From the Rainforest to the Desert – A 2012 Race the Ranch report

By Callum McLeary
Revelstoke Cycling Association

KAMLOOPS — Shaking the dust from my riding gear this morning I take a little time to reflect on this past weekends racing action. The venue was the Kamloops bike ranch. The event was the first round of the BC Downhill cup.

A five-strong Revelstoke Cycling Association team was dispatched to get down and dusty with over 300 other mountain bikers from all over BC and Alberta. Stuart Dickson and Sam Poarch headed up the junior ranks while Aaron Clarke, Andrew Clark and myself, Callum McLeary, filled in the numbers in the not so junior division.

The race track at the Kamloops Bike Ranch is shorter than most on the BC cup circuit. The 1.1km long the trail is packed full of man made technical features and high speed jumps of all sizes. This made for a very spectator friendly course, and a huge challenge for those of us swinging a leg over the downhill bike for the first time this season.  Saturday’s practice finished up at 4pm, and with a half dozen laps under the belt everyone seemed a bit more comfortable about riding in the loose dust and 20+ degree heat. To celebrate we finished off with a couple of ‘Rio’ laps. A Kamloops classic made famous in the movie ‘Seasons’, and a must do if you’re staying in the area.

Sunday, race day.

A greasy spoon belly full, care of the Amsterdam Café, seemed like the perfect way to start the morning. However, as the race day nerves kicked in I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking, “maybe the continental breakfast at the motel would have been a better choice.”

Time for two practice laps in the morning before racing started at 11:30am. Last chance to get those lines dialled! Andrew and Aaron were leading the Revelstoke charge in the Citizen class. From my vantage point on the side of the track I could see Aaron was off to a flyer on the top half of the course, launching big off the road gap much to the delight of a very vocal crowd! Unfortunately a slight deviation from his line in the home stretch had him sprawled out on the ground right in front of us! To Aaron’s credit, a speedy remount and fast finish earned him a commendable 8th place with a time of 2:14:90.

Andrew, hot on Aaron’s heels, tore the lower half of the course to shreds, having what he described as his best run of the weekend, earning him a podium finish! A well deserved 3rd place in the Citizen 30+ category, with a time of 2:08:95.

Sam Poarch, (who towed me into all the big jumps throughout the whole weekend!) was a man on a mission. Riding fast and smooth the entire weekend, I had no doubt his race run would be no different. True to form he set down the track carrying great speed, eventually catching the rider in front of him! No problem, Sam passed the slower rider on a large step down jump near the finish line, providing the crowd with some great entertainment and himself with the fastest time of the day in the U17 Sport category. Well done Sam! 1st place, in 2:01:03.

My race was next in the Masters 30-39 class. Racing at 4pm with 200+ riders having gone before me ensured that some technical parts of the track were nothing like the last run I’d had at 11am that morning. However, it’s the same for everybody, so with the mantra ‘stay relaxed, stay on your bike’ playing through my head like a broken record I set off from the start gate. The next two minutes are somewhat of a blur, but I do remember pedalling hard wherever I could, hitting lines I hadn’t done all weekend, flying through the air, sometimes unexpectedly, spectators cheering me on, and my lungs filled with the dry Kamloops air, burning at the finish line.  3rd place with a time of 2:01:13, stoked!

Stuart Dickson, the last Revelstoke racer of the day, was riding in the ultra-competitive Junior Expert category.  Stu set down a blisteringly fast time of 1:49:63 that had him in the hot seat for a long time and many people on the sideline wondering if in fact the Elite men’s race had started early. Only three riders in this class were able to better Stu’s time putting him just off the podium in fourth. A great effort, with just over one second separating the top four riders, and only three seconds off the fastest time of the day! Well done Stu!

With the prize giving wrapped up we started on our way home. Back to the mud, the wet roots, and snow, leaving the dusty desert behind us. In the van talk turns to our own inaugural, Revelstoke Cycling Association downhill series. A four race, Cycling BC sanctioned, grassroots ‘toonie’ series featuring two of Revelstoke’s favourite trails and showcasing Boulder Mountain’s newest cycling additions. With the first race scheduled for early June, check into in the coming weeks for a full race briefing. The boys and I roll home tired, smiles all around, good times.