gerick-Nelson) on top of the veterans 80-plus category. Nottebrock and Diamond are the only 100-plus team remaining.

Seventy-five percent of the Grant Lamont-designed course was run on the Cheakamus Challenge route. The day kicked off under clear blue skies at the Brennan Park Recreation Centre in Squamish, as riders enjoyed an easy 12km neutral start through Brackendale, Cheekeye and Paradise Valley.

From there it was climb time, as the field made their way up the stunning Cheakamus Canyon trail, which snakes along the Sea-to-Sky Highway and the raging Cheakamus River. A quick 2.5km run on the highway was next, before the course headed back onto dirt at the Chance Creek Bridge.

A little more highway ensued, and then the meat of the day unfolded with Lava Flow trails and singletrack leading up to the Cal Cheak Suspension Bridge. Soon after came the famed Trash trail, a tricky rolling ride that rewarded skilled riders and punished the meek.

Cardiac Hill, Lower Sproat and a River Runs Through came next, then it was time for the British Columbia version of Alpe d’Huez, a climb Lamont joking called “Yelp d’Huez” during his pre-race course description the night before the event’s queen stage.

Depending on who you ask, the climb has somewhere between 27 and 32 switchbacks. No one — including the pros — cleared the whole climb, and many of the mid-pack riders spent sustained time pushing their bikes.

The reward at the top was the Billy Epic trail, which is rated double black diamond in the local trail guide, and had even the likes of Eatough impressed with its difficulty.

“That was tough. You might as well have had a full face helmet on for that,” said the six-time 24 hour solo world champion. “But that’s the beauty of this race. If it was less technical it would be just another TransRockies or TransAlps. Trails like that are what separates this event from all the others, and that’s what riding in British Columbia is all about.”

Things won’t get any easier on the final day of the race. After a heart-pumping 100kph cable line ride at Skyline at Cougar Mountain, the stage 7 Whistler-to-Whistler time trial will send riders on a 25km trip over trails such as Kill Me Thrill Me, North Secret and Comfortably Numb. They call them cross-country trails around here, but as anyone who’s ever ridden in Whistler knows, when it comes to mountain biking, everything is just a little tougher in B.C.

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