Have a pressing training question? Ask BC Bike Race’s mountain bike legend, Andreas Hestler! Drop him a line at email@example.com
Q: How technical is the terrain and am I going to be risking injury, or just lactic acid pain? For those of us familiar with the North Shore trails, would you describe the “typical” terrain as “like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin” or more “like Bridle Trail”? How would you compare the typical terrain to TransRockies (ignoring the fire road sections - just comparing the technical sections)?
Dre: I would rank the singletrack experience at BC Bike Race as a progression from green dot, to blue square, to black diamond as we progress from Vancouver Island to the Sunshine Coast and then finally into Squamish.
In general, I would say six of the seven days are less than Bridlepath, but some small parts are equal, nothing will be like Ned’s. On the last day we will be in Squamish which will be more technical overall, but with six days of riding, your skill and fitness should be up and adequate to handle it all.
As to the TransRockies, we are more coastal and loam with trails built for Mountain Biking; the TransRockies has great trails, just not nearly as many. The TransRockies is an awesome event that includes breathtaking views, but our trails are built for mountain bikers by mountain bikers. Each one of these epic events is taking on its own flavour, so getting the feel for what you are looking for will be a personal choice. I have done TransAlp, TransRockies, La Ruta and BC Bike Race and all are different and all should eventually be done, but in which order and as to which appeals to individuals more, that again is personal.
Q: Simple - what kind of shape do you need to be in to handle this and what kind of pre-training would be sufficient?
Dre: If you were to undertake a single day event like the Ironman, or wished to simply finish a marathon, the question isn’t what shape, but how much do you want to enjoy the journey? Now imagine seven days of that. Any human body that is in reasonable shape could get through; but what is the state of your mind and what is reasonable shape?
To answer your question, the best shape you can be in, to allow for you to have the best experience. This is, in fact, harder than most events: stages range in time from 3-8 hours (average span); there are seven stages and the climbing is gruelling; the singletrack arduous and the mud can be difficult (though little to speak of in most years). But if you are prepared and are strong, the time allotted will be adequate.
Also we need to consider that cycling is a non-weight-bearing sport, which is what enables the Tour de France competitors to equal two running marathons a day by calorie burn, but because of the wind convection (cooling) and the bicycle (non-weight bearing) they are able to not only do that but for 21 days long.
We like to say that most of our clientele are ‘weekend warriors’ - people who sport fairly frequently and are looking for something to sink their teeth into. They use an event of this nature to set a goal and move towards it. As mentioned, Ironman and marathons represent similar goals in people’s lives, and having a focus allows one to train with purpose.
There is a good chart in our Training Programs section that outlines some basic ideology on what you could do (a general, then specific 10 week); it’s certainly above sufficient, but then I want to be able to look around and enjoy and not be so unhappy and so cramped that I wonder what in the world am I doing at this insane event. If you are seeking specific training advice I would suggest you speak to a qualified coach, have a fitness assessment and always check with your doctor before beginning any new training schedule. Good Luck! And for sure, now is the time for the questions, the plans and the answers.
Q: I’m following your training program. When should my teammate and I start training to maintain the “no more than two minutes distance” and how do you recommend we do so?
Dre: Training together is not a prerequisite, though it may just help you guys to build a strong bond and understand each other’s strengths vs weaknesses. When I commit to riding with someone, either a race or a backcountry adventure, there is no question about ever being out of sight. It’s a safety issue; imagine if you went for a hike with someone, would you leave them alone and go farther ahead? If you have to do that, then you haven’t chosen the right partner.
Think about this as a single day, the two of you in the backcountry, take away all the other people, do you want to be alone? Likely no, so stay together. That means committing to each other and to yourself that this is how you will race. Then two minutes is more than enough; really 30 seconds should be enough.
So training together is to help each other and push to find the best in each other. You may climb better, while your partner may be better in the singletrack; we lose some, we gain some, but we ride through it all together and we have no problem with two minutes.
I have gone to some races in the last five years, having maybe ridden two days with my partners, it’s no problem. Work in a draft fashion, put the stronger in the front, they can break the wind and strength differences can be made up. The stronger can take more food, more water, more of the supplies and even it up. Knowing in advance, and planning different tactics to handle different situations will leave less to chance, so you will be able to enjoy the beautiful terrain.
Q: How much planned or intentional hike-a-bike will there be on the race route?
Dre: Well actually none, but as you mentioned it will be based on rider fitness and ability. In general, barring catastrophe I would estimate any section to be at most two minutes and no more than one or two of those each day.
The biggest difficulty with ‘hike a bike’ is the mental aspect, stay positive and put one foot in front of the other, remember we are all doing it.
Q: Will we need GPS units or will be course be marked?
Dre: The course will be well marked and a GPS unit not necessary. Though if you are used to using one, please feel free to bring it.
Q: I’m concerned about adapting to altitude, so I’m wondering what the altitude is like from start to finish?
Dre: Everywhere we race is at sea level.
Q: When the GPS and maps of the course are complete, will there be downloads available to put the courses on Garmin GPS devices?
Dre: Due to the fact that we need permits to be in most of the unique areas we are riding through, it would seem unprofessional if we posted directions to illegally ride on private land. What we will do is advise racers of the routes and sections that are available legally; that combined with the altitude, distance and terrain reviews of the non-available will give a clear picture of what will be out there.
Q: Regarding the Part 2 Training Program, on the Saturday training sessions you recommend 2@10min w/ 20 min off between. Does 2@10mins mean 2 sets of 10 min intervals? If this is so, at what intensity do you recommend? At what % of MHR? Or what % of LT HR?
Dre: You are correct in that 2@10 is 2 sets of 10 with a 20-minute rest between. The effort should begin at around 80% and climb to 90%. You should feel an ability to talk through the first 5 minutes and then move towards a clear work phase in the next. I don’t think finishing in the red is necessary for our long term goal (BC Bike Race). Keep in mind your terrain as well - these are best done on a controllable flat or false flat - it’s all out the door as we mix terrain. As the lengths increase our comfort with sub-threshold increases, so the next phase is over unders at threshold or 90-95% with small bouts at 100%. Sprinkle in some racing for intensity ‘uncontrollable’ and we are close to being ready for the BC bike race.
Q: Bottles or Camelback? (assuming tubes/tools/CO2 can be stored under the seat or in pockets) …. what’s most common in Transalps/Transrockies?
Dre: Bottles or hydration pack, what a great question! As with anything that applies to a performance activity you must be familiar with the usage of the equipment. Do you regularly ride with a hydration pack? If yes, then continue with that. If no, but you are thinking that you will use one during the race, then I suggest starting to use one at least two months before the event. Practice what you do and it will be perfection in the act.
I use a seat bag and bottles, I am so used to training and racing that way that I can’t make the shift over. This year I have started to use a hydration pack on some of my longer days, so you may see me using one in the future, but I will need to practice a bit more as well.
Q: As an east coast rider, my tire choice is probably very different from what a truly effective tire would be up in BC. Are there any tires you, in particular, would recommend?
Dre: What tires to run relative to where you come from? Well, you mentioned that you were from New Jersey, and from what I know we’re not that different. I have raced in Mt Snow Vermont for nearly 10 years and would say the conditions are quite similar - wet, muddy and rooty. With luck, though, it will be dry, fast and fun.
The tough part of these events is to choose a tire that is both a tough casing and an all-around good tread. From what I have seen, knob patterns and rolling resistance when tested have shown very little significant difference. So go with a tire that you are comfortable with. I don’t suggest a semi-slick for these parts unless you are very familiar with it. A medium tight low profile knob would be my suggestion, but looking down at the front tire spinning and being inspired is what it’s all about. Knowing your traction ‘breaking point’ for edging and rear tire ‘hook up point’ are again what makes the ride predictable and enjoyable.
A million conditions, a million tire treads, and somebody championing them all. I also prefer a square profile while many others prefer a round profile. I do believe in volume and tough casings, not a place to take a chance while you are out in the backcountry.
Q: A seven-day stage race is truly epic. What calibre of athlete is the course designed for?
Dre: I’m glad you asked that question and in response, I will ask you, “Who is a marathon designed for? Who is an Ironman designed for?” and the answer is everyone. Now that’s not to say that you can waltz in and finish BC Bike Race, or a marathon for that matter, but with training and proper counsel, everyone will be able to bike over seven days, over seven courses and enjoy the experience. There will always be tears, good days and bad, but that’s what sport is all about.
Q: I consider myself a weekend warrior. Is this race for me?
Dre: If a weekend is like a mini stage race (two days), and sometimes on long weekends you do three days, then this is just stretching it out. In fact, it’s a natural progression for a weekend warrior to build up to a goal like this. Given a slight adjustment to your training program, BC Bike Race is well within the grasp of every weekend warrior out there.
Q: What kind of ride will I need? Do you have any recommendations for setup?
Dre: In my opinion, as the distance increases the need for a dual suspension becomes mandatory. And, the fact that our singletrack will be higher content than any other epic ride out there only increases the need for a dual suspension. I prefer a light all-mountain bike with 4-5 inches of travel in the front and 3-5 inches of travel in the back.
Q: You recommend a full suspension bike. What about a Single Speed?
Dre: Physically, during events that take longer than two hours per day, or events that play out over multiple days, it’s simply a matter of ease on the body. Recovery and minimal impact all around allow the body to perform to its maximum efficiency, and to grow stronger through an event of this nature. Full-suspension and gears allow the body to be efficient and buffered from the effects of rough terrain.
On the philosophical side, there is a purity attached to rigid, single speeding that no one can argue with. The choice is yours my friend, and I wish you all the best. See you out there.
Q: Do you have suggestions for a training program to help me prepare for the race?
Dre: Absolutely! Check out these training programs.
Q: How would you compare the difficulty level of this versus the Trans Rockies where you reigned for 3 years?
Dre: I have completed La Ruta, Trans Alps and four Trans Rockies, and been at the front for a long time in the ‘suffer zone’. If I had to compare BC Bike Race to these, I would say it will be a different kind of racing, but similar in the amount of time spent on your bike. Whenever you strap on a number plate and entertain a voyage of not just a few hours or days, but an entire week, you expect only one thing - suffering and tears. But juxtaposed is the elation at the end of each day and the sure knowledge that our minds and our bodies are capable of anything and everything that we send their way.
BC Bike Race will incorporate a bit more singletrack on its voyage than any of the others. The closest comparison would be the 2005 Trans Rockies because I believe that that year had the most singletrack. We are not aiming to be the hardest, but the best. Our stages are typically shorter but with more singletrack, so while a 100km of logging road might take you five hours, 60km of tight singletrack will probably take about the same time. That said, it will be an excellent mix of all terrains and cover nearly 500kms…so I guess you will have to come and find out for yourself!
Q: How technical will the singletrack riding be for the most part? For example, can you estimate the relative amount of “green”, “blue”, and “black” terrain?
Dre: Well statistics really seem to be your game and to answer your question; “what are the percentage of trails by green, blue and black” I will state that the idea of an epic bike race is to cover an amazing amount of distance, over varied terrain. As such there are limitations with how much of any one thing a race course can sustain. Too much road - boring. Too much singletrack - physically too difficult. Too much climbing - limiting. Too much flat - boring. So we’ve created the BC Bike Race to showcase all that we have to offer here on the West Coast and make it the most enjoyable experience for everyone.
There will be some black and some green, and some blue singletrack. There will be some flats, some ups, and some downs. Also let’s not forget that this is Vancouver to Squamish and we will be going down the Sunshine Coast and through Squamish, all of these areas are known for their technical nature and proximity to the North Shore, but I don’t want that to be all that we see.
Each stage has a story to tell, and as your body and mind adjust to the rigours of daily endurance racing you will find good days and bad, some courses you will like or dislike, but it is the overall feeling or the end of the story and the completion of a superhuman challenge that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Q: How much bike repair/tuning knowledge should I have to be safe riding in a race like this?
Dre: It is always a good idea to go to your local bike store and have a mechanic go over some basic things with you ahead of time:
- Broken spoke, tension adjust or recognition and band-aid fix
- Rear derailleur hanger replacement-mandatory for backcountry (bring one with you, or two)
- Front derailleur minor adjust-good idea
- Tightening bolts on full suspension frames, to understand what’s going on-don’t over tighten
- Suspension set up (know your pressures and write ’em down)
- Tire pressures as well-so each day you can adjust or just check
It shouldn’t take more than one or two hours to get to know your bike inside and out. And don’t worry, we will have expert mechanics at BC Bike Race and will be able to handle any issues as they arise.
Q: How much mud can be expected?
Dre: July is the beginning of our dry season, and though we will still receive weather (and it could even be bad weather) our soil can handle it and the likelihood of any sustained bad weather is small. Second to that is the type of mud factor, our mud is “good” mud. How can I say that you may ask, well in truth I have sampled mud from around the world and can truly tell you that we have exceptional mud. What is so great about our mud is that it is as far from clay as you can get. Yes, it gets soupy and yes it chews through drive trains and brake pads, but it is rideable and fun, yes F-U-N.
Q: Due to our long winter I have taken up cross country skiing for aerobic conditioning. I find it a good workout but need some pointers on how to get the best returns from my efforts. Any ideas or pointers?
Dre: Your aerobic conditioning will be great with XC skiing. I have seen many skiers perform amazingly well during cycling season, Pierre Harvey comes to mind. The difficult part will be to transfer your fitness onto the bike. Give yourself time, ease into it, and recognize that through your aerobic conditioning will have been well trained you will need some time to convert you skiing muscles to biking muscles.
Some ideas may be to add indoor trainer workouts regularly and when weather permits, go out and ride your mountain bike on the snow. Just don’t get frostbite.