The iconic BC Bike Race is back and heading to the Okanagan
The BC Bike Race is the most iconic mountain bike stage race in the country, and possibly the planet. So when the COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in the proverbial gears, race organizers didn’t take their bikes and go home. Instead, they broke new ground and are set to start a new chapter for the BC Bike Race. And not only that, they added an incredible new gravel event as well dubbed the Gravel Explorer.
BC Bike Race is a seven-day mountain bike stage race that took place in the trail Mecca of the Lower Mainland and the Sea to Sky region for 14th years. Now, it’s setting up shop in the drop-dead gorgeous Okanagan region.
The event features six days of riding covering seven stages, in a cloverleaf format with one central stay in Penticton running from Oct. 2-8 at a price of $1,999.
Same “ultimate singletrack experience,” in a new amazing location.
Each day, riders will try out a new area, spend a wicked day riding 25-50 kilometres for up to six hours, and return to home base and get ready for the next one. There are fully stocked aid stations, mechanics on-site, fully managed courses, bike patrol, food, drinks, and good times with an awesome community of like-minded rippers.
Having a central location also makes the logistics of the BC Bike Race easier, and there is a greater concentration on community. And that’s kinda what it’s all about.
“The whole world has changed and some things that we did in the past may never happen again,” says Andreas Hestler, of BC Bike Race. “We have not been idle, we are excited about a new format, and we are excited to be coming with a new event and new ideas and, you know, we are ready to move forward.”
When it comes to fall riding, there is no place in Canada with better terrain and conditions than the Okanagan with an average rainfall of a scant four days and temperatures hovering in the mid-teens.
“Penticton itself has eight riding destinations in its hinterland. So that's pretty exciting,” Hestler says. “Some of them are more well known than others, but it's all BC singletrack. It’s purpose-built for mountain biking. We've got everything from smooth and buff to super rocky and technical. Everything you could possibly want.”
As the pandemic is heading in the right direction in Canada, but still ongoing, there will invariably be some adjustments made, but Hestler says the expectation is for approximately 250 to 300 participants for the first edition of the new BC Bike Race. No matter the size, it will give the team a chance to practice what they do best with the new format and location.
“We’ll be perfecting this new area, and then roll it out for the next couple of years,” he says. “But it's all full steam ahead with however many we can get.”
The BC Bike Race began 15 years ago, and when it started the thought was that it would attract hardcore athletes from around the world. It didn’t exactly work out like that. There are top athletes to be sure, but also part-time bikers, people filling up the mountain bike bucket list and everything in-between.
“The sport is growing, the bikes are changing, what are people after, what's going to be interesting, what's going to be engaging, these are all key considerations,” Hestler says. “So we've done enduro stages, within our races, we've done two mountains with a neutral in between. We're figuring out what we call these mechanisms and tools to make the riding experience the best that's possible.”
Although mountain biking is evolving, BC Bike Race concentrates on what it does, and what British Columbia does best. And that’s singletrack. That, and creating this unique community by bringing people together that share a love and passion for mountain biking.
“We've adjusted and catered and tried different things. But, our core values are, we believe that singletrack is the meat and potatoes of mountain biking. And we want to provide a great experience,” he says. “We want to make sure that we curate an experience for people. So what we end up with is people that like to travel, get together, and ride their mountain bikes. And for a lot of those people coming from Europe to ride BC singletrack it's a real experience of learning and education. So we lay out a course where we're not going to dump you into the black diamonds right away. We curate the experience. You work it out through the greens, the blues and you have some highlight moves on the blacks, and then bring them home.”
At the end of the day, Hestler, who competed at the 1996 Summer Olympics in mountain biking, makes sure everyone has a smile at the end of the day.
“It's an awesome experience working with the course on the ground using my race experience from the past and baking up an experience that gives everybody from the newest rider to the seasoned pro like Geoff Kabush a good time.”
For more information about this amazing event go to BCBikeRace.com.