The British Columbia Bike Race (BCBR) is an epic mountain bike stage race from Vancouver to Whistler over divine singletrack and with massive amounts of climbing and descending. This year Mandy Hancock took on the adventure as a birthday present from her husband John, and absolutely nailed it in the process, finishing 2nd in her division.
Mandy is a combination of the most hard core XC mountain biker I know (she frequently knocks out the Karapoti as a casual training ride) and also one of the most upbeat people I know – she is always ”tip top” whenever we catch up and I ask how things are going. Mandy’s enthusiasm for all things outdoors and MTB also always rubs off on me whenever we chat and this has resulted in some awesome group rides over recent years, such as the Motatapu and Heaphy trail. I was super keen to find out about what it was like on the BCBR and how Mandy found the experience.
RS: How would you describe the BC experience?
MH: The organisers describe it as the ultimate single track experience and I totally agree with that! It is like an epic mountain bike holiday camp for adults where the course, trail markers, all the food you can eat, accommodation, mechanics, medics and transport are all taken care of and all you have to do is ride. It’s a seven-stage journey from Vancouver’s North Shore to Vancouver Island then the Sunshine Coast, back to the North Shore and then on to Squamish and Whistler. The stats are impressive – 600 riders (many from overseas), 200 crew, 330km of single track (really!), over 10,000m of climb. Best week of my life!
RS: It’s an epic event to train for – what worked well for you in terms of prep and is there any thing you would change if you did it again?
MH: Entries open a year before the race, and sell out in a matter of hours, which means you’ve got plenty of time to plan and prepare. I knew that at 50 I was riding to complete the race in one piece and enjoy the experience rather than race hard out, I was already training for triathlon with Jen Rose, so we started to concentrate on increasing bike strength and endurance specifically for a multi-stage race.
I also listened to advice from riders who had done it before, including bike and tyre choice, tips for enjoying basecamp and what to expect along the way. Ideal preparation I think would include recceing the technical sections beforehand, but for my goal of finishing, it was more important to have a reliable bike and enough grit to keep going!
RS: In terms of accumulated fatigue during the week and recovery afterwards, how did you find it? Were there any tough spots trail wise/mentally and what approach did you take?
MH: Seven days of 4-5hr MTB rides is quite a lot so for mental preparation as well as physical Jen planned three 4-day epics for me in Wellington. This worked out well because initially I could barely finish the fourth ride, but eventually you wonder what the fuss was about and realise that if you had to, you could do 7!
More specifically Jen and I discussed my habit of starting bike races like a mad woman, so to avoid exploding on day 5, we planned that I would ride the first two days at a very conservative effort and later in the week I was so grateful that I had kept a lid on it. Other riders similar to me were having all sorts of trouble as the week went on.
Also, there were fantastic aid stations on the course, and all the meals were delicious, meaning that it was easy to keep fueled up for the current day, and especially for the next day. For recovery I ate and slept, but at base camp there was massage, yoga, physio, internet and even the Rocky Mountain Bicycles beer tent.
I don’t remember any tough moments, although not being able to find my bike at the start of Day 6 was a bit stressful, and being stung by a wasp on the backside hurt a lot, but took my mind off how sore my legs were. It helps not to take yourself too seriously, have heaps of fun, make friends on the trail and remember you’re so lucky to be out riding in these amazing places.
RS: What were the overall highlights, ….and any future adventures on the horizon?
MH: The scenery, trails, organisation, and overall vibe were all so brilliant I didn’t want the week to end. In reality my legs were toast at the finish, and I’ve taken two months off to recover, but it is a truly epic adventure that anyone who loves mountain biking should consider.
I think my next adventure is the Old Ghost Road with you Rebecca!