Steamboat team volunteers at grueling Trans BC Enduro mountain bike race in British Columbia

A rider makes his way down a series of berms in the first stage of the Trans BC Enduro.
Noah Wetzel

Entering its fourth quad-burning, wheel-turning year, the Trans BC Enduro is considered by many to be one of the hardest mountain bike races in the world. For good reason. Competitors have to suffer through six grueling days of riding up and then racing down some of the toughest trails in the Kootenay mountain range of British Columbia.

That didn’t stop locals Dave Scully and Nate Bowman from racing nor a group of local volunteers from heading north to lend a hand, suffering through the same course to help out with everything from logistics to photography.

Included in last year’s group of dehydrated do-gooders were videographer Ben Saheb, photographer Noah Wetzel, video director Ben Duke, aid station supporters Kyle Areuz and Anna Anderson, and event marshals Mike Rundle and Matt Hightower, who did everything from taping and timing the stages to clearing the course of debris. 

While doing all of this, they also had to get themselves through the same jostling terrain the racers were riding, performing their various tasks in one of the roughest mountain environments around. 

“It’s a case study on the most grueling and challenging video project I’ve ever done and ever will do,” said local filmmaker Saheb, adding that they encountered everything from relentless rain to dry dust. “One of the biggest challenges with shooting it is the amount of time you spend in the backcountry and the abuse it puts on your body and gear.”

A unique caveat of the race is that the course isn’t made public to the riders until the night before each race. All they know is that the event features six days of continuous enduro racing, where the climbs are mandatory but untimed and the descents are timed. Racers spend about six hours on their bikes each day, with various timed sections added together over the week for an overall result.

Last year’s event started with 25 miles of riding, 5,700 feet of climbing and 7,400 feet of descending. On the first day alone, wipeouts landed five people in the hospital.

Subsequent days were just as grueling, as the event took riders to the trails of Castlegar and Nelson, through dense forest, over rocks and roots, and soaring through high-Alpine terrain. Each day, riders faced climbs of up to 6,000 feet and distances of 20 to 25 miles. 

“The trails in those areas are incredible, and it’s an adventure from start to finish,” said Race Director Megan Rose, whose main goal is simply to expose riders to the world-class terrain of interior British Columbia. “It’s great seeing the expression on people’s faces when they cross the finish line on the first day, knowing the week is only going to ramp up from there.”

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The helpers from Routt County, meanwhile, got through it with true Steamboat team spirit.

“If we were out there alone covering this race, the grueling hours and conditions would beat us down,” Saheb said. “But getting to work together and learning from one another always makes it one of the most memorable trips of the year.”

“The trails up there are some of the best in the world,” Wetzel said. “Since the race’s inception, local Steamboaters have journeyed there to help put it on. We’ve jokingly referred to it as summer camp. It’s exhausting — sunup to sundown — but it’s all about the team atmosphere and camaraderie.”

No matter the hardships, look for most of the group to do the same thing again this year as the Trans BC heads to the East Kootenay region around Fernie. Only maybe they’ll bring a few more Band-Aids.

To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email

Word from a racer

Dave Scully, who organizes enduro racing events in Steamboat Springs, raced in his third consecutive Trans BC Enduro last summer. And it hasn’t gotten any easier.

“It’s been called the hardest enduro race in the world,” he said. “Most people know this region for its ski towns — like Nelson, Fernie, Golden and Revelstoke — but it also has some of the best mountain biking in the world that’s steep, rugged and technical.”

Riding distances of 15 to 30 miles, with 4,000 to 7,000 feet of climbing each day, Scully and the other racers had to climb to each starting line, where they were then timed on the descent.

“A short day is four to five hours, and a big day is seven hours, especially if you have mechanical issues,” he said. “Racers have to keep their own bikes repaired and working for the entire six days.”

Making matters harder, he added, is that all stages are raced blind, meaning riders have to rely on skill, not trail knowledge.

“The whole strategy is to keep your bike and body together for all six days,” he said.  

Scully and fellow Steamboat racer Nate Bowman did that well enough to finish admirably. One of the oldest racers at 51, and racing in the masters 40 and older category, Scully finished 32 out of 53. Bowman raced the pro/open category, finishing 23 out of 90. 

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