DJI_0871
RACE REPORT #2

BCBR Gravel Explorer XLT Part 2

Words Cooper Quinn
Photos As Noted
Date Nov 29, 2022
Reading time

We left off at the midpoint of the BCBR Gravel Explorer XLT cruising through the aid station, and done with climbing for the day. The course on day three was a loop, however it incorporated a significant section as an out and back. So I knew what I was in for on the descent, and it was going to be an absolutely terrifying riot of absolutely wide open, full throttle descending. Roughly 8%, loose over hard, smooth, and completely spun out in the highest gear you brought. (If you're new to the series here, you can go back and start with my "preparation" here.)

Fortunately, you can (somewhat) experience this for yourself as one of BCBR’s main forces, Olympic athlete and all around mustachioed good guy Andreas Hestler tucked in behind me on an unrestricted Rocky Mountain Powerplay with a GoPro. Apologies in advance for the rather copious four letter words, Dre has promised me he’ll rinse his mouth with soap.

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It may not look like much, but I promise I was moving here. Photo: Chris Stenberg

That evening, Dre would tell me, “That speed was unsettling,” which I found a bit amusing given his Maxxis Minions, multlple layers of clothing, and my 42c Pathfinder Pro semi-slicks and spandex. It was absolutely unsettling, and a whole lot of fun. Just don’t think about what happens if you crash at 65 in your birthday suit on gravel. The nurses don't seem to have much sympathy when they come after you with the wire brushes.

Day 4: Adventure awaits

Day four promised a bit of respite - a relatively short course, with only about 1,300 meters of vertical relief and half the distance of most days. The course was a fresh one added by BCBR’s new Course Director Jesse - local and organizer ofBasecamp Gravel. We wound our way up and around semi-abandoned resource roads, nice views, lovely streams, and the kind of terrain on which gravel bikes excel. Normally days like this would be spent looking at maps full of intersections, traversing deadfall, and finding dead ends.

With an event like BCBR, there’s none of that. Just follow the course markers, be careful in the eroded rough sections, cross ditches and cattle guards, and just enjoy the scenery. Part of the beauty of the Gravel Explorer is just this - the ability to explore and adventure through new terrain at whatever pace you like, but with well-planned routes, medical and mechanical support, aid stations, and new friends. It really doesn’t have to be a race if you don’t want one. That said, looking at the standings, I was starting to wonder if I could actually finish on the box?

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I'm towards the back of the pack here, letting Rob (left, pink) and Andrew do the hard work pulling everyone. It only seemed fair - they have all the fitness. Photo: Chris Stenberg

Day 5: KVR and Whiskey

I had two thoughts for strategy on the final day - save energy by sticking with the lead group as long as possible, and hopefully not have to do the final 30 kilometers down the KVR solo.

Fortunately, Rob, Andrew, and the other fitness freaks took it easy, and we enjoyed a fast-but-not-completely-furious pace for the entire distance to the first climb. Everyone chatted away with the boys up front breaking the way. Once we hit the climb, they put the power down as only real athletes can, and I settled in for a thousand meters or so of up. Approaching the top, I knew I wanted to bridge the gap up to the rider in front of me for the way home along the KVR; Neil, the leader of the 60+ category, was in and out of sight for the past hour up ahead. As I watched the meters tick by on my Hammerhead, I knew we were almost there. But long before I saw it, I could hear the aid station. I hadn’t stopped since day two, but I knew today the crew had a special treat. I slowed, grabbed the outstretched handup, slammed an ounce or two of whiskey… and realized there was still a hundred or so meters of climbing. Breathing fire, I hammered to the top in pursuit; only by taking entirely too many risks on the descent back to the KVR was I successful in catching him. There were two of us now; trading places at the front, we turned the wick up through a gorgeous resource road descent winding tightly down through the forest with a creek. We soon caught and picked up another rider, and eventually a fourth as things opened back towards the lowlands.

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That's me, bottom right in purple, as the lead group dropped off tarmac and hit dirt. Fourth from last - it was right where I wanted to be, sucking as much draft as possible. Photo: Chris Stenberg

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Three quarters of the pack on the way home - not too long after this, it all fall to pieces and was every man for himself. Photo: Chris Stenberg

If you’ve never worked in a high-functioning paceline, the speed is remarkable. We were pushing 40 kilometers an hour, taking short stints at the front as the route undulated and wound generally downhill to the finish line. Chatting away, I distinctly remember Neil saying, “This is a lovely way to finish, guys.” I wholehartedly agreed. Several minutes later, with a few kilometers left, someone decided the fun was over and put the hammer down. We splintered. I pushed hard, but didn’t have the strength left to keep up with anyone. We’d all finish within a minute of each other.

And that was it, done! We rolled back to the Summerland rodeo grounds, collected our ceremonial hug from Papa Kearns, our new belt buckles, and had a beer. Despite knowing at this point I was on the podium, I packed up and headed home quickly; I made it back in time to do bath time and bedtime with my almost-two-year-old instead of podium glory.

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And just like that, across the line (ok, it was another 50 meters up the road, and there was definitely no tape for me to break.) Photo: Chris Stenberg

So the question is, did I enjoy it? Would you enjoy it? Should you spend your hard earned dollars on the 2023 (or beyond) BCBR Gravel Explorer? If you decide yes, do know that we’ll cover what equipment I took, and what I’d recommend in a follow up to this article.

I absolutely enjoyed it. I mean, c’mon. A week of riding bikes in the sun, all planned out for you in advance? Even if you don’t understand gravel bikes, as long as you don’t mind pedaling you’d be hard pressed to hate it. And while certainly the tent city aspect of pre-COVID events run by this team is immensely appealing in some ways, there’s some upsides to eating when & where you want to, staying in a hotel if that’s your jam, or dirtbagging it in your $120k Sprinter van.

As long as you don’t hate pedaling, you’d probably find something to enjoy about it. Hell, if you’ve made it this far through my saga, you’ll probably enjoy it. The vision of the BCBR Gravel Explorer is “Everywhere a gravel bike can go”, and they’ve succeeded. Almost no matter how you ride back home, there’ll be sections you feel at home. There’ll also be sections that push your limits; whether its through technicality, short hike-a-bikes, Mach speed cruising, or lovely rail trail, its all in there. And its all in there in an environment that you can take as seriously as you like - go for a five day cruise with friends, or go hammer. You can eschew aid stations, dig for extra watts on the climb, and hang it out a little farther on the descents, or you can go for an adventure ride at whatever pace you desire (so long as you make the time cutoffs).

If you need a goal, something to inspire you to get out that extra evening a week and get some pedal strokes in, or need that hard date in the calendar months in advance to ensure you get your time, this (or the mountain bike equivalent) is a solid option. It’ll be hard - there’s no way around the event being physically demanding - but that doesn’t meant its all type 2 or type 3 fun. I’d highly recommend trying to drag a friend along with you, but you’ll also make some along the way. Maybe I’ll see you there - memories of it being hard are getting fainter by the day.

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In true BCBR tradition, finishers get a belt buckle. I'm from Wyoming, though, so while its nice and weighty, its far from the biggest one I own. Photo: Robin Munshaw

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Finishing the way we started. Ice cream.

And as always if you’ve got questions on this, or any of the other pieces in this series, fire away in the comments.

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Comments

princegeorge@cyclelogicbikes.com
princegeorge@cyclelogicbikes.com
2 months, 1 week ago
+3 Cooper Quinn Pete Roggeman mmayo

Awesome articles Quinn, you sum up the fear and the thrill perfectly. This is Neil here on his shop account at CycleLogic in Prince George, it sure was a great way to finish on day 5, I am in total awe of how you caught me that day descending, I thought I was going fast! Our collaboration over the last 20km or so made for a great way to finish a great event. Well done on getting the best photo award of the whole event as you ate the gravel!

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
0

Thanks Neil! 

I had no idea youre in PG - I'm up there for work sometimes. I'll have to come by! BTW... what tires were you running? Those looked neat. 

If you check the pre-race article, the header image is actually a shot from the side of the road while stopped to pee from a work truck north of FSJ, rather than some wonderful day on drop bars. https://nsmb.com/articles/suffering-looms-on-the-horizon

Reply

princegeorge@cyclelogicbikes.com
princegeorge@cyclelogicbikes.com
2 months, 1 week ago
+1 Cooper Quinn

Hi Cooper, I usually run 700c 40mm set up but for this event put on 650b 50mm wide Pirelli Cinturato Gravel H, seemed to be the ticket, zero technicals, never any pressure loss, was running about 25 pounds for the sand and  rocks prevalent, look me up when next in PG, I can show you some local gravel for sure :)

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
0

25psi sounds great... I was up around 32-34!

Reply

Captain-Snappy
Merwinn
2 months, 1 week ago
+2 Cooper Quinn goose8

" I made it back in time to do bath time and bedtime with my almost-two-year-old instead of podium glory."

Being a dad of young one, I completely get it. Don't blame you at all.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
+3 Offrhodes42 Velocipedestrian imnotdanny

I thought I was doing well (from a "race" perspective), and then I found out the guy who finished one spot behind me had a ~6mo old! 

So... if we had some kind of handicap/adjustment for kids, that guy for sure smoked me.

Reply

Offrhodes42
Offrhodes42
2 months, 1 week ago
+1 Cooper Quinn

The important question needs to be answered. What is the flavor of the DQ?

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
0

Mint oreo! 

Always.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
2 months, 1 week ago
+1 Cy Whitling

I mostly appreciate your taste, Cooper, but Mint Oreo is a double strike for me. Blizzards are too sweet by half for me these days but I used to like Reese's Pieces.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

If you review part one of my BCBR experience, you'll note there's a theme with my ice cream.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
2 months, 1 week ago
+1 imnotdanny

I like that you gave a rundown of the truck cause you knew we would ask.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
+2 Todd Hellinga imnotdanny

Haha, it comes up every time there's some little glimpse of it somewhere in any of my pieces. Figured I'd get out ahead of it this time.

Reply

shoreboy
Shoreboy
2 months, 1 week ago
+1 Cooper Quinn

Interesting article! Im still trying to wrap my head around the fact that people are paying to ride fire roads :)

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
+1 Shoreboy

I mean, when you put it that way, it sounds silly! And *some* of these trails are old railroads! 

All that said... puttering around on BC's resource roads is an awesome way to see some absolutely amazing things, and you can cover SO much more ground on an appropriate machine like a gravel bike than you can on something bigger and heavier.

Reply

Cydwhit
Cy Whitling
2 months, 1 week ago
0

I'm convinced, this event looks so rad. Awesome writeup, and props on the podium!

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 1 week ago
0

Thanks Cy!

Reply

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