The many challenges of the BC Epic 1000 2022
As the spring season is upon us and the promise of better weather looms, the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors has started to heat up. While many are enjoying the warm weather by playing a round of golf or heading to the baseball diamond, others are dusting off their helmets, pumping up their tires, getting back on their bikes and gearing up for another intense season of bikepacking.
A unique and sometimes very challenging sport, bikepacking is an exciting style of cycle touring that combines the beauty of mountain biking and long-distance hiking. There are limited rules such as no help or help from other riders, no pit stops, and using the honor system (tracking your own time).
Every year, cyclists quietly discover the beauty of bikepacking and the trails the sport has to offer, such as the Okanagan Rail Trail or the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). However, the BC Epic 1000 is on a whole new level with its 600km rail tracks from Merritt to Castlegar and a further 400km along gravel tracks to Fernie.
Although the route from Merritt to Fernie is not as difficult as other bikepacking routes, such as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (4,300 km route from Banff to Antelope, New Mexico), it still has its challenges . Hard gravel and uneven rocky roads, as well as prolonged uncomfortable climbs are just some of the adversities that cyclists will have to overcome.
Also, the path is not always clear for runners to pass smoothly and with recent flooding across BC, some sections of the path may be completely washed out.
“Between the flooding and the fires in BC, some of the bikepacking routes might have had a lot of damage,” said Meaghan Hackinen, winner of last year’s BC Epic 1000.
Hackinen is also the women’s record holder and second all-time record holder for the BC Epic 1000.
“I think what would happen is that we would follow the original route as much as possible and then jump on the road to avoid all sorts of flooded areas.
“Generally, that’s how these events work,” Hackinen said. “If there are more miles because of that, it’s just part of the event.”
As an avid cyclist, Hackinen has previous experience of unexpected forks in the road.
“This year a section was washed out on the trail near the end of Otter Lake,” Hackinen recalls. “We all jumped on Coalmont Road for another 10 or 15 miles to avoid the washout.”
Hackinen credits the bikepacking community with coordinating with other riders, letting them know about any conditions that could influence a group’s ride.
“If there’s a runner in Merritt who gets out and rides part of the way, they’d report and could tell Lennard ‘hey, that part is closed, so make sure your runners know that.’
Lennard Pretorius is a Kamloops doctor, bikepacker, and creator of the BC Epic 1000. In 2015, Pretorius paved the way after riding a 600 mile route in Oregon and wanting something similar back home.
The annual informal ride along the same route of public paths and roads has grown in popularity over the past few years and, as Hackinen says, “has attracted competitors from all over the world”, to come and experience a long and daunting route that requires a lot of, “Patience and skill.”
Also, it can be even more difficult when one has to cycle through extreme heat like the heat dome bikers last summer (2021).
The BC Epic 1000 is an extreme test for even the most skilled and dedicated riders.
“It’s a race but it’s also just a bike ride,” Hackinen said. “If you want to slow down, stop, and take a dip in nearby water, go for it.”
For runners who wish to challenge themselves and participate in the vigorous 1000km race, they are free to do so and can register on the BC Epic 1000 website. However, they must do so at their own risk and must be prepared for the inevitable challenges that will come their way.
The 2022 BC Epic 1000 is scheduled to depart from Merrit on June 25 at 7:00 a.m.
For more information on how to enter the BC Epic 1000, please visit bcepic100.com