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BC Bike Race is past the halfway point, but the effort is far from over. Friday, racers landed in Cumberland for the week’s Queen Stage, a 38km jaunt through the small town’s booming network. As big days tend to do, the first of two days in Cumberland shook up the standings.

Lutz Baumgartel leaves his Open Men’s 2 teammate Florian Schön in the dirt, literally, high up on Race Rocks.

A sneaky Queen 

There are days this week that are longer on paper but Day 5 in Cumberland brought a tricky race profile. One major climb, which hit its steepest and most technical pitches as racers approached the summit, was followed by a long descent broking up by a series of small-but-punchy ascents as the race worked its way back down to the village below.

Between the climbs, racers enjoyed a long, fast descent down from the early summit. Race Rocks, Furtherburger, Felicia, the endless woodwork of Thirsty Beaver, and the all out speed of Field of Dreams, Blueprint and Rhizome, Cumberland delivered the goods on the descents, but they demanded their dues be paid, too. Any moment of inattention could result in disaster.

A steady lead and surging challengers 

To get to that kind of descending, first you have to climb. The day started with a slow burn up Cumberland’s easy going Snobo No Michi climbs trail before heating up with steeper grades of Above and Beyond. A short reprieve down Blueprint only served to disrupt riders rhythm before really cranking up the heat on Grunt and Grind.

That’s where the Maxxis duo of Andrew L’Esperance and Sean Fincham broke the elastic to Tyler Clark. Just metres from the top of Grunt and Grind, Clark bobbled on an impossibly steep rock face. The other two rode it clean, and disappeared down the trail. Clark would fight all day, but never manage to regain contact with the front two. Sean Fincham and Andrew L’Esperance crossed the line together in a triumph of teamwork. Clark crossed the line third, just 1 minute 28 seconds back. That tenacity sees Clark leapfrog both Disera brothers in the overall standings, from fifth to third, with two days of racing remaining.

Tyler Clark put in a monster chase to limit his losses to the Maxxis duo

Evan Russell fights to hold a high line on Race Rocks

Not far back, Geoff Kabush was on the move.The Canadian mountain bike legend grew up in the Comox Valley and had plenty of friends scattered around in the woods offering encouragement.

“My mom was out today watching and lots of people I know were out there cheering me on the trails. And it was the Queen Stage! It was a good one today. Cumberland has sure has grown up. It’s changed a lot since back in the day and it’s pretty cool to see what the town’s turned into” – Geoff Kabush

Kabush crested the major climb in fourth. He would, eventually, be caught by Peter Disera. But he was fifth on the stage and is still closing in on a top five finish overall. The Yeti racer is clawing back time after a flat tire on day one in Victoria. While luck is a part of stage racing, most riders aren’t expecting bad luck so early on. The veteran Canadian is taking it all in stride.

“That was definitely frustrating to lose four or five minutes on the first day. But I think I’m where I would have ended up anyway. But I’ve been feeling really steady, just trying to be efficient and starting to see some of the guys falter just a bit. Everyone’s been riding pretty steady. Maybe the young guys have been burning matches and will start to fade a little bit, but I’m not expecting it. We’ll see.  It’s fun to have a light XC Race bike to keep up with the kids this year. “

Maghalie Rochette went hard early in Friday’s stage, putting Evelyn Dong on the defensive

A day of comebacks in Cumberland

The women’s race saw more upheaval in the rankings. Evelyn Dong held on to the leader’s jersey, becoming the first pro woman to wear it on consecutive days this year. But only after fending off a challenge from a hungry Maghalie Rochette, who was determined to make up time she’d lost the day before. Maghalie takes the stage win, and recovers three minutes time to Evelyn. But she still has nearly that much left to make up if she wants to challenge for the overall on Sunday.

Behind that leading duo,, it was a resurgent Katerina Nash putting pressure on the rest of the field. The first two full race days saw the defending BCBR champion struggling with a health issue,

“It’s been challenging, actually. I had a total body meltdown on stage two. And stage three. It was bad enough I wasn’t sure I would keep going. But I’m bouncing back. Yesterday, it was nice to have some of the fight back.”

Evelyn Dong successfully defended her leader’s jersey for another day

Katerina Nash was on form and flying through Race Rocks

Nanaimo saw Nash riding with Catharine Pendrel and Anna Yamauchi, chasing Haley Smith. On Friday in Cumberland, she was again attacking the course.

“Today was a fun day. I don’t have access to full on race pace, but I’m getting steady race pace which is obviously pretty good for this late in the race. It was exciting to feel more like a racer today. I wasn’t frustrated with myself, you have to respect your body. I’m just stoked to get better instead of worse, which was the feeling.”

With a slower start, Nash was further back in the field than she is accustomed to. With a bit of freedom in Cumberland, she was back to setting blazing times down sweet B.C. singletrack.

“Today, the second half, I could just rip the trails, which is what we all come here for! I’m looking forward to the next two days and duking it out. Maybe third is possible, but I’m pretty out of it this year. I’ll just go for podiums, go for good days. But I’m not winning it this year for sure, ha ha.”

Haley Smith still clings on to third overall after a big day in Cumberland

Hannah Simms is sixth, just behind Catharine Pendrel in the overall

Jerome Clementz eases between a big rock and a hard place to fall

Jerome Clementz dishes XC wisdom at full speed 

Jerome Clementz is a name most would associate with gravity racing, not cross country. That could be because, among his many accomplishments, he was the first-ever enduro world series champion. Here at BC Bike Race, the famed Frenchman is facing a different sort of challenge.

“Today was a stressful day for me. Four days gone but three to go, so I was a little bit scared,” Clementz admitted after the stage. “But I felt good. I improved my pace throughout the race and I finished full gas! So I’m ready for the next two and it’s going to be easy!” He added with a laugh.

If Clementz was feeling the pressure Friday, it didn’t show on trail. He’s sitting fourth in the 40+ Men’s race and was looking cool as a cucumber climbing in the Cumberland heat. He’s also flying on the Fox Timed Downhill segments each day, though he says those sections are not a target.

“Ah, I’m having fun. I try to push a little bit, but I don’t want to flat or crash. So just a bit faster than I normally would go, but not fully pinned.”

While XC racing is maybe outside his usual wheelhouse, bikes are bikes. As Clementz finessed a steep, marbly cliffside power move, to cheers from a trackside spectator, he turned to our cameraman and offered some advice. “You must have control. Power is nothing without control.” Maybe a shot at the eMTB the cameraman was employing to try keep up with racers, or maybe just good advice for any kind of riding. Asked after the race, he elaborated.

“I think control is important for all kinds of riding. But today? Cross country at BC Bike Race is super technical, you need to check the line, pick the place to put your tires and put the power down. You will not win with only power. You need to have bike handling skills as well.”

Team of Two: A family taking on a challenge together

Elsewhere on course, Day 5 continued a very successful lesson in stage racing in the teams category. Father-daughter duo Dulcie Copeland, 16, and Justin Copeland are leading a close battle for the Mixed Team of 2 title. What’s the secret to success racing day-in, day-out as a team?

“Well, I just try to listen to him. He’s usually got good advice. Sometimes it’s really hard because we’re both a bit tired and grumpy with each other. But we’ve got to listen to each other.”

Wise words from one of this year’s younger riders. Patience is serving them well, as the Tauranga, New Zealand duo earned seven minutes in Cumberland over the second place team they’ve been trading stage wins with all week. Father, Justin, has similar advice for thriving in pairs racing.

“Just gentle encouragement and reminding her to keep concentrating. When you’re tired it’s super easy to lose your focus and that could be catastrophic here.”

The two look unscathed by the B.C. singletrack so far, which is a feat in itself as more and more racers are sporting bandages around basecamp.

“Today was amazing. Similar to what we have back home with the slippery roots and just constant pedaling,” Dulcie said, adding “The day with Maple Mountain, that climb and downhill – that was epic. I’d been looking forward to that track.”

Justin echoed that Friday’s similarities to their home tracks in Rotorua’s Redwood forest made Cumberland a stand out day. But the two are enjoying the entire BC Bike Race experience.

“The week’s been great, we’re loving it. The weather’s ideal and the hospitality’s been so amazing. The tracks are fantastic.

If the Copeland duo enjoyed Day 5 in Cumberland, they won’t have to wait long for more. Day 7 returns to Dodge City for a grand finale feast of some of B.C.’s best singletrack. But first, racers head north to Campbell River for 44km on the clock in Stage 6. With less elevation, Campbell River serves up an experience with a little different flavour, but it’s fast-paced, rolling, twisting trails allow for easy speed and fast kilometres. It’s also a welcome moment of relief in a hard week of racing before heading back into the gnar on Sunday. But hey, if it was all easy, it wouldn’t be the Ultimate Singletrack Experience, would it?

Day 5 Results

Open Women
1st. Maghalie Rochette  2:36:04
2nd. Evelyn Dong 2:39:10
3rd.  Katerina Nash 2:41:45
4th. Haley Smith 2:43:57
5th. Catharine Pendrel 2:48:41

Open Men

1st.  Sean Fincham 2:07:54
2nd. Andrew L’Esperance 2:07:54
3rd. Tyler Clark 2:09:22
4th. Peter Disera 2:13:14
5th. Geoff Kabush 2:13:30

Magali Tisseyre leads the 40+ Women’s standings

Day 5: Overall Standings

Open Women
1st. Evelyn Dong 8:53:31
2nd. Maghalie Rochette 8:56:16
3rd.  Haley Smith 9:08:34
4th. Katerina Nash 9:12:56
5th. Catharine Pendrel 9:18:25

Open Men
1st. Sean Fincham 7:18:30
2nd. Andrew L’Esperance 7:18:58
3rd. Tyler Clark 7:29:05
4th. Peter Disera 7:30:20
5th. Quinton Disera 7:35:49

Full Results

Tracey Moseley won Friday’s Fox Timed Downhill, putting her just 7 seconds off of the downtime overall title

Fox Timed Downhill Cumberland: Rhizome / Woodcutter

1st. Tracey Moseley 4:09.4
2nd. Catharine Pendrel 4:15.2
3rd. Katerina Nash 4:20.5

1st. Thomas Lapeyrie 3:46.4
2nd. Max McCulloch 3:47.7
3rd. Peter Disera 3:52.6

Fox Timed Downhill: Overall

1st. Max McCulloch: 15:42.9
2nd. Peter Disera: 15:52.8
3rd. Tyler Clark 16.18.2

1st. Catharine Pendrel 18:13.4
2nd. Tracey Moseley 18:20.1
3rd. Katerina Nash 18:34.4

Not a bad setting for a bike race!