One thing has become clear this week—whether it’s Solo Women leader Katerina Nash (Clif Bar) and chasers Courtenay McFadden (Pivot-Maxxis) and Jena Greaser (Rocky Mountain), or the elite men, these racers not only have aerobic engines that won’t quit but they also have technical riding chops to shred trail smoothly and lightning fast.
Twenty kilometers into the stage there was an easy pedaling calmness in the lead group, 10-strong and among them the usual suspects as well as others like Stephen Hyde (Cannondale.) He’s one half of the Teams of 2 (Open Mixed) category leader with fellow Cannondale rider Kaitlin Keogh. She’s a cyclocross crusher, relatively new to XC mountain bike racing and was pedaling smoothly in a group with Nash, McFadden, Greaser and Aida.
“I didn’t really mountain bike before this summer. BC Bike Race has been like a crash-course in technical riding,” Keogh says.
Judging by the way she’s been handling her bike this week, we might be seeing more of Keogh on BC singletrack in the future.
Among the men, there was a mood early in the race like the calm before the storm. Neither Kabush nor Burke appeared willing to make a statement and lead a charge, biding their time, trying to decipher strategy in the other’s movements. McElveen had fire in the eyes after being kept off the podium yesterday. Werner looked strong along with Sontag. Sam Schulz (Rocky Mountain) and Michael van den Ham were in the mix as well. Burke had been wondering all week whether or not the veteran Kabush was playing with him, holding something in reserve for an attack.
Mid-way through the stage, Burke started to push the pace on a series of uphill singletrack climbs including MJB (Mexican Jumping Bean), Kevin’s and the infamous Up and Around. With a small gap, Burke attacked the next road section and extended his lead. When the young Rocky Mountain shredder dropped into the screaming, switchback descent of Hwy 102, he was in the lead with McElveen, Werner, Kabush and Sontag giving chase. The trail conditions were off the charts for fast racing, tacky from recent rains with enough bacon grease on the woodwork to keep things spicy. As the leaders charged toward the Langdale finish line, it was looking like the seconds that separated Burke and Kabush all week would grow to a substantial margin. And so it did, with Burke claiming first with a time of 2:35:40, just over 2 min ahead of McElveen and Werner who crossed the line in an exciting 2nd and 3rd place photo finish. Kabush came in an unusually distant 4th, 3:33 behind the day’s winning time. Sontag came in 5th, 20 seconds behind Kabush, despite injuring his arm seriously in a late-in-the stage crash. Sontag will be unable to start Day 7.