The BC Bike Race closed at a party on the finishing line at Whistler’s Olympic Plaza lawn with the sunshine reflecting off the remaining summer snow of the surrounding mountain peaks. As riders crossed the line, getting hugs and medals, their tears mixed with the sweat and dust caked on their faces from the fastest final stage ever at the BCBR. As the riders lazed around in the lawn enjoying their post-race euphoria, stories of the week and more hugs were shared between people who had never met a week earlier.

After one of the most challenging BCBR race weeks for both riders and crew, the relief of riding in the sun on a course that was completely dry was the perfect end to a roller-coaster journey. Incredible racing and riding distinguished this sixth year from the previous five, as the rain and leaders from earlier in the week transitioned on the final day to sunshine and new protagonists fighting for the peak of the podium.

Many stories emerge in a week of racing and each rider has to manage their personal challenges and expectations. For some it’s terrain that differs drastically from their home trails, and with riders from 33 different countries the singletrack varies as much as the languages. The large Belgian contingency has very little technical terrain, but plenty of wet weather. Riders from the countries of Africa like, Egypt, Namibia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and the United Arab Eremites have arid desert landscapes that vary greatly from the deserts of Arizona in the US. Even Canadians from the central and eastern regions are learning a new riding style. What they all have in common is that they came to the BCBR specifically to ride trails unlike anything else in the world.

Men’s Epic Solo Race

2012 was by far the most exciting men’s solo race in history. Returning 2x Champion Chris Sheppard of the Rocky Mountain Factory Team was staring in the face of younger riders who had a hunger difficult to contain. Squamish star Neil Kindree of Specialized/EMD and Barry Wicks of Team Kona were saddled up to the buffet to load up on stage wins and the ultimate sweet taste of victory. The rest of the field was strong, but still pups fighting for the scraps as the leaders tore into each other every day.

Never in the history of the BCBR has the first three stages ended in a sprint with the same three riders only separated by a second or two each day. Wicks took the first two stages virtually tying Kindree. On stage three in Powell River Sheppard earned a stage taking the sprint and going home only two seconds down on the general classification. The longest stage, at 62 km, from Earls Cove to Sechelt established Barry Wicks as the favorite when he went on an early flier and earned a minute and a half over Kindree and sank Sheppard to a four and half time deficit. The next day from Sechelt to Langdale, Kindree fired back a memo letting the world know it wasn’t over, when he more than erased his time deficit and put on the Golden Fleece for the first time with a slim 5 second lead over a fading Wicks. The racers favorite stage Squamish saw sunshine while Wicks fell apart more as he couldn’t get his body to respond after five hard days of racing. Again Kindree took the win and seemed to be the new race favorite as he pushed Sheppard 3:45 back into his seat.

The stage in Whistler was sure to be Kindree’s but there are always melt-downs and mechanicals, so predictions were hesitant. As the shortest stage the world cup and cyclo-cross legs of Sheppard had experience on their side. Always a fighter, he wasn’t going to concede the overall till all tires tripped the final timing mat. The Olympic Plaza lawn was an exciting arena to watch from with good views for the crowd of spectators.

There were no radio updates during the race and until Chris Sheppard came around the final bend to take the stage win. Sheppard blew through the finish with no Kindree in site and it suddenly became a possibility that on the last stage the two time champion might have earned a story book win. He needed an almost impossible 3:45 to win and as the clocked ticked off the slowest seconds in history, you could see Sheppard and the crowd leaning forward and tensing up.

“I started to juice it through the lost lakes stuff, and I don’t know what happened. He (Kindree) mechanicaled, then I ended up having one myself, and it was just stressful.”

A rider appeared from around the bend and the excitement volume turned up as Cory Wallace (Kona) relieved a bit of stress from the audience, but the question of the overall was still unanswered. When Kindree finally came into sight, sprinting for the line, a collective yell escaped as the spectators cheered him across the line with only 15 seconds to spare. With a satisfied audience Sheppard congratulated a happy Kindree who took home his first BCBR Solo Golden Fleece.

Kindree’s delay was from a flat in the Lost Lake trails with a sidewall tear. “I fixed it as calmly as I could, and as quickly as I could then I just locked myself into the hurtlocker, that wasn’t pleasant.”

“It feels amazing last year I had a couple flats and one day lost 20 min. I said 2012 I’d come back and I wanted to win it.” Kindree is a tactical rider and he had an entire year to plan for 2012. It’s not surprising that he was able to stay calm during the first four stages and turn on the heat at the right times to cook up a finish that will go down in BCBR history.

Women’s Solo Epic Race

As with any stage race, the collective result is the average of how a rider’s week went. For the overall winner Wendy Simms (Kona) every day was a domination that only experience and years as a professional rider can equal to. Still, any amount of experience is better than none and for the variety of riders who had never done a stage race, the next one is sure to be better.

The rest of the women’s solo field had a more roller coaster finishes with three women working through good and bad days. Second overall, Melinda Jackson (KiwiRoo) had a very steady week on the bike with the only hic-up on the final day in Whistler were she got her lowest stage finish in 6th after a week of not dipping below third the previous six stages.

The course killer in Whistler goes to the spritely New Zealander Hanna Thorne who stayed consistent through the week, adopting a low profile on the first four stages, then as the days started to get more gravity fed, she used her downhill skills to humble both male and female competitors.

Playing down her skills she insisted there wasn’t a plan. “I just went my pace for the race.” Knowing oneself and riding within those expectations has its benefits and for Hanna it was a third place overall as she crushed the last stage only finishing behind Simms by 2:06. Hopefully there are images of Thorne sending it coming down Crank It Up, so we can all see where she earned her cookies.

A testament to not take consistency for granted would have to be the results of strong and talented riders like Sonya Looney (Topeak/Ergon) and Pam Frentzel-Beyme (Gripped Racing). The fourth and fifth overall finishers had days that were great then days that went really wrong. Looney an experienced racer has been through these hic-ups before and always kept a positive attitude.

“What am I going to do? That’s the way it goes and I’m happy to just be here riding in an amazing place.”

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