Trans BC Enduro 2016 Race Report

Trans BC Day 2

The first Stages Cycling – Trans BC Enduro Race just wrapped up last weekend after 6 days of racing on some of BC’s best trails.  As described by the race organizers, “This is no alps, no Trans Provence, no high elevation riding – but on the side of pure traditional famous BC single-track of loam, forest, roots, and alpine, and everything in between.” As a professional racer for Niner Bikes,  Alex Petitdemange and his wife Gina Jané were lucky enough to race the inaugural event and share their race diary below.  Follow along Gina’s journey to get the inside scoop on this amazing new Enduro Stage Race.  If this style of race appeals to you, be sure to get your fingers ready to sign up for the 2017 edition here, in October, as it will be sure to be a quick sell-out!


IMG_6446Getting To Canada:

Making it to Kelowna, BC was easy. Alex and I took a connection flight from Calgary to the local airport and sent a quick message for one of the race event shuttles to pick us up. It only took ten minutes for the local “gypsy van” (a dodge E1500 swaggered by stickers and passenger graffiti) to arrive, load everything, drive up a hill to the University of British Columbia campus, and unload our luggage by the beer garden.

Within twenty minutes, Alex prioritized to build his bike, pick up a race packet, check into the dorm, and change into a red bike kit. A group of swift “hot-shot” riders went on a local trail ride. Meanwhile, I relaxed and meditated under a shade tree.

The arrival day set a tone for the race and the event was very well-directed by Megan Rose, as the program was seamless. She managed to easily coordinate all of the racers, volunteers, medics, stage logistics, meal times, bus schedules, lodging, trail access, gear wash/mechanic stations, and shuttling 150 bikes twice a day, in two Uhaul trucks all week. We were very well cared for and so were our expensive bikes.

Ted was chosen to announce daily details, like travel and course protocol. I’m certain his side gig is stand-up comedy. Right off the bat he took a swing at all the single males- as there seemed to be no single ladies, roasted newly-weds by placing bets that the Trans BC Enduro would either break or bond couples, and always had a new bit every night. It was a bonus to wrap up the evening with loads of laughter from the crowd. A good sense of humor and positive vibes seemed to pull most of us through the tough week.

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Trans BC Enduro Bikes
All the races bikes ready to be loaded.


Day 1: VERNON

Distance: 30km, 1250 m elevation gain, 2300 m descending, trails: Jimmy Thang, Twista, 36DD, Black Powder


We loaded into a yellow school bus that dropped us off at a high point. The volunteers unloaded all bikes and they were ready for us with smiles at the start.

Dropping in stage 1 was a brutal wake up call for everyone and a good example of what we were to encounter all week. The trail had a scent of rich and deep earth (that black gold gardeners dream of), and was freshly cut for the race. We were burning in loam lines on a steep woodland track and every corner graduated into tighter degrees. There was a treacherous path of jagged alpine rocks that deflated several riders’ egos… and flatted some tires and people literally ran down track to finish. On a loamy straight, I was bucked off and onto a soft landing of dense vegetation, it twisted my handlebars, but I was able to ride it out. My handlebars clipping trees would become the saga of my week, as they would get royally twisted at least one run per day. Anyway, the stage ended with a wasp nest nearby and I was lucky to not be among the ones who disturbed the colony.

The second stage pushed our efforts to the max with very blind corners at full speed for 20 minutes. Technical skills and endurance sprinting had fair chance. Some boardwalks hucked into square turns or drops, or bridged 10-20 feet above dips. The “go-arounds” required a lot of pedaling effort. Extreme options on stages were clearly indicated by yellow caution triangles or taped off by marshals but weren’t always faster than conservative lines. I learned race etiquette that day and was passed by a fleet of fast riders. Only then had I realized the caliber of speed those guys push, they were out of sight within a blink. It made for exciting blind racing!

The following stages were also physically demanding, yet somewhat went by in a blur… At the finish line, of the last stage for the day, we were rewarded with a Rudeboy Racing marshal in team speedos. Some of us had a dip in the lake before pedaling back to the shuttle. It was a good start of the week with a proper introduction to BC trails. Alex finished in 7th, and I tied for 4th with Karey Watanabe!


Day 2: PENTICTON

Distance: 39km, 1350 m elevation gain, 1933 m descent, trails: Beer Run, High Roller & Lower Dropsalot, Fred, Tsweet Sue


We wouldn’t be in BC if it wasn’t raining! We woke up with some drizzle and it turned into more rain throughout the morning making the first three stages slick and intimidating! There were more wooden drops and bridges and I managed to walk all of them unscathed! I started to wonder what I signed up for but then, the rain stopped and the trail was suddenly perfect. It was another day for flat tires and crashes, more rocks and higher speed than day one. Getting out of it smooth and intact was a big deal for the rest of the week. Alex stayed upright as I tried my best, but I made some mistakes– we both finished the day in 6th.


Day 3: ROSSLAND

Distance: 33.5 km, 1547m elevation gain, 2005 descent, trails: Plewman, BS & Monticola, Dreadhead


What can I say, it started with a 4 hour bus drive to get to the Rossland area and I didn’t bring enough food to snack on before hitting the first huge climb up the mountain. It was a long way to the near peak but all on a rideable single track. The ridge overlooked the Rossland valley and the peaks were capped with snow.

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Trans BC Enduro Day 3
Day 3 started with a long climb on single track. It has a Colorado feel to it. Photo: Colin Meagher
These trails were a blend of rocky mountain riding and temperate rain forest zones. Exclusively a hiking trail, the first stage went into what seemed like a ravine reinvented into trail. I’d like to see the photo reel of me casing a rollable boulder and tomahawking over the bars.

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Alex Charging the Rocky stage 3. It was a closer feel to the riding in AZ and Utah. Photo: Colin Meagher
Since the track crossed a busy road, the rest of the stage was neutralized and lunch was served with a side of fresh local cherries! It restarted as stage 1x. This quick sprint entered a dark enchanted forest but then burst into an electric green fern gully waist-high, and with soft landings. Alex and I rode together on day two, and climbed up on another rideable trail excited for the next stage.

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Gina Jane on her way to a banger of a day 3, coming in 8th overall for the day.
Gina Jane on her way to a banger of a day 3, coming in 8th overall for the day. Photo: Colin Meagher
The second stage was like a full size pumptrack in the woods and after five minutes, I could feel the burn in my arms and legs. To get to the last stage, we climbed up to an old school DH trail and that was tough. I clipped and extremely twisted my bars, so, I ran through the technical chutes and rode what I could on the smooth straights.

That day was quite a variety in a square km area! The runs were short and times were tight.
Alex was on the wrong side of the stack and finished 18th. Keeping his 8th position for overall. I was 8th, and 5th overall. It was a great day of riding and the nice condo accommodation included a hot tub for every unit! The hearty food and housing were good for the soul and made for a solid night of recovery.


Day 4: ROSSLAND

Distance: 40km, 1600 m elevation gain, 2333 m descent, trails: Dewdney, Whiskey, Flume, Readhead, Paydirt


 
Today was classified as the biggest day of the week.  We were dropped off at the top of stage 1 and started with a fast and flowing, long downhill. Alex and I felt drowsy most of the morning, and the feeling never faded for Alex– he pushed just to get the stage finished. Luckily, Stage 2 was pumpy hard pack with a few rough spots, a feel good trail.Gypsy Van Shuttle

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Gina Jane on stage one.
Gina Jane on stage one. Photo: Colin Meagher
Stage 3 and 4 were pure BC trails. Steep, rocky, roots, difficult to tap into the speed for flow but perhaps I was drained from the day. I was at the bottom of stage 3 and Alex at the top of stage 4 when the rain started. The last two stages were shorter “bike park” runs and this made for another diverse day of skills. Alex maintained 7th, and I was in 6th, both keeping our place for overall.


Day 5: NELSON

Distance: 45 km, 1750 m elevation gain, 2750 m descent, trails: Powerslave, Placenta Descenta, Upper Goldmember, Lucky Charm, Gold Rush, Waldorfian


Rossland provided us with precipitation yet again, on our drive out to Nelson.
The first couple hours of the day were very wet with an enduring rain. With all the first stages of everyday being a wild card, I decided to check it off early and pedaled up to the first stage as fast as I could. I didn’t know what to expect and packed a spare jersey and wind breaker. I had a faded rain shell that fit like a wet towel, it was layered over a jersey and a light wool base- I was warm but felt foggy about my apparel choice.
Under some tree foliage the start was dark, it was still pouring rain and there was so much water, a small river charged down the trail. I took the risk of mud flicking in my eyes by stashing away goggles that seemed to have a “pre-fog” “anti-vision” feature, and rode more conservative than before.
Of course, freestyle wooden features with very unclear, perhaps inundated, “go-arounds” would run the gamut on stage one… I had my wits ready to unclip and carry my bike with the finesse of a cyclocross pro, ready to leap over a fallen log and dunking into shin high puddles. Some of the wooden bridges were rideable but some were slick and unpredictable. My clothes were drenched in the sweat and mud of a Powerslave (stage 1). I was so happy to finish it but not before the trail shackled my ego and any possibility of running the stage clean without mistake. I would like to ride it in proper conditions some day.

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Alex Petitdemange taking it straight down the middle.
Alex Petitdemange taking it straight down the middle. Photo: Colin Meagher
The weather changed to light rain or mist and it felt fun to be out. I packed away the sopping muddy clothes. Stage 2 was fast and playful, and it was almost dry! The trails were lined with moss and rocks and a few sending wooden features. The wood was slick on Powerslave so, I went around most on this stage. Every curve was a lesson in cornering. I tapped into the flow, then the “too good to be true stage” ended! Meg Bichard was at the bottom smiling and almost spotless. She must have had a clean run on those two!

It put Alex in 7th for the day, keeping his 8th overall. I was 2nd for the day, and moved up to 4th overall. I’m very happy with my riding for the day.


Day 6: NELSON

Distance: 27.1 km, 1199 m elevation gain, 1965 m descent, trails: Cherry Bowl, Swamp Donkey, Shannon Pass


Another rainy start for the last day of the week. We could feel everyone was anxious to be done. Alex climbed up 3000ft quickly to stay warm. I paced back and had a shot of hot water at the top of Baldface Base Lodge. We still had another fifteen minutes of hiking to get to the top of the stage. I changed into a proper rain coat and wind vest.
At the top we traversed across snow and my footing wasn’t quite on point. I wondered what the first descent was going to throw at us.
Stage 1 was gnarly. It dropped into some switchbacks and traversed across a splashy field. Slick slabs and roots without much dirt to grip on were angled at about 60 degress and it felt like I was teetering with friction and gravity. It was challenging to find the flow yet somehow, it was one of my best runs all week. I was feeling strong and was starting to like the feeling of being on trail in all the elements.
Stage 2 was more flat and very wet, like riding in a drainage canal that happens to be a sprinting challenge and with slick bridges. I found a good pace on it. Sprinting is always something I need to work on. Alex ended up 5th on that one. There was a party of locals grilling bacon and taking shots of Fireball. The sun peaked out and it was starting to warm up anyway so I ate some fruit went on my way.

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Alex Petitdamange earning the first stage the hard way.
Alex Petitdamange earning the first stage the hard way. Photo: Colin Meagher
The short climb to 3 was brisk. It was always a relief to see Jose, the last stage marshal, at the start. He always had a party-camp cheering us and a whole lot of stoke. He reminded us to keep it safe and have fun. A promised 20 minute ride down to town was gripping. The stage started with some tight forest trail, a few alternative lines and steep chutes. I clipped my bars, yet again, on a sapling tree, but it didn’t slow me down too much. Then, a traverse, down to a root segment sent me flying. Megan promised a grand finale and this was the trail to send-it on. It felt great to finish, but upon my arrival the marshal at the bottom told me Alex was with a paramedic and going to the hospital.

He doesn’t remember the bang.  From analyzing his bike and body, it seems that he hit a tree straight-on at a slower speed because he only scuffed his braking finger, had an abrasion on his face, and a laceration on his chin. Like a swift uppercut from a boxer, it was enough to knock him out cold and flick his sunglasses onto the trail. Somehow he managed to ride through the finish and tag his time card… then he tagged his card again, and again– each time, asking the marshal if it tagged. People realized something wasn’t right. Unfortunately, he lost 3 minutes somewhere after the crash and it bumped him back to 10th. He was fighting for 7th all week and this must have crushed him, but its better than his skull being totally crushed. He was super thankful not to be more injured. Alex and I gave our time cards to Ted and caught a ride to the hospital from another race participant. We had no clue how we placed until arriving at the awards ceremony. I didn’t know I had a standing chance at the podium. I finished strong, with another 2nd place for the day and moved up for the 3rd place overall podium! Only 15 seconds separated me from 4th after 4 hours of blind racing!

The TransBC is the ultimate Canadian experience. There is adventure on the trails with big days and very technical riding. We were all with good spirits too. The accommodations being inside, not camping, is a major advantage and it gives a safety factor in planing the trip if it rains.
It’s becoming a priority for next year, for both Alex and myself. I’d like to thank everyone who was a part of it, one of the best weeks biking in the back country mountains. British Colombia has a special place in my heart. 

Words by Gina Jané

Gina Jané has always been interested in the adventure part of riding a bike. Her uncle took her on her first ride about 10years ago, but it s only 2 years ago that she really start riding consistently. She decided to give racing a try, and the Trans BC was her 4th race ever, but it won’t be her last.  Gina is 31, born in Panama, lives in Sedona, and works full-time as a massage therapist.

Alex Petitdemange is an enduro racer from Annecy, France now living and training in Sedona, AZ. He raced as a XC JR and U25 for 5 seasons while mixing it up with some moto.  After 9 years with no racing he jumped back into the sport while living in Moab, Utah and finished well enough for a podium position and was hooked back into racing as a pro in enduro.


We, the Crankjoy crew had the pleasure of catching up with the race for day 5’s Nelson stages.  The Trans BC Enduro has the composure of a mature super well organized machine not a first year event.  As veterans of many different stage races over the years, we were quite impressed with how smooth day to day operations ran with back up plans, shuttles and nightly presentations.


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