Skip to main content

– Words by Teresa Edgar – 

A lot of work goes into planning each stage of the BC Bike Race (BCBR). It takes a team to plan each meticulous detail and one of the main people on that team is the course steward. This year the course steward of the North Vancouver stage was Cynthia Young.

“This was the first time that [the] BCBR has hosted a North Vancouver stage on a day other than Day 1,” says Young, “[with the race organizers] being out of town for four days before the stage [it] posed logistical issues that needed a local person who would be in town prior to Day 5.”

Preparing the course for the race and organizing the volunteers also falls in the realm of the course steward, “It’s very similar to a course director, with a few less responsibilities and without the role of designing the course.”08_02_15_BCBR_05_0246

The BC Bike Race had 622 registered racers in 2015, their largest event to date, “There is a crazy amount of work that goes into organizing a stage for 600 racers. Especially a stage like North Vancouver where you’re essentially holding a mountain bike race within a city,” Young explains, “There’s so much you don’t see as a racer: permits and other administrative duties involving dealing with municipal government, communicating with other trail user groups, land managers, as well as the public community, recruiting volunteers, marking the course, etc. It’s really remarkable to watch how it all comes together on the day of the event and you see how it takes the work of so many passionate people to create the experience for the racers.”

While planning the North Vancouver stage, heavy rainfall in December caused a massive rockslide that caused the Twin Bridges over the Seymour River to be submerged when the river started to pool and form a new lake. When some of the water started to recede, the bridges were removed for safety reasons. The Twin Bridges were an integral part of the trail network; they linked Seymour Mountain to Mount Fromme.


When BC Bike Race Director of Course Management Jeff Stromgren first heard about the rockslide, his first thought was, “OH S***!” He continues, “We knew that the key to a two mountain stage in NorthVan was smooth passage through the interface zones (those areas where we interface with cars, dog walkers, neighbourhoods, etc). The Twin Bridges weren’t a great option in itself, but it was the best option. We met with people and parks and Metro and nobody wanted to get in our way of running the two-mountain concept. So we went for it with a few concessions from [North Vancouver] District land managers that helped avoid overlapping, two-way bike traffic. It was a very difficult stage to manage, by far the hardest of the seven, so much traffic and activity in the interface!”

With the loss of the bridges the course incorporated a staircase to link the two mountains, which required the racers to carry their bikes. It wasn’t the ideal situation but it was one of the ways they were able to avoid the overlapping traffic.

When I asked Young what sorts of challenges she experienced in pulling the stage together she replied, “Like any new undertaking, you plan and expect for things to roll out in a certain way, but then life and reality happen and tasks take longer than you thought they would and things pop up that you didn’t anticipate.”

It was at this point in the interview that I realized that Young wasn’t one to brag about her accomplishments. This also became apparent when I asked her to tell me about her history in mountain biking, knowing that she was a former cross-country racer on the World Cup circuit; and that she had raced – and won – the BC Bike Race in 2007, its inaugural year. Instead of boasting about her achievements, she responded, “My younger brother and his friends taught me how to mountain bike when I was 17. At this point there were so few women riding trails and even less racing. I spent most of my 20’s riding and racing with teenage guys.”

Although, looking back I should have expected Young’s modesty. It was a few years ago that I first became aware of who Young was; it was when she and her husband had formed a cycling club and I had started following their Twitter account. It wasn’t long afterwards that I noticed Young’s name appear in conjunction with several cycling events in the Vancouver area, and I realized how active she was behind the scenes in the cycling community. When I first met her at a BC Bike Race team meeting in April, she was surprised that I knew who she was although she is well known for the group rides and cycling events she plans.


It was her racing and event planning background that appealed to Andreas Hestler, one of the founders of the BC Bike Race, when he asked Young to fill the role of course steward. “Knowing Dre [Hestler] and Dean [Payne] and the amazing project that they are undertaking and how they use the event to promote the sport and give back to our community, Iwas really excited to contribute,” she said.

While Young doesn’t like to talk about herself, she is eager to talk about riding on the North Shore. “People love to ride in North Vancouver…and they usually expect it to be quite ‘gnarly’, due to the rich history of mountain biking associated with the North Shore mountains. There’s something magical and mecca-like about these hills for any mountain biker,” says Young. “North Vancouver is, in my opinion, the most technical stage of the week. But it really is a lot of fun to ride and much smoother and with more flow than it used to be.

“I’ve been having a blast on the old school trails of Fromme lately – Upper/Lower Oilcan and Executioner.  The [North Shore Mountain Bike Association] NSMBA has been keeping things so fun and flowy that even the ‘old’ stuff seems fresh and new.  Dales into Forever After is one of my all-time favourites.”

When she’s not chasing her two young boys around, Young is a part-time mountain bike coach for Endless Biking in North Vancouver. She can also be found teaching racing clinics andenduro courses, “Working as a mountain bike coach, instructor and guide for the last 12 years, I still find myself mostly surrounded by immature males and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Mountain biking keeps you young because you’re always playing.”


Young does have some advice for racers who aren’t used to technical riding, “All year long, Endless Biking gives lessons to and guides riders who come to North Vancouver for a mountain bike trip because they are planning to race the BCBR. It’s a great idea if you can make it happen. Racers from long distances away sometimes come a few days early – we spend the entire week before BCBR doing specific tours and lesson packages for people doing a quick pre-race prep and course recon before the race.”