Kelowna mountain biker claims large stage race
A combination of will power and cutting-edge training techniques led Kelowna mountain biker Jennifer Schultz to a first place finish in one of the most grueling mountain bike races in B.C.
Schultz, 36, won the open women's category at the B.C. Bike Race, a seven day mountain bike stage race that started on Vancouver Island and finished in Whistler earlier this month.
"I came fourth in this race last year and this year had set a goal to win it," said Schultz. "I sort of exceeded my expectations. My teammates were joking that I was going to win but I was surprised. I was quite happy."
The B.C. Bike Race is one of a growing number of mountain bike stage races taking place around the globe. Competitors race a different single-track course in a different city each day, spending the night in tents with all other riders and then being escorted to the new course each day. At the B.C. Bike Race, each course took three to four hours to complete with riders from all over the world taking part.
"It's quite grueling, it wasn't easy," said Schultz. "There were definitely some ups and downs. The thing with mountain bike racing is you have to ride your own race. You can't watch what everyone else is doing. You have to keep in mind that it's a seven day race and if you over-do it on day one, you will be cooked."
Schultz rode as a member of the Balance Point Racing team, a team based out of Vernon with several Kelowna riders on it (see results sidebar).
Balance Point tests its riders to find out how their bodies will best perform, then tailors their training to fit their physiological make up.
Schultz said she couldn't have done it without her team and her coaches as well as longtime sponsor Fresh Air Experience.
"I've been doing this training for a couple years and this was the perfect test of the coaching philosophy, to see how it would work over a seven day epic ride," she said. "It's rewarding to put all of that work in and then have some success. I think I'm quicker now than when I was in my twenties."
Schultz is no stranger to competing on mountain bikes and road bikes. Early in her career she rode mountain bike and competed in B.C. and Canada Cup races before joining the now defunct Total Restoration Cycling team and competing in road races.
But it is on a mountain bike where she is most at home and with the trend now moving towards longer marathon-style mountain bike rides, it appears as if she has found her niche.
"As you get older you lose some speed but you gain endurance," she said. "I like the off-road component of mountain bike racing and the individual components. I can ride my own race and train to have my best possible race."
With her first place showing in the B.C. Bike Race, Schultz definitely did that. She is now looking forward to competing in some more local races through the end of this season before tackling another large stage race, this time in Colorado, next season.