Sooke start for BC Bike Race

by Sooke News Mirror

Organizers hope the BC Bike Race will become the best mountain bike event in the world, but admit the inaugural 560-kilometre event will be much more modest.

There is expected to be about 250 competitors taking off from Sooke on July 1. The race runs for seven days and will go through Lake Cowichan (as well as Mesachie Lake, Honeymoon Bay and Caycuse), Port Alberni, Comox, Powell River, Sechelt, Squamish and ending in Whistler.

“It might not be the biggest in year one, but we have the potential to be,” said Payne, founder of the BC Bike Race. “Our goal is to have 750 riders by year three. We hope for 400 next year. What we’re selling this as is the race of a lifetime. It’s going to be more than a mountain bike race, it’s going to be an epic journey.”

The cyclists will be from around the world, including Chris Eatough, who Payne described as the Lance Armstrong of mountain bike racing. There will also be less serious cyclists, with the average competitor in the 30-year-old range.

He said B.C. is huge in the world of mountain biking and Vancouver Island has some of the best trails and logging roads around that perfectly suit the sport.

“We want the host communities to see this race as a real event that promotes tourism and a healthy lifestyle,” said Payne. “Our hope is that each town and finish line will provide something unique that the racers will remember.”

“Every community can become known for its events,” added Melissa Pace, tourism relations director for the BC Bike Race.

She noted with such competitions, many of the races arrive at communities along the route weeks or months ahead of time to make connections and become familiar with the route. “There could be tremendous economic spinoffs for the community,” said Pace.

Payne said the key to securing the race route was reaching an agreement with TimberWest to use their logging roads. Next year’s race will start earlier, on May 25, because TimberWest prefers not to commit to access into the summer, when there may be a fire hazard.

“We want the route and the communities to be the same every year,” said Payne, adding that having the race earlier next year will probably be better for the communities because it’s before the big tourism rush. It will also avoid the long weekends, which are often busy with other events.

Lorien Arnold of Sooke Cycle and Surf feels the race will be good for communities it touches. As Arnold understood as of June 8 the racers would leave Sooke via Otter Point Road and ride as far as Butler Road before heading into the rough country.

“It’s huge,” said Arnold. “Sooke stands to gain a lot from that race because there’s stuff like that across North America. The endurance stuff is kind of the fastest growing segment in racing.”

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