ST6 part 2
Stage 2, Fernie, 34km, 1600m, 3hr19
This was another fun stage in Fernie, similar in length and feel to the previous day's, though this time we started and finished up in the alpine resort. There were some nice natural and rooty sections but nothing too technical (though clearly the Canadians were all still much faster than me on anything remotely technical).Most of it is a blur in my memory by now but I remember the last descent ring really easy and fun. And I had a great group to race with. They would chase me on the ups but then pass me on the downs. It felt really sociable and I made some friends!
Stage 3, Cranbrook,42km, 1200m, 3hr 15
We were up early today to be bussed to Cranbrook for some hot desert-like riding, very different to what we'd experienced so far. They did a wave start, splitting each group by three minutes to minimise congestion and this worked pretty well. People had told me it was going to be much more mellow riding and I knew this would suit me. I got myself right up to the tape at the start line and was off like a bullet on the gun. Apart from the lovely Aussie guy I'd met at the start line, the rest of my wave didn't see me for quite some time as I raced my heart out. This was the first time I'd really felt like I was actually racing, rather than just pootling along, negotiating the hills and obstacles and my body knows what xc racing is supposed to feel like. Of course, xc races back home last 1.5hr so it was unsurprising that I started to get pretty tired 2hr in. And the heat! I think that is the hottest it has ever been for me in a race. Over 30 degrees is not a temperature for riding bikes, at least not for Scottish people! There was very little shade on the course and the constant Singletrack made it quite challenging to reach down and take a drink out of my water bottle. This race has done wonders for my balance, to allow me to do this. The coca cola and salty pretzles at the aid stations kept me going and, despite a minor 'bars hitting a tree' crash, I had a brilliant day of racing.
It was lovely to meet up with Neil in the evening and stay in the relative luxury of Trickle Creek Lodge, in our own room, compared to the van and hostels. The race food also really picked up at the Kimberley conference centre so everyone was in a great mood and we were starting to feel like a real community of racers.
I'd been warned this would be a rocky one...
All stage races have there low days and this was most definitely mine. It started with a steep road then ski road climb. Both were great for me on my carbon hardtail climbing machine. Until the trail threw us into some sort of rocky creek bed and boulder field. Knowing that I had a lot of riders on my trail I gave it my best shot at riding everything, whilst also stopping every two minutes, pulling my bike off the trail and letting hordes of people go past. It's certainly a lot easier to keep momentum on a full suspension bike and I was feeling thoroughly fed up by the end of that stage (despite the rallying 'Go Scottie! cries from my Wisconsin racing buddies). After this section had finished I felt like I'd been through a blender and was achingly tired for the rest of the day. When I discovered I'd lost my water bottle - probably during a small crash in the boulder field - it felt like the end of the world. Nothing like mid way through several days of racing to make you lose your sense of perspective! Riders I'd been ahead of all week were steadily flowing past me and I just tried to hold on until the aid station, where I was really grateful they managed to find me another water bottle and send me on my way a bit happier. Turns out it wasn't really the end of the world and I gave myself a good talking to. I do like riding my bike really. The rest of my day still felt tough but in the end I wasn't much slower than I had been other days and it was lovely to see Neil at the finish, where he took me out to lunch and listened patiently to my blow by blow account of how hard it all was. We agreed that if the next stage, in Golden, was as hard, i would hire a full suspension bike for the final day.
Stage 5, Golden, 32km, 1200m, 2hr 50
I been really looking forward to the stages in Golden, as it has a reputation for amazing riding. Day 5 was a much shorter one but we'd already been up early for the 2.5hr bus transfer from Kimberley and it felt just as tiring as the other days. Lots of nice climbing and fun descending. Each day they have a timed descending stage and I knew this one was supposed to be steep and rocky and a bit tougher than the others. Given how I'd felt the day before, being overtaken by so many people at once on a tough bit, I decided I didn't want a repeat of that. I was all set to give the descent a go but quickly realised that people were desperate to pass and it was only making me more tense on the steep stuff, which wasn't much fun. So I just let it go and decided to stay safe and walk a good chunk of the steep bit, cheering on the other riders and marvelling at their speed. Somehow, I still managed to be faster than 10 of the other women on this stage. I'm not sure whether they crashed, punctured or just walked really slowly!! After this was over I enjoyed the rest of the day a lot more and finished the stage in just less than 3hr.
And there was an aid station with bacon. That made my day!!
Stage 6, Golden, 57km, 1650m, 4hr 20
This was the longest day but most definitely the best. The trails on this side of the valley were very different to the day before and I loved every second of the swooshy, flowy trails. And the canyon views from the top of the timed descent were so beautiful that I had to stop an take photos. I definitely wasn't the only one! This was my best timed descent of the week- I'm sure it was because I had a huge smile on my face the whole way down. Although it was longer in distance than the other days, it flew by and I was only out there for 4hr 20. I also did better in my category than on other days so I think the longer day and smoother trails definitely suited both me and the bike. That said, if I ever do this race again I will be on a full suss for sure!
I really enjoyed the race, especially the people and seeing a few very different parts of BC to ride in. It was tough but with plenty recovery time to still feel like a holiday and go out for coffee in the afternoon, chat to newfound friends and enjoy the 'stage 7' after party. The fact that there were lots of semi- pro racers way ahead meant it never felt that much like a race. Otherwise I wouldn't have been taking pictures! I am not sure I'm really a fan of having the timed descents (as some people were taking them really seriously and doing a bit of dodgy overtaking) but I can see how they are a fun thing for the good descenders and I probably just need to get better, which I think I probably did over the week.
Lots of people have warned me the Breck Epic is tougher so I will be trying to get up to altitude over the next couple of weeks to prepare, whilst heading south to Colorado.
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