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BC Bike Race

Last day for the game faces.

Stage seven: One final push

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 08, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:17 BST

Jon and I woke at 6:00 am for an early breakfast before breaking camp and kitting up. There was a...

July 8, 2008

Jon and I woke at 6:00 am for an early breakfast before breaking camp and kitting up. There was a nervous energy in the air as this would be the last day of our epic adventure. We boarded busses headed for Whistler and after a scenic ride we arrived to the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics where we began staging. Due to our spirited ride the day before which landed us in 34th position, Poz and I moved into the "A" staging group! We were thrilled to be lining up just behind Chris and Jeff, along side Kelly & Sara and ahead of a few hundred tired and anxious racers.

We figured this would be the edge we needed to catch the team in front of us by not having to battle so hard at the start. The day was to be shorter than the rest but we would soon find out that did not mean it would be any easier.

The start of this final day of racing was demoralizing to say the least. We climbed straight up what will be the finish of the Olympic downhill course - a hideously steep and loose-gravel climb that lasted over an hour for me. No warm up, breaks, no end in sight. Each crest offered only a cruel view of racers hundreds of yards ahead still climbing. Poz had again found his race-legs early and was walking away from me only to wait ahead yelling my name (which can sometimes be helpful, other times extremely frustrating).

I was digging deep and while my legs felt ok, they could give no more. I watched helplessly as racer after racer from the "B" staging passed me by. I knew I had to save something in the basket and just settled in to survive the rest of that unforgiving, lung-searing-leg-roasting vertical march. Once cresting the climb, I was quasi-rewarded with a section of tight, narrow singletrack strewn with logs and rocks that proved to be just as challenging as the climb.

When we finally began the downhill, I was so blasted I came into a corner too fast and overshot a short wood bridge and found myself falling eight feet or so down into a small creek. It could have been a day-ending fall but luckily my feet landed first, then bike on top of me so all was good. I took a breath, climbed out and kept at it.

Coming from a filming background it was exceptionally hard to not stop often to shoot photos; however, I had made Poz a promise - no photos this last day. It was all about racing and moving up a few more spots in the GC. I made mental notes of the unrelenting beauty of the landscape around me: a barren rocky knob hill with an old, gray, weathered log laying half-covered in moss with a short, bright green pine keeping it company flanked by snow-capped mountains in the distance...or a rushing stream with class three rapids of glacial-green waters and quiet, mossy banks through which the singletrack wove a rolling and manicured trail of dark soil like a snake quietly meandering through a jungle. There was so much to take in visually but I fought gawking to focus on pushing the pedals as fast as I could.

Poz often led the way calling out the obstacles as they quickly appeared, "Skinny Bridge!" or "Steep Up - Granny!" Hairpin switchbacks have been my nemesis - causing me more than a couple of uncomfortable slide-outs and high-side crashes, so this day I was putting every ounce of concentration and energy into them. Getting the seat on my sternum, butt grazing the rear wheel, I realized how much my tricep muscles were burning causing problems shifting as my fingers were fully numb.

The week of racing was also taking it's toll on my mind as both climbs and descents found me cursing internally. Were it not for the constant positive energy of Jon Posner I would have surely fallen deep into an evil world of hurt. When your racing partner is literally laughing out loud and screaming things like, "That was absolutely insane! I love this trail!" it would just be wrong to reply with anything negative.

Poz would often look back after cleaning a skinny bridge or tricky step-up to see if I'd made it and cheer wildly if I did. I honestly have never had someone cheer me on like he did. At one point, after I led us cleanly around a tight corner, up a steep wood-plank bridge and over a treacherous 10 inches wide log that went some 30 feet over a raging creek with nothing but a rope on each side for protection he yelled from behind me, "I LOVE YOU BERRY!" Through the pain and suffering I was smiling, until the next climb.

Nearing the end we were building off Poz's energy, charging hard, passing riders with unfamiliar jerseys - a sure sign that we were moving through the upper ranks! Our m.o. of suffering through the climbs and catching others on the descent turned into nipping at the wheels of other riders on the climbs then attacking when we saw the trail break off the dirt roads into the woods which would set us up for a solid attack into the downhills. We caught group after group ahead of us and we were on fire - but so were my legs.

I was pinned to the absolute limit of my ability, replaying in my head the advice of every pro-rider I've ever talked to. With me on those climbs were Alison Dunlap, Jon Stamstad and even Filip [Meirhage] talking about how he loved to suffer when he knew others were also suffering - they all cheered me on in my head and for a while it helped.

Then the bottom fell out as Poz and I exited the woods and saw tables and volunteers. Poz yelled back to me, "It's the finish line! We're done man! It's over!" But the reality of it was this was no finish line, only aid station two some six kilometers from the end. We pushed on and my anger welled up new energy as I took the lead pull. Where was the end? My GPS said we were already on the 48th kilometer and the stage was due to end at 45!?

More climbing, and Poz moved ahead pleading with me to give it everything I had, not to leave anything else. He somehow found the strength to lend a hand on my back pushing me up some of the fireroad hills. More singletrack climbing and the gut-wrenching sound of the team behind us closing forced me to a medieval place - dark and painful, angry and insane.

More trail - more pedaling - give more for Poz - don't let them catch us! Keep moving up, around, over. Don't fall, don't fall!! The roots and rocks conspired to keep me from my goal. The beautiful woods turned against me, misleading me off the trail, off the bridges, off the slippery rocks. I whipped the bike like a horse jockey, yanking it back into line and over anything that got in my way. The trail turned downhill and the sounds of the finish line hoopla filled my ears. We blasted out of the woods and over the finish line. My hands were over my face to hide the tears of joy and pain. It was over.

Poz hugged his wife, and I dropped to the ground not wanting to ever move again. A few cold Cokes later and I came back to life. Jon's mother noticed half the foam in his seat was missing and I noticed my granny was held on with one crank bolt! My smile returned, and soon it was off to a hot shower then an amazing banquet at the top of the mountain with close friends new and old. Poz showed up late and when Steve Bork yelled, "It's Bill Cosby," our entire table lost it laughing.

In the end, Chris and Jeff held on to second place and Poz and I somehow dropped a place to 35th. I have to give a huge shout out to all who helped put this race together - I cannot say enough good things about the organizers, sponsors, volunteers, supporters and participants. The quality of this experience from logistics to food to venues and most of all quality of trail was absolutely first class. I've been mountain biking for 10 years now and some of the trials in this course were the best I have ever had the pleasure of riding - bar none. Thanks for following this amazing adventure, we hope to see you at the BC Bike Race next year.

Jason Berry
GFK Racing Team

Trek / VW Team:
Jeff Schalk (USA), 34, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

GFK Racing Team:
Jason Berry (USA), 33, Arlington, Virginia
Jon Posner aka "Poz" (USA), 33, Catonsville, Maryland

BC Buddies

Stages five & six: Still having fun

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 05, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:16 BST

The last two days of the BC Bike Race have seen us tackle some amazing trails. Last year I loved the...

July 2 & 3, 2008

The last two days of the BC Bike Race have seen us tackle some amazing trails. Last year I loved the racecourse because of all the technical singletrack. This year they made some changes - even more amazing singletrack.

Of course, to rip downhill, you have to go uphill, and my climbing legs disappeared a few days ago. After feeling very strong for the first few days when my partner, Jeff Schalk and I worked hard to go from dead last early on in day one to first place in the yellow jersey, day four felt rough for me, and day five and six even worse.

I've survived via the yoyo technique: suffer on the climbs and fall behind a minute or so, then charge the downhills to catch up and hopefully pass a few. The Kona team has been riding well and taking advantage of home turf, and now has a solid lead over our Trek squad in second. Our gap over third is also large, so it looks like only a catastrophe will see any changes at the top on the last day.

Despite feeling under the weather, I'm still enjoying the riding and the comradarie. Sharing war stories at dinner every night with close friends like Poz, Jason Berry, Nat Ross, Chris Beck, and Matt Ryan is something I treasure. New friends are made every day on the race course and in the campsite, and the common bond of pushing through the challenging but fun stages is something we will always share.

It's been a crazy race so far, but it's been so much more than just a race. The daily routine of eat, ride, eat, recovery, sleep is always similar, but always different since we are in a new part of British Columbia every day. The organization is excellent, and continues to get even better.

Add them all up, and you can see why the BC Bike Race is my favorite race of the year.

Chris Eatough
Trek / VW

Trek / VW Team:
Jeff Schalk (USA), 34, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

GFK Racing Team:
Jason Berry (USA), 33, Arlington, Virginia
Jon Posner aka "Poz" (USA), 33, Catonsville, Maryland

Stage 4: Another tough day

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 03, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:57 BST

The winners on the day, stage four, were Kona. They seemed to be very motivated. One of their...

July 1, 2008

The winners on the day, stage four, were Kona. They seemed to be very motivated. One of their riders, Kris Sneddon is from this area and lives here. I think that made him energized, and he was comfortable on his home trails.

Team Kona, which also included Barry Wicks, set the pace from the beginning. There was a lot of singletrack today - a lot of up and down and rolling singletrack. It was somewhat flowy and smooth at times at times, somewhat rough at times and somewhat technical at times.

There were several other teams holding Kona's pace for the first half of the race, and then for the second half of the race, the gap started to grow over the Aussie Flight Centre team [of Tim Bennett and Adrian Jackson - ed.] and our Team Trek.

Just about the time Team Kona got a gap of about 20 seconds over the Aussie team and us, we got a flat tire.

It took us awhile to fix the flat. We actually had to change it twice as the first inner tube didn't work out. We probably lost about four minutes, and then we resumed chasing for about the last hour of the race.

Kona continued to ride well and won the stage. The Aussie team was second, the Costa Rican [La Ruta / Sho-Air / Economy Car Rental] team [of Manuel Prado and Marvin Campos - ed.] was third. We were fourth. The key element was that Kona beat us by over seven minutes today and they were only behind by two minutes going into the day, so they took over the lead.

What's been interesting it that there have been four different stage winners so far in the men's race - a different one each day. It was another tough day. The winning time was just over three hours.

We'll do it all again tomorrow.

Chris Eatough
Trek / VW

Trek / VW Team:
Jeff Schalk (USA), 34, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

GFK Racing Team:
Jason Berry (USA), 33, Arlington, Virginia
Jon Posner aka "Poz" (USA), 33, Catonsville, Maryland

The stream crossings

Stage 3: Big move up

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 01, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:16 BST

At the start of the day's stage three , Chris [Eatough] and I were two minutes down on the leaders,...

June 30, 2008

At the start of the day's stage three, Chris [Eatough] and I were two minutes down on the leaders, but we were in good spirits and motivated to take the lead. The day's stage was 82km long with four big climbs, two deep stream crossings and two aid stations. The heat would again play a role as the temps went well over 90 degrees [Fahrenheit], and many of the logging road climbs were very exposed due to clear cutting.

The big carrot of the day was a 10km section of very windy and technical singletrack filled with roots, logs and bridges with no place to pass.

Chris and I started strong, but about half way into the stage, Chris had a flat, and we dropped out of the breakaway group including Gary Fisher, La Ruta, Flight Centre and Cannondale Monavie. It didn't take long for Chris to change it, but we were dropped and had to fight back, leading a chase group of about six other teams who didn't seem too motivated to help us with the chase.

The pivotal moment came when Chris and I approached aid station two and saw the lead group refueling although the lead group didn't see us approaching. Chris and I both had full bottles so we blew through the aid station and took the leaders by surprise. The tactic worked as we held off the chasing teams up one final, punchy road climb before dropping into the singletrack that would take us to the finish line.

It was hard-fought and exhausted, but we are now leading the GC after we gained four minutes on team Kona and 10 minutes on the former leaders Team Cannondale Monavie.

On a lighter note, Poz (who is growing a moustache) and Jason also moved up in the GC, but found time for some fun on the trails finishing very strong. They started the day 44th overall [They finished in 38th - ed.]. Playing it conservative paid off as many teams were fried by the heat and climbs but the dopplegangers finished fast and furiously in the wildly-fun singletrack. True children at heart, they both fit right in at the local kid's water park for a cool-off.

Jeff Schalk
Trek / VW
[Transcribed by Jason Berry]

Trek / VW Team:
Jeff Schalk (USA), 34, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

GFK Racing Team:
Jason Berry (USA), 33, Arlington, Virginia
Jon Posner aka "Poz" (USA), 33, Catonsville, Maryland

Somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Stage 2: Dog day

By:
Cycling News
Published:
June 30, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:16 BST

I love it when a term can have two completely different meanings. Today was the dog day of the BC...

June 29, 2008

I love it when a term can have two completely different meanings. Today was the dog day of the BC Bike Race.

Meaning 1:

We've all heard of the "dog days of summer" when it is so hot you don't want to move, much less ride a 125 km stage of a mountain bike race. Today the temperatures hovered around 34 degrees [degrees Celsius]. That's Canadian for 93 degrees [Fahrenheit]. That's a reeeeeal hot day for these parts.

Meaning 2:

Have you seen 24 Solo? There's a great scene where the Aussie Craig Gordon is talking about his racing strategy. He rides in "the dog" or, the big ring of the crankset. In fact, we quote him all the time from that scene..." It's in dog...eh...I say, 'Have you got it in the dog?'" Today's stage consisted of 122 km of open gravel logging road surfaces, with about 2.5 km of singeltrack trail at the tail end. It was really good trail. But the gravel road was a mind-numbing five hour slog in the big ring at high speed with very little shelter from the sun. I estimate we spent 90% of the day "in the dog".

The race started innocently enough, with a police escorted, rolling start out of town. We must be a sight to see, our unruly mob of 450 or so brightly clad lycra covered bike racers, about a city block's length and taking up nearly the full width of the road. Most people pulled over to let us go by and just watched with mouths agape, wondering just what is was they were witnessing.

Once the police pulled off, the race was on, and the frontrunners quickly stepped up the pace and shed the rest of the field. Jason and I were able to make a few key selections and found ourselves with some good company. The pace averaged nearly 25 kph. That's Canadian for 15+ mph, which is fast on a mountain bike. Jason has got a super strong engine for this type of riding, so he was able to take some big pulls at the front of the group, and he helped more than once to tow me back onto the back of the pack when I couldn't match the group's efforts.

That's pretty much all there is to tell about the stage today - it was incredibly boring on those gravel roads, except for the gorgeous scenery around us, but that only served to distract us for so long from the task at hand. I breathed hard and sweated lots and cramped some and cramped some more.

Somehow I managed not to explode and after we had ticked off 99 km, we arrived at the last aid stop. We knew there was some trail at the end of the day, so we fought hard to ride the fastest possible time to get there and reach the finish. As we entered the singletrack at 122 km it was like an instant role reversal. I felt like I had just woken up from the nightmare of riding my mountain bike for over 120 km of nothing but mindless gravel roads, and found bliss in the shady, technical, delicious singletrack.

Jason on the other hand, had burned all his matches and started cramping badly as we got into the woods. I was glad I was finally able to contribute to our progress with a hand helping him up the last few risers as we closed in on the finish line. The finish was pretty cool, ending on a high school running track with people clapping in the bleachers, a cheerleading squad, a live rock band, and the best thing in the univerese at the end of a long hot effort on a MTB, Coca Cola over ice.

After seven or 12 cups of Coke, I don't remember which, I had a sugar and caffiene induced epiphany...pizza delivery. With some helpful advice from a local, we ordered up four pizzas and gorged ourselves on the cool concrete floor of the air conditioned sports complex lobby. It was one of the best meals of my life.

So now, a few cold showers, two meals, and one beer later, we are about to turn in before starting stage three tomorrow. They've promised to put us onto super duper singletrack trails at the end of the stage, so it will be worth the 6:00 am start and some more miles, I mean, kilometers, on logging roads.

Poz
GFK Racing

Trek / VW Team:
Jeff Schalk (USA), 34, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

GFK Racing Team:
Jason Berry (USA), 33, Arlington, Virginia
Jon Posner aka "Poz" (USA), 33, Catonsville, Maryland

Schlepping gear

Stage 1: A tough start

By:
Cycling News
Published:
June 29, 2008, 0:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:16 BST

The last three days have been a blur. It's hard to believe after so many months of training and...

June 28, 2008

The last three days have been a blur. It's hard to believe after so many months of training and thinking about it, we're here. Day one is over. I'm not sure what's been the biggest challenge, but there have been plenty (and I was under the false impression the training was the hard part).

I'm not sure whose idea it was, but Jon Posner and I both listened intently to Chris Eatough carry on about how outrageously fun the BC Bike Race is (after he won the first running of the race last year). It was convincing coming from such a seasoned racer as Chris so we agreed we were on it in 2008. It doesn't matter how much you run it through your mind, but when the adventure begins there's no turning back, and you deal with the knocks as they come. And they have come fast and furious.

Our first flight out of BWI [Baltimore - Washington International Airport - ed.] was delayed due to what the lady on the mic said was a crew who apparently were forgotten by the cab service. Then she hung up the mic and told her co-worker they were out partying too late and slept in. This wrecked our other two connecting flights and the fun game of re-routing began. Luckily we had all day, but our trip managed to take all day. But all seemed back on track once we arrived in Victoria, British Columbia.

The next morning we realized the shuttle pickup that would run us to the start of the race was a bit further than we anticipated. Lugging a bike box and two large bags for eight blocks was challenge number two.

The third and possibly most daunting challenge was getting all our gear for the seven days of racing (including nutrition during each day) into the bags provided by the race. The exceptionally cool embroidery took my mind off the fear that not everything would fit. Kind of. Imagine, sleeping bag, pad, riding clothing (for any conditions), spare parts, post-race clothing (for any conditions) and about 10 pounds of gels and bars and mix. DaKine makes some bomber bags as that thing was stretched beyond safe limits. Then I realized my messenger bag with laptop and camera was still sitting beside me...

Another fun hit was getting my bike built only to find my fork was blown - an apparent casualty of the flight. The team of mechanics from a local shop named Bike Obsession were helpful but had no replacements. It wasn't until a local guy named Matt offered me his personal shock off his bike since he wasn't racing. He drove 25 minutes home to get it and then back - without accepting a dime. The techs didn't even charge me to change it out and instead told me to get some rest - that they'd have it dialed in come morning. Wow! I'm used to seeing pros get that treatment but for me? I was pleasantly floored.

The first day of racing found Eatough and Schalk, defending champions, foiled on the prologue loop due to a grassy field that first clogged almost everyone's derailleurs, but special for Chris & Jeff both, ripped them off the bike. They fought back from a 40 minute deficit back to an amazing fourth place just a breath away from third after a finish-line sprint.

Poz and I were not so competitive having escaped incident at the start only to find the heat and length of climbs (the main climb to Aid Station two ran 12km up 700m- ed.) were the most punishing challenge of the trip so far. Poz started viciously cramping to the point of walking climbs he would normally hammer up, swearing at his legs. For me, the hike-a-bike sections inflamed my right IT band to the point of searing pain. Poz and I finished best we could trading pulls with a few of the other super-friendly racers then outsprinting a few more at the end to feel better about ourselves.

Day two looms as the longest day of the race: 80-some miles (125km) that will either break us, or bring us back from the catatonic state we both are currently in.

Stay tuned...

Jason Berry
GFK Racing

Trek / VW Team:
Jeff Schalk (USA), 34, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

GFK Racing Team:
Jason Berry (USA), 33, Arlington, Virginia
Jon Posner (USA), 33, Catonsville, Maryland

Author
BC Bike Race

The BC Bike Race returns to British Columbia, Canada, for its second annual running from June 28 to July 4, 2008. The BC Bike race is one race in the still growing category of multi-day mountain bike stage races. It uses the popular two-person team format and boasts a large amount of singletrack through the rugged, Canadian backcountry. Follow the adventures day by day from the vantage point of four racers on two teams including last year's winners Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk (Trek / VW) and first-time competitors Jason Berry and Jon Posner (GFK Racing). Schalk has been dominating the American 100 miler scene while Eatough is a proven champion at both 100 milers and 24 hours races. Film-maker Jason Berry and Jon Posner are long-time endurance enthusiasts and also two of the men behind the movie 24 Solo, which documented Eatough's bid for a seventh 24 hour World Championship Solo title. The racers will take turns contributing diary entries during the event.