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As BCBR enters the meat of the week, some rider’s legs are starting to feel the first bites of cumulative fatigue, while others are happily settling into a rhythm. A night in Basecamp #2 in Crofton prepared riders for a big day in the Cowichan Valley. Always a rider favourite, the iconic trails of Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain delivered spectacular racing, views and a few more hints at how the week might shake out.

After two days in Victoria where every kilometre felt like more, Cowichan delivered some very real mileage. 47.7 kilometres and 1,369 metres (4,500 ft. for our U.S. racers) were divided between two mountains with two very different personalities.

Quinton Disera disrupted the Maxxis Factory Racing party on Day 3

Disera’s take on the Maxxis Factory duo

First, Mount Tzouhalem eased riders into the day. After a fast roll out and steep paved sprint for position going into the singletrack, the winding, gentle climbing of A Grand Traverse led riders into a short sampling of tech. The Maxxis Factory Racing duo of Andrew L’Esperance started the day 1-2 in the standings and looked intent on cementing that position. The two escaped on AGT only to be caught by Quinton Disera.

“We settled into our paces up AGT, with some small gaps. I was feeling good, so I ended up closing the gap down to L’Espy up at the top and passing him just before Double D, then caught Sean on the downhill,” says the younger Disera Brother adding, with a bit of a laugh, “I wanted to have a better time than him on the DH so I passed him on the line.

The neutral zone mid-stage created some interesting tactics in both fields. Disera stopped at the aid station at the bottom of Tzouhalem to refuel.

“That’s where it went kind of funny. I stopped to get reorganized and the other four top guys just kept going and I was alone with Peter. I basically rode the whole second half alone, in no man’s land. It was interesting. you don’t really know how hard they’re going. It’s not wheel-to-wheel racing”

Sean Fincham looked solid on both mountains in Cowichan

Peter Disera is absolutely hauling on the descents this week

Disera survived the tactical maneuvering to move up the GC standings into third place. It’s solid forward progress on the same stage that, last year, ended his BC Bike Race. Asked if last year was on his mind starting today, Quinton seemed unphased.

“I didn’t make it past this day! This was the day! Last year was a fluke, I got a big GI infection which, from what I understand, I had before we started racing. I thought it was heat stroke, but that’s just when it turned up. I was out for a month, it was bad. But I’m not really looking back to last year.”

Quinton is up against neutral zone tactics and team tactics from the Maxxis Factory Racing duo, but he’s also got his brother Peter Disera closing in on him in the standings. Do family ties win out over sibling rivalry?

“Yeah, we’re racing each other. He says he’s not fit. I think that’s a lie. But he’s been hot on my heels, he’s right there,” Quinton says. While there’s been plenty of upheaval in the standings already, it’s still early days and this is a long week. “I think as the week goes on, people’s core fitness is going to show. The first few days, everybody’s hungry. Now, everybody’s gotten a taste for what people can do. I think that’s the main thing – not being conservative, but not going in super juicy. Just rolling with what you have.”

Maghalie Rochette takes over the lead in a hotly contested women’s race

Catharine Pendrel was on the move on Maple, setting blazing fast downhill times

Pendrel caught, then passed former teammate Katerina Nash

Two mountains and a third women’s leader 

If the women’s field, tactics in the neutralized transfer between mountains were more cordial, even if racing was just as fierce. Three days of racing ended with three different race leaders in a hotly contested pro women’s BC Bike Race. While today was the longest day yet, the new leader, Maghalie Rochette, earned her advantage in an early and perhaps unconventional part of the race.

“It’s kind of funny, I got away on the farm field,” says the multiple time Canadian cyclocross national champion. “I spend a whole lot of time riding in farm fields in Belgium, and that’s where I got away.”

Rochette created and held an advantage over the entire Tzouhalem half of the day. Instead of gambling on going solo through the neutral commute, she opted to regroup the closely contested women’s field for, effectively, a re-start at the base of Maple Mountain.

“I did wait, to make sure we could start all the women together on the second part of the stage.  I really questioned myself on the neutral part. But it felt right to wait for the women and start together, so that’s what I did.”

Anna Yamauchi bounced back from a big mechanical on Day 2 to take fourth in Cowichan

The regroup  led to Rochette and Evelyn Dong, second place in the overall, spending much of the second half of the day together. Like the day before, the two could be heard chatting as they made their way up Xylem, down the highly technical Maple Syrup and rolling through Phloem onto Solar Coaster.

“Evelyn is fun to ride with because she will talk sometimes and she says it how it is. At the same time we are competitive and we test each other a few times during the race. I just think we’re not at the point in the week where it’s smart to attack each other non-stop for three hours. But we do test each other. I kind of got away during the timed downhill, then she caught up to me. I couldn’t really shake her off my wheel. Then we duked it out in the gravel in the end.“

Between Tzouhalem and Maple, Rochette took a combined 50 seconds out of her closest rival. That puts her into the lead as the 2024 BC Bike Race moves north from Cowichan to the rowdy, raw trails of Nanaimo. While she leaves Cowichan with the yellow jersey, the past BCBR champion knows the race isn’t over just yet.

“It’s only 18 seconds and there’s still four more stages, so I think the race is on. I’m excited for that.”

Not far behind the front duo, Haley Smith is steadily solidifying her spot in third. Rochette’s past BCBR-winning teammate (and world champion) Catharine Pendrel moves up into fourth. The “retired” Olympic medallist is showing her experience on the downhills, with only legendary gravity racer Tracey Moseley posting faster Fox Timed Downhill results. Kaysee Armstrong was riding on Pendrel’s wheel before a crash on Maple left her watching as Katerina Nash rode by into fifth.

Trials and teams of Germans

Speaking of the teams competition, the solo racers aren’t the only ones battling for the yellow leader’s jerseys. A quartet of German riders are finding their footing, and finding success in the Open and 80-99 races, on the sweet Vancouver Island singletrack.

“It’s totally different than in Europe,” says Alois Sebrich, part of a Team of 2 with Torsten Mützlitz leading the Veteran’s 80–99 race. “It’s trail to trail with no flat sections. It’s so different than marathon racing in our country. But that’s why we are here, to see something new.”

With new territory and new experiences comes new lessons learned. Between the four of them, the Scott Generation 1 and 2 teams have had their fair share of mechanical challenges.

“It’s been really good on the one side, but also really back luck on the last two days,” says Florian Schön, teammates with Lutz Baumgaertel in the Open Men’s Team of 2 race. “I went down hard, he went down hard, we broke a saddle, we broke a rim, today we broke a spoke and a chain. So lots of mechanicals, but the trails are really good.”

And the Germans are, despite difficulties, reveling in the gnarliest of B.C.’s infamous tech.

“We had one more enduro section, a technical steep section today. I think this was the highlight of today,” says Sebrich, naming Maple Syrup as the standout trail so far. Schön agreed. “The entrance to that second downhill, with lots of rock rolls and the steeps. There was five different lines and you needed to pick in a second which one you would take. With the dust? It was really great!”

With the temperatures rising as BC Bike Race travels north on Vancouver Island, the Germans will get more dust this week as well as a hefty serving of technical singletrack. Day 4 delivers 36.7km of raw, fast trail in Nanaimo, B.C. One of the more challenging days when it made its debut last year, Nanamo will hit the legs and tired bodies hard but, with trails like Abyss, Blitzkreek and Gatekeeper, there’s plenty of reward for the effort.

Day 3 Results

Open Women
1st. Maghalie Rochette  2:23:08.5
2nd. Evelyn Dong 2:23:58.5
3rd.  Haley Smith 2:27:31.2
4th. Anna Yamauchi 2:28.35.9
5th. Catharine Pendrel 2:31:23.0

Open Men

1st. Sean Fincham 1:59:01.6
2nd. Andrew L’Esperance 1:59:19.8
3rd. Quinton Disera 1:59:29.9
4th. Peter Disera 2:00:48.5
5th. Tyler Clark 2:01:06.2

Day 3: Overall Standings

Open Women
1st. Maghalie Rochette 4:22.43.1
2nd. Evelyn Dong 4:23.01.6
3rd.  Haley Smith 4:30:41.1
4th. Catharine Pendrel 4:35:26.2
5th. Katerina Nash 4:36:55.4

Open Men
1st. Sean Fincham 3:38:08.0
2nd. Andrew L’Esperance 3:38:37.2
3rd. Quinton Disera 3:41:12.7
4th. Tyler Clark 3:41:12.7
5th. Peter Disera 3:42:00.4

Full Results

Max McCulloch was fastest downhill on Tzouhalem and a close second in the Fox Timed Downhill segment on Maple Mountain

Fox Timed Downhill Mount Tzouhalem: Bumble Bee

1st. Tracey Moseley 3:35.1
2nd. Catharine Pendrel 3:35.5
3rd. Anna Yamauchi 3:36.5

1st. Max McCulloch 3:05.8
2nd. Bradley Wright 3:10.1
3rd. Peter Disera 3:10.7

Fox Timed Downhill Maple Mountain: Phloem

1st. Thomas Lapeyrie 2:32.1
2nd. Max McCulloch 2:34.0
3rd. Peter Disera 2:36.9

1st. Tracey Moseley 2:48.7
2nd. Maghalie Rochette 2:55.2
3rd. Catharine Pendrel 2:56.5