IT was the adventure of a lifetime for Stephen Butler when he travelled to Canada for a seven-day mountain bike event.
The Esperance Mountain Bike Association rider participated in the the BC Bike Race which started at Cumberland on Vancouver Island and moved around Vancouver before finishing at Whistler.
Butler entered the race a year ago and spent six months preparing, averaging 140 kilometres a week on the bike.
"My pre-race preparation focused on two aspects that I felt would be key to a successful ride," he said.
"Firstly I focused on topography as the race is held in British Columbia's forested coastal mountains with 9800 metres of elevation gained over the week.
"Esperance lacks extended uphill climbs but my preparation paid off as the first climb five minutes into day one took an hour to complete."
He said the steep and technical nature of the trails was something else he took into consideration while training.
"British Columbia is renowned globally for all mountain and free ride mountain biking and competitors were going to experience this type of riding over the seven days," he said.
"My tactic going into the race was to enjoy the experience and treat the ride as a tour and avoid racing for the first three days."
There were about 620 competitors from 24 countries lined up at the start on day one.
Butler said what lay ahead over the next week of riding was 342km of "phenomenal" single track riding.
"We had travelled by ferry to Vancouver Island for the start of the race," he said.
"This proved to be the toughest leg of the race for many competitors as the temperature reached 40 degrees and the trails were soft and loose in sections and rocky in others.
"After two falls on a technical downhill, I re-assessed my approach and eased back as my aim was to finish the race and not retire hurt on the first day."
He said daily distances on the course varied from 45-60km a day with at least 70 per cent of the course on single track trails, with fire roads used for extended climbs.
"I anticipated riding four to six hours a day and only went over the six hour mark once when the sidewall of the rear tyre was split open by a rock," he said.
"Riding on tubeless tyres it took 20 minutes to get a tube in and apply a boot inside the split to prevent the tube from protruding through.
"Within a couple of days, I was riding sections of track that I would not have thought possible prior to arriving in British Columbia.
"The trails included technical rock drops, steep rock slabs, roots, huge berms and walls, bridges, fast flowing downhill sections and steep technical climbs to make this one of the most challenging but rewarding events I have completed.
"I have to admit I did apply discretion at times and walked around some of the bigger more technical drops."
He said riding over the finish line at Whistler on the last day brought out a range of emotions but mainly disappointment that it was all over.
"I felt an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment at having finished one the hardest but without doubt, the ultimate single track mountain bike race," he said.
"Having finished with no injuries and one minor technical hitch was a bonus and I would absolutely do it again."
If you want to know more about mountain biking in Esperance contact Rob Sudemeyer on 0429 374 017 or Rod Parsons on 0427 712 902.