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BC Bike Race gains momentum

Eager racers to converge on area this week
BC Bike Race
RACERS ARRIVE: Trail riders on last year’s stage two of the BC Bike Race. Improvements have been made to the trail system this year. Peak archive photo

Fun times, beautiful trails and great scenery, it’s as if the phrase was made for Powell River. After 10 years of event organizers saying that consistently, the world is catching on to the BC Bike Race.

It is big, as in BC Ferries sends out an alert to expect large groups of cyclists from July 6 to 13. It’s big, as in internationally big.

“The secret is out about BC,” said Andreas Hestler, one of the race’s founders.

Making its annual stop in Powell River on Thursday, July 7, and Friday, July 8, it is not difficult to know the second stage of the race has arrived; tents on Willingdon Beach and lots of spandex make it obvious.

According to Hestler, the founders of the race always had the intention of it being a tourism-destination event, bringing the world to BC’s backyard and sharing it. It just took a few years before they found that Powell River was in the backyard.

Powell River was not on the race map for the first two years because, according to Hestler, “Honestly, we didn’t know that anything was going on in Powell River; we didn’t know Powell River had trail.”

Hestler had never been to the area until Jeremy Grasby, BC Bike Race course designer, brought up the idea to check out the area. They did some scouting missions and the moment Hestler arrived on the trail, his reaction was, “this is awesome.”

Once they heard about it, then rode it and saw it, organizers of the race quickly decided that Powell River was “our style,” according to Hestler.

That was the first part of the equation, he said. Organizers then looked for people on the ground and connected with local mountain biker Wayne Brewer, who has since become the race’s tour director for the Powell River stage.

Brewer and volunteers from the BOMB Squad and Powell River Cycling Association’s Chain Gang have slowly been buffing up the trails over the last eight years.

The trails were, according to the riders, a “bit raw” at the beginning, said Hestler. “It’s become super flowing and beautiful and absolutely pristine.”

Brewer and his crew have been working on improving drainage, adding bridges, filling in holes and smoothing out sections with roots so the course flows better, he said.

“In the old days the gnarlier the trail, the better,” said Brewer. “It was classic, old-school cross country, really difficult and nothing to do with flow. Now riders are in love with flow, where it’s a little easier to ride, but still technically challenging.”

Now, according to Hestler, Powell River is one of the most popular stages among the riders.

“We get there for two days, the trails are unbelievable, the host community is a dream to work with and it’s become a crown jewel in the BC Bike Race,” he said.

The brightest glimmer is where the riders get to stay, said Hestler.

“Camping at Willingdon Beach is an absolutely mind-blowing experience for people,” he said. “They’re sitting at the beach after a great day of riding and they’re looking at the sun setting in the west over Strathcona Park; that is just beautiful.”

Most of the 54-kilometre trail map for the Powell River stage is around the Duck Lake protected area. According to Brewer, the best location to watch the race is at Willingdon Beach for the start at 9 am on Friday.

“That’s a thrill to see 600 racers start,” said Brewer.

Other great places to view the race, according to Brewer, are Aloha Bridge, a cheer zone where there is always a celebration with people dressed in Hawaiian attire, up on 51 Dodge Trail, and the finish line back at Willingdon Beach. The winner of the stage usually arrives at approximately 11 am.

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