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Returning to Victoria


Today the BC Bike Race returned to where it all began: the sweet, punishing singletrack of Victoria, B.C. The Ultimate Singletrack Experience is back, over a decade later, for a hefty double serving of Mount Work Park’s technical trails.

Victoria launched BC Bike Race’s epic story. The trails here also launched the careers of many of Canada’s best mountain bikers, including several here today. That had many of the returning BCBR champs and Canadian national champions excited to set off for Monday’s Prologue.

Andrew L’Esperance puts the maple leaf on the top podium step on Canada Day

“This mountain honestly taught me how to become a very good mountain biker, so it’s pretty special to be back here racing.” says Andrew L’Esperance. The 2021 and 2023 BCBR champion is back to defend his title. While many of today’s trails are making their BCBR debut, the champ is starting on familiar turf. “These are certainly not new trails. The amount of hours I’ve spent riding in Hartland [Mount Work Park]… I’ve spent a lot of winters here training,”

How does the pressure of starting a race compare to the countless hours of training?

“It’s pretty interesting. I’ve done intervals like this here, linking a bunch of trails together doing those efforts so, honestly, it’s the same thing. I’ll do my best there and just see where I stack up against a really strong field”


Sam James samples some 90s Jank

Thomas Lapeyrie finds speed in among Victoria tech

Prologue delivers low-mileage but high efforts

After 13 km of racing, L’Esperance is at the top of the stack. Winning Monday’s prologue with a staggeringly fast time of 22:19.37, he has a 1.93 second advantage over his Maxxis Factory Racing teammate, Sean Fincham. Peter Disera (Pivot Cycles-OTE), who held the BCBR title between L’Esperance’s wins, is 32.95 seconds back in third.

While the mileage was short, just a 13km prologue after a neutral roll-out from basecamp at Double Dutch Farm, riders would quickly learn that kilometres can look very different on paper than they feel when you’re riding them. This is true everywhere in B.C. and Vancouver Island, but especially here in Victoria. 

Katerina Nash drops into the early race lead

BCBR queen eyes up a challenge

Katerina Nash, who has more BCBR wins than she can count, leads the women’s side. While the BCBR podium may be familiar territory for the Olympian, Victoria’s trails are a new challenge.

“I’ve ridden on the Island a good amount, but not this far south,” Nash said before the race. “These are a little bit more… I don’t know if janky is the word, but there’s more power moves. They’re not very long climbs, but constantly up and down, very technical and physical.”

As exciting as the new location is, Nash is also thrilled to be facing a strong field of challengers. Last year’s runner up, Evelyn Dong, less than a second behind. Maghalie Rochette, a past winner of BCBR’s team category with Catharine Pendrel, is third a handful of seconds back. Pendrel, also back racing, is close behind.

“For me it will be a challenging year because everyone is so much younger. They’re kind of at the peak of their careers and I’m obviously a little past that,” the defending champ says with a laugh. But she followed up with a sign that she’s not ready to hand over the crown just yet. “Having said that I do rely on my experience of doing this race so many times and being familiar with the courses and how stage racing goes. I’m honestly curious how this edition is going to work out. A little bit of unknown!”

Whatever happens in the days to come, Nash is happy to be back racing on Vancouver Island.

“I’m stoked that there’s such a strong field this year,” says Nash. “This is one of the best races in the world and I’m excited when people come and try it. There is a reason why I keep coming back. As I near the end of my career I’m more selective of the events I truly want to do, and I have the luxury to choose my schedule I keep coming back to BCBR because the riding is really special.”

Victoria’s trails are classics, with many already decades old. But, thanks to the constant work of South Island Mountain Bike Society (SIMBS), they’re looking fresh enough that even some former local’s are feeling out the first day of racing.

“I went to University here and trained here for most of 15 years, but it’s just flashbacks of the trails and rock features. It used to be I had an advantage being local on the trails, but a lot of the young guys are more local than me so I’m going to have to use all my tricks to get up there somewhere in the top 5 hopefully.” says past BCBR champ and Vancouver Island local Geoff Kabush. “It’s definitely going to be an interesting first few days with people getting thrown in the deep end on Victoria jank, some of the most physical up and down trails, so it should be a pretty hectic start for the first few days.”

They might be especially hectic for Kabush. The BCBR vet lost nearly six minutes to a mechanical early in Monday’s racing.

A Canada Day to remember

After Monday’s prologue served up a sample size of Victoria’s technical singletrack, Day 2 will deliver a full-sized meal. The first mass-start stage of the 2024 BC Bike Race returns to Mount Work Park for a full 26.3km traverse of the network. While 700m of elevation might not sound like a ton, every meter of elevation gain is hard-earned in Mount Work. With tight singletrack and few opportunities to pass, it’ll will be a strategic battle on the trails.

Until then, racers are settling into Basecamp life. EVOC’s helping keep racers nourished on course with hip packs for snacks. The sun is out on Vancouver Island. The beer garden is open and, with they day’s racing done, it’s time to celebrate a big Canada Day spent on the trails.

Open Men’s Results
Andrew L’Esperance            – 22:19.37
Sean Fincham                  – 22:21.30 (+1.93)
Peter Disera                     – 22:52.32 (+32.95)

Open Women’s Results
Katerina Nash              – 28:13.35
Evelyn Dong               – 28.14.11 (+0.76)
Maghalie Rochette          – 28.25.68 (+12.33)

Full Results

Welcome to Double Dutch Farm

Our first 2024 Basecamp in Victoria was buzzing with activity today as the 18th edition of the BC Bike Race kicked off at the beautiful Double Dutch Farm, complete with cattle, goats and farm dogs.

This is our first time returning to Victoria since the race’s inception in 2007 and we are excited to be back.

Greeted by the famous BCBR red shirt team, racers from 36 countries got their obligatory waivers signed, picked up their swag and prepared for their first taste of BC singletrack.

Above: Cody Cupp, Eric Olsen and Geoff Kabush rolled in early and got their registration done so they could hit the course right away.
Below: Racers pick up their swag, which included a hip pack from EVOC, our sponsor of the day.

Many racers headed to retail before rolling out on course to make sure they got the souvenirs they wanted.

With the logistics out of the way, everyone rolled out under the start/finish arch in their own time for the Prologue, a 22.8 km course that determines each racer’s start time for Day 2 tomorrow.

While 9.8 kilometres of the course was untimed road and doubletrack, the 13 kilometres on trail were demanding, featuring technical climbs and descents that Victoria is famous for. Today’s top racer, Andrew L’Esperance finish the course in a speedy 22:19. Many racers were closer to an hour or longer. For a detailed account of today’s stage, read our race report.

Above: Katerina Nash, took top female rider in today’s stage.
Below: Riders tackle the technical jank of the Prologue course.

Our course control team made sure everyone stayed on course and was aware of any tricky features on course, like the sharp right hand corner here.

Otto Bolanos, from Columbia, celebrates today’s ride with a wheelie at the start/finish line.

Back at Basecamp, racers were greeted by two Royal Canadian Mounted Police in red serge in honour of Canada Day and quite a few racers had their photos taken with the pair.

Back at Double Dutch Farm, racers finally had the chance to mix and mingle, enjoy a beer from Vancouver Island Brewing and hang out with the local residents.

Above: Double Dutch Farm.
Below: Racers enjoy a little aprés pond-side.

Emcee Brett Tippie interviews the local residents to find out what they think of all these racers in their zone.

Day 1 rounded out with yellow jersey awards and an all-racer meeting.

Congratulations to all our racers who have started their 2024 BCBR journey. We are excited to spend this magical week with you.

Above: Emcee for the week Brett Tippie keeps racers entertained while making sure they have all the information they need for a great race week.
Below: Stage 1 Prologue winners celebrate a successful first day on course.

Words by Carmel Ecker
Photos by Deniz Merdano and Jens Klett