Consisting of 600 mountain bikers with 600 different reasons for entering, the 10th annual BC Bike Race makes its annual stop in Powell River on Friday, July 7, and Saturday, July 8.
Residents know racers have arrived when myriad of tents pop up at Willingdon Beach and the number of people wearing spandex in the area increases dramatically.
Some of the racers are professionals; it is what they do for a living, while other competitors are looking to check off a box on their bucket list.
Some participants ride to prove something to themselves, or bond with other riders. For others, the reason is quiet and personal, involving riding for a cause or loved-one who is struggling or has passed away.
Then there are those who just want to have fun.
Powell River’s Wendy Cocksedge, her brother Graham and their friend Nia Wegner are entering the seven-stage race for the fun of it. Two years ago, Wendy watched Graham participate until bike problems took him out of the race during the final stage in Whistler. She said she decided then and there that brother and sister were going to sign up for this year.
“I want to do it with fun people,” said Wendy. “So Graham, obviously, and then I thought of some super-tough people. Fun and tough, that was my criteria, and Nia is as fun and about as tough as it gets.”
The trio thrives on preparing and working hard.
“You love to push yourself to do something you know you can do,” said Wegner. “Anybody could do it if they trained and worked hard. But we’re doing it because we really want to; it’s something that excites us.”
BC Bike Race takes place over seven gruelling stages from Cumberland to Powell River, down the Lower Sunshine Coast, through North Vancouver, up to Squamish and ends in Whistler.
“You start the seven stages in Cumberland with an hour of climbing in 35-degree heat,” said Graham.
The first stage is the toughest, he added, not only because it is day one, but also because the stage involves hard work going up and coming back down.
After day one, the race shifts to Powell River. BC Ferries schedules extra sailings to handle the logistics of the event, including the transportation of riders, bikes and support teams.
Organizers and riders say Powell River is consistently one of the favourite stops. According to some out-of-town riders who attended last year, the Willingdon Beach location is unmatched by anything else along the tour and riders also rave about the trails.
“Those trails are amazing,” said Wendy.
Last year, Wayne Brewer and Ron Diprose, organizers of the Powell River leg of the race, along with other volunteers of biking group the Chain Gang, put in 2,000 hours building, brushing and bridging trails that run through Duck Lake protected area.
According to Brewer, the trails have never been in such good shape.
“All the riders coming off the trails are giving me that feedback daily,” said Brewer. “They’ve noticed all the buffing and grooming we’ve done, and they’re blown away by the condition of the trails.”
Entering the race requires an investment of time and money. A catered week costs $3,000 and bikes can set riders back as much, if not more than, the purchase price of some cars, and some riders have more than one bike.
“It’s a really selfish thing,” said Wendy. “The amount of time I’ve had to take away from my home and family to get ready for this is huge.”
Immersed in the experience, Graham said he looks forward to the hurt and fun in an oddly narcissistic way.
“It is a week about us,” he said. “We get to talk about us. We get to do what we want to do. It’s a week you can just revel in with others and listen to them revel in themselves.”
For Wendy, the belt-buckle that indicates a participant has completed the race is a strong motivator.
“It’s a really nice belt-buckle, only if you make it to the end,” she said. “It’s such a great symbol of actually finishing every single stage.”
Wegner said she has never partaken in anything like the BC Bike Race before.
“I want to get through it,” she said. “I’m excited about this personal challenge and physically completing it.”