#WCP – Valemount

Words: Brian Goldstone

"There is a something reassuring to riding in these conditions. Knowing that if you can put yourself through the training, that a goal like Cape Epic will come easier.”

The clock ticks over, it is now three hours since our alarm went off to rise and get ready for the long day in saddle. A third pot of coffee is brewing in the background, a subtle reminder that we are procrastinating. We hit the refresh again on the weather channel; the temperature reads -15 degrees (with wind chill). It has risen a full degree over the last hour.

The layering process when riding in sub zero conditions is time consuming. Sometimes by the time you are ready to get out the door you have talked yourself out of it already and make a beeline back to the couch, but today is different.

I have jumped on the back of two friend’s training camp in Valemount, BC. Excuses not to roll out the door for four plus hours on the bike aren’t acknowledged with these two. It is crunch time, it is under a month to Cape Epic, arguably the hardest MTB stage race in the world and there is still work to do.

For Evan and Chris, this process has been taking place throughout the long and cold Alberta mornings since November. For them it is routine, numb hands and feet, frozen eyelashes, the bitter bite of winds that come straight off the frozen lake. It is all a part of the mental preparation that sees them toeing the line in just under a month in Durbanville, South Africa.

The car is loaded as we navigated a 20km-logging road to our day’s starting point. It drifts from side to side over a thick layer of ice as the high mountains of the Cariboo range come into view.

We finally roll out four hours after rising; our tracks are the only present as we follow a logging road that hugs tightly to the unforgiving terrain. The pace is measured, the rhythm almost soothing. The only sounds are the crunch of tires and heavy breaths, made all the more heavier by the cold air that grabs a tight hold of our lungs. Minutes turn into hours, metres turn into miles as the sun finally shows itself and warms our bodies.

There is a something reassuring to riding in these conditions. Knowing that if you can put yourself through the training, that a goal like Cape Epic will come easier.

We cross-rickety, wooden bridges, a gentle flow to a stream coming from the mountain above shows a faint glimpse that Spring is coming.

Conversation is thick, like all good training rides, but always comes back to the end goal. I ask the two the obvious questions, why train for such a goal? Why do so through such a long winter and the answer always came back to two things. 1) That the motivation of the format of riding as a team of two meant that if you weren’t putting in the time, you were only letting the other guy down. 2) The fear! The fear that if you chose to skip that workout or not put in the time will only mean paying for it at some point over the course of the eight day event.

As time ticks over, so to does the snow under our tires become deeper, thicker, unrideable. We are high enough for snow pack to be deep enough that riding has come almost to a halt, a sign that it is time to turn around and head for home.

The weather has let go of its icy grip (somewhat) and layers are peeled off. As we follow the tracks we made on the trip out we notice that ours aren’t the only tracks in the snow anymore, a true sign that you are riding in the wild.

As we reach the car, backs stiff and legs fatigued from the hours spent, it is easy to switch off. But for these two it is just day one of the last stretch to Africa. Tomorrow we will do it all over again.