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A New Chapter at 61: Titanium, Trails, Trials, and Triumphs

In 2016, BC Bike Race first captured my imagination. I had a friend from Hinton – a small town just on the outskirts of the Rocky Mountains – who had done the race 7 times, and he kept nudging me, “Come on… you’ve gotta do this race!”

Another friend invited me as their teammate in 2016, and I figured “why not?” After all, life’s too short for what-ifs. 

We joked about our height differences – my teammate was 6’4”, and I was 5’4” – so naturally, we called our team “Twins” as we registered in the 100+ combined age category. 

That first BCBR wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like it! The race just flew by, and it wasn’t until the dust and mud had settled that I was really able to soak in what that experience meant to me. 

It stuck with me – specifically, the people I met along the way – and I knew I had to go back.

As I neared retirement in the 2020s, BC Bike Race was on my ‘must-do list.’ 

For 2023, I registered to make my return – this time as a solo athlete. 

The timing may not have been perfect – I had 4 months to train, but I wasn’t the typical retired guy who has all the time in the world to train – instead, I foolishly took on a full house reno for my daughter. 

I still found what time I could in between bouts of typical home renovations to get some riding in.

Before I knew it, race day had nearly arrived! 

Racing solo is a bit nerve-wracking. Showing up alone – not knowing a single soul – to an event of hundreds and hundreds was a very different experience from showing up with a teammate. 

But you’re never alone for long at BCBR – from the moment I arrived, I started meeting interesting people, all of us with the same love of crazy adventures by mountain bike.

A few stages in and the racing was going great! I was mixing it up near the front of my age group, and my endurance legs were just starting to kick in nearing halfway through the stages. 

What a way to celebrate retirement! 

I was riding near the front of my age group, with adrenalin surging, I came into a corner too fast, and in the blink of an eye, I was on the ground. A crash! 

It’s funny in a way – us riders always worry more about our bikes in a spill, but it was me that needed fixing this time. A broken hip, a swift ride to the hospital, and suddenly I was part machine with a brand new titanium hip at the age of 61! 

If you know anybody who’s had hip surgery, you know how surprisingly fast they can get back to moving. 

But for me, it felt like ages! Three weeks on, I still had to use a walker, and I started to worry. 

I found myself worrying. Will I ever even be able to ride again?

It hadn’t dawned on me that most hip surgeries don’t happen after a large injury… so in hindsight, of course, it would take me a bit longer than usual. 

More than a few people I knew in small town Brule, Alberta, assumed I would never ride again.

But that just put fuel on my fire!

I’m too young to give up on life. 

To me, adventure, the outdoors, and sport were life – I knew I needed to return to my regularly scheduled biking and skiing.

I went to physio, and frustratingly, was told to take things slow – much slower than I wanted to.

Every session went a similar way.

“Can I get on the spin bike yet?”

“No… not yet.”

Rinse and repeat for weeks on end. 

Until, finally, I got the green light.

“5 minutes on a stationary bike, no resistance!”

And that’s what I did. It felt freeing! 

Fast-forward to December, and on an unseasonably warm day, I decided to get on my road bike and see if I could climb the hill by our house. 

It wasn’t easy, but I could. Consider it conquered! 

When I got home from that ride, I turned to my wife and said, “I’m registering for BC Bike Race. I need to finish it!”

There’s a saying that when you fall off the horse, you just have to get back on it.

And that’s exactly what I plan to do in 2024 when I return to BCBR. 

You don’t quit playing because you grow old, you grow old because you quit playing. And me? I plan to play until the wheels come off. 

Age is just a number, and I plan to make the most out of every single day, including racing at the best summer camp for adults that you can find – BC Bike Race! 

Story: Evan Wishloff
Photos: Dave Silver, Margus Riga, Jens Klett, Sarah Kempner