Riders prepare for the BC Bike Race during the event’s last visit to the Cowichan Valley in 2008. (Citizen file)

Riders prepare for the BC Bike Race during the event’s last visit to the Cowichan Valley in 2008. (Citizen file)

BC Bike Race returns to Cowichan this weekend

More than 600 riders expected for Mount Tzouhalem/Maple Mountain stage

After an absence of more than a decade, the BC Bike Race returns to the Cowichan Valley this weekend.

The Valley played host to a stage of the BC Bike Race 10 years ago, when the event was in its infancy. This year, the seven-day race will start in the Cowichan Valley, with a stage that covers the popular trails on Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain.

The BC Bike Race has always held a stage in the Comox/Cumberland area, but they wanted to have an additional stop on Vancouver Island this year, explained Tom Roozendaal, a director with the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society.

“I was riding the race last year, and the organizers approached me saying they’d like to bring it back to Cowichan,” he related.

Roozendaal talked to the CTSS about putting a course together, and they came up with one that combines timed sections on both mountains, with a transition area in between. It’s a great opportunity to show off the highly regarded trails of the Cowichan Valley.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic to have the event here,” Roozendaal said.

Roozendaal is quick to point out that the trails were not built by the CTSS, but its purpose is to maintain and work with the local government to legalize the trails that already exist.

“Kudos to the old-time trail-builders who have been putting sweat equity into the mountains for decades.”

More than 600 riders from more than 30 countries took part in the BC Bike Race last year, and similar numbers are expected this year. They will arrive in the area on Friday night, and camp at Maple Bay Elementary School, which will serve as the starting area for Saturday’s stage. The race will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday and finish at the Crofton ball fields.

Because of his other duties, Roozendaal is too busy to compete in the race this year.

“Getting the organization ready and the courses ready has been enough training for this year,” he said.

Mount Tzouhalem hosted part of the Island Cup Enduro Series on June 24, which served as a trial run for the BC Bike Race, and Roozendaal believes the mountains are ready for this weekend.

“It’s holding up well,” he said. “We will need to do a few repairs after the two races.”

Courses will be marked well, and Roozendaal said the mountains will still be open to the public during the event, although visitors to the trails are asked to stay off the course itself.

“They’re welcome to spectate, cheer the riders on, and see the spectacle,” he said.

More information about the venues is available on North Cowichan’s municipal website.

In its 12 years of existence, the BC Bike Race has become incredibly popular.

“The day the race ends, it opens for registration [for next year], and it sells out within one day,” Roozendaal noted. “People want to come to B.C. and race B.C.’s single-track trails.”

Roozendaal wants to make sure it isn’t another 11 years before the event returns to the Valley.

“We’re hoping to have this year after year,” he said. “We’re hoping to put on an excellent show, and we’re hoping people see how awesome Cowichan’s trails are.”

An event like this is great exposure for the Cowichan Valley, as the 600-plus riders will chronicle their adventures on social media and promote the area world-wide. Many riders have already been to the Valley to pre-ride the trails.

“It could have a big economic impact,” Roozendaal said.