Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain Bikes) will return to the BC Bike Race in a few weeks to defend his title. This year "Shep" is hunting for his third consecutive victory in the seven-day mountain bike stage race, which will happen on July 1-7.
Sheppard knows he will be a marked man with the number 1 plate. "I feel like I have a large target on my back!" he said. "I love riding west coast singletrack, attacking and challenging myself so, if I'm feeling good my bike and body will stubbornly defend the Golden Fleece!"
The sixth edition of the BC Bike Race will also include a race within a race, with designated enduro sections timed and tracked. When asked if he would focus at all on the enduro classification, Sheppard said, "Every minute of every stage is an enduro segment to me. If I am feeling 'on', I will let my bike run to test my competition or to gain time regardless of whether or not I am being timed."
Having won twice before, the defending champion knows just how difficult it will be to do it a third time.
"Stage racing is a tough beast no matter what your competitive level may be. To take down BCBR three times, a number of factors must occur: one must escape injury and mechanicals; have day-to-day recuperation and, in some cases, sheer luck! Anything can happen and has happened to me each year. I have never really stopped to think about what winning BCBR means, but I do know I have a grand time, get to drink beer, pig out on good food, ride the best trails in the world on the best equipment amongst great friends - and if I win, then that is a bonus!"
This year is shaping up to be another battle royal because Jason Sager (Team Jamis) is returning to possibly climb the last step onto the podium after two years as the runner-up. Barry Wicks (Kona) has changed over from winning the team category to contesting the solo category and seems to be in great form so far this year.
Two Germans will be in attendance representing European interests: Daniel Gasthof and Guido Thaler both come from team Craft-Rocky Mountain. They have a lot of marathon and stage race experience and they hope this will see them in the mix for overall victory.
Other men to watch include Josh Carlson, Ross Schnell, Wade Simmons, Colin Kerr, Carter Hovey, Cory Wallace, Benoit Simmard and Matt Hadley.
On the women's side, there are a number of exceptional athletes signed up including two former BC Bike champions: Wendy Simms (Kona) and Megan Rose, riding in a co-ed team this year. Sonya Looney (Ergon) will make her BC Bike Race debut and dark horse rider Fanny Paquette (Rocky Mountain) is known as a technical wizard.