..........Living the dream

World Famous Team Salty Balls 

 TRANSROCKIES 2009

Stage
 Date
 Start
 Finish
 Distance
 Elevation
 
 
Stage 1
 August 9th 2009
 Panorama
 K2 Ranch
 45.3km
 2,267m
 
 
 Stage 2
 August 10th 2009
 K2 Ranch
 Nipika Resort
 72.2km
 2,835m
 
 
 Stage 3
 August 11th 2009
 Nipika Ranch
 Nipika Ranch
 44.1km
 1,129m
 
 
 Stage 4
 August 12th 2009
 Nipika Ranch
 Whiteswan Lake
 107.0km
 1,980m
 
 
 Stage 5
 August 13th 2009  
 Whiteswan Lake
 Elkford 
 87.5km
 2,254m
 
 
 Stage 6
 August 14th 2009
 Elkford
 Crowsnest Pass
 101.0km
 2,467m
 
 
 Stage 7
 August 15th 2009
 Crowsnest Pass
 Fernie
 74.8km
 1,293m
 
 
 TOTAL
 
 PANORAMA
 FERNIE
 531.9km
 14,225m
 
 

Thursday 6th August 2009 UK to Calgary

And so the Team leave Heathrow safely.   

Denise had the pleasure of transporting Steve, Eleanor and Amy to Manchester in a truck very kindly loaned to us by West Coast Network Services but which shook like a cement mixer when travelling over 50mph.  En route Steve got a bit excited and made a rash promise to Eleanor about proposals while in romantic Canada, Eleanor told him not to bother - so a good time will be had by all.  Steve travelled from Manchester to Heathrow with Andy's spare tyres round his neck.  The things you will do for your team mates.

Good luck lads.

 

                                      

                                                                                        Heathrow Airport

  

The cow girls were out to welcome Team Salty Balls at Calgary Airport on Friday night. Arriving on the flight with 4 other teams from the UK it was if we'd never been away since our last visit in 2003.                                                                                                                                                                                       Welcome by Miss Calgay (1970)

 Suprisingly the other UK teams had not heard of the World Famous Team..................but that wasn't the case after our 9hrs 30min flight!  Arriving at the hotel at 9.00pm (4am UK) we were quickly washed and on our way to the famous "What About Bob's"  Bar and Grill, the scene of Steve's 2003 rendition of "Robin" Williams hit Angels!!

                                             

                                                                           What about Bob's Bar & Grill, Calgary            

 

                                                       

                                                          Steve's 2003 rendition of "Robin" Williams hit Angels!!

                      

We had a warm welcome from Bob himself. 2 beers later, Bob's best mate Fred asked if we were in the military. On explaining the whole Transrockies thing Fred went on to ask if Andy was the pro and Steve his mechanic!

Today we are off for a morning in downtown Calgary before heading out on a 4hr bus journey to the start venue in Panorama.

Friday 7th August 2009 Calgary to Panorama

                      

 Wow what a great 5hr bus journey from Calgary to Panorama through Banff  National Park...enjoy the view.

                      

                                                      

                    

Saturday 8th August 2009 Panorama

 Panorama, busy, busy, busy

Today we woke up to clear blue skies, a room full of bike parts but looking forward to a busy day ahead.                    

 After a hearty breakfast we started to assemble the bikes. Now those that know Steve well will have realised he is paranoid about tubeless valves, in his own words "you can never have enough tubeless valves". Anyway guess what........he had problems with his front valve early in the morning and here we are at almost 8pm and 3 mechanics later  and it still isn't fixed. If all else fails he will have to use his gastric belt which has been keeping him slim for the last 3 months.                                                                                                      

                                                     The tablets were having a strange effect!                 

                      

                                 Andy & Steve(at this time still with gastric belt) looking cool.

This afternoon we took the cable car up the mountain where we will be riding tomorrow. Steep, steep, steep. Later we learn it's the 3rd highest ski slope in North America! This evening we attended the race briefing. Early to bed now ready for the big start tomorrow.

Stage 1 Sunday 9th August Panorama to K2 Ranch: 52.3km/2478m climbing

 Diary-Late start today for the first day of TR09 and anyone thinking this was a short easy day were in for a shock.  After instruction on what to do if we come across a bear TR09 was underway.                                                                                                           

Direct from the start the route climbed straight up North America's 3rd highest vertical rise at a ski resort.  With the sun shining and the temp in mid 70's we did well and reached the top in a couple of hours. The route then took us along some amazing singletrack at a height of 7,500ft before dropping [almost vertical] into the Columbia valley. We both came off, Steve cutting his knee but nothing serious.We both rode strong today but did'nt go mad on the 1st day. We crossed the line in 4hrs 47min with still over half the field out on the course.  We were a little disappointed to be 8th out of 11 in our category [+100] but we should be well placed in the general classification. Some fit old guy's out here!

The atmosphere around camp is great and team salty balls are cutting a dash in the new 'World famous' kit.  Think Steve is a dead cert to get on stage at least once this week.

                                                                        

                  STAGE 1 DETAILS-The first stage of the TransRockies is always a little but different from the rest, the shorter distance, nervous adrenaline and fresh legs mean that the start and riding is much more aggressive than at any point during the rest of the week. By day two, when riders wake up with sore legs and a more realistic sense of their place in the pecking order of speed, the start is a little more orderly and most teams settle themselves down for one of the hardest weeks they’ll ever spend on a bike.

                                                              

Such was the case on Day 1 of the 2009 TransRockies, when riders from over 20 countries headed out on a ceremonial lap of Panorama Mountain Village before turning and heading straight up for a climb of 1300 metres to the high point of the week at roughly 2500 metres. The ascent averaged roughly 13 per cent for the 10km with sustained pitches as steep as 20 per cent.

At the start, TransRockies staff wondered if racers competing in the inaugural TR3 would change the dynamic of the event. With only three days to race, these riders could set a tempo which might not be sustainable for a whole week. The TR3 solo racers did exactly that, as Cory Wallace of Jasper set an early pace heading out of Panorama which no-one else could follow. Closest behind him were the second and third placed TR3 riders Colin Kerr (Rocky Mountain Factory Team) and Roddi Lega who were chasing with the leading TransRockies teams, Rocky Mountain Factory Team Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarski and Team Amarante Bike Zone Onbike (Joao Marinho and Jose Silva)

After the epic climb, the riders traversed a high and exposed ridgeline with many short sharp climbs and steep descents. On the last of these, just before the major descent of the day, disaster struck. Wallace flatted on the sharp shale and couldn’t repair the flat. First, Colin Kerr passed him, heading into the mega-steep avalanche chute and then Roddi Lega passed him as well—but then had a major endo and ended up taking a minute to dust himself off before starting again.

Misery loves company, though, as Widmer and Lazarski also suffered a flat at the same spot. With the flat fixed with help from passing riders, Wallace began the chase back to the front. Over the next 25km, he passed everyone except Kerr and as he neared the finish line, he got the Rocky Mountain rider in his sights. The two riders came to the line together with Kerr taking the sprint finish in 2:45:58 to win the first stage and the first leader’s jersey. Lega rolled through the finish line in third place before the Rocky Mountain Factory Team riders arrived at K2 Ranch to win the first stage in the Open Men’s category in 2:51:32 with the Team Amarante of Portugal less than a minute behind.

While the Open Men’s category offered the tightest racing of the day, there was suffering and hard racing throughout every category. In the Open Women’s category Team VeloBella/Vanderkitten (Erika Krumpelman and Shannon Holden) took first and in Open Mixed, Team Terrascape/Trek Toronto (Mical Dyck/Jeff Neilsen) grabbed the early leaders’ jerseys.

After 2300 tough metres of climbing today riders face an even tougher physical testtomorrow on the run in from K2 Ranch to Nipika Mountain Resort. An extra 30 kn of riding and 500 metres of climbing add up to a leg crushing 72.2km/ 2835m in total. 

Stage 2 Monday 10th August K2 Ranch to Nipika Resort     72.2km    2,835m climbing

 

DIARY-Last night we were camped in the spectacular location of the K2 Ranch.  After a fine roast beef dinner we were treated to the nightly awards ceremony and video highlights of the days riding. The highlight tonight being Steve's dance on the finish line.               

Today's ride was a beast, probably one of the hardest days riding we have done as a team [we nearly took the Susan Boyle option on a couple of occasions]  And when I say riding I mean riding and pushing and carrying and dragging the bike up near vertical rocky slopes and down rocky creeks.

The 2nd climb of the day was a steep 1.5hr climb with the bikes on our back. The descent from 3rd climb was a 2hr scramble down a ravine with some extreme singletrack.  2 of the UK guys ended up with broken noses after coming off and kissing trees.  We finished in a time of 8hrs 45mins which we are both delighted with considering the conditions and it moved us up a place in our category to 7th.  When we finished there were still over 50 teams out on the course.  Out of our total time we were probably riding for only 5hrs. The scenery we passed through was spectacular.

Tonight we are deep in the back country at Nipika where we stop for 2 nights. As we head into the wilderness we won't have any mobile connections until Thursday. 

STAGE 2 DETAILS-When riders woke up this morning at K2 Ranch, the mood was a little more serious and a lot less giddy than the day before in Panorama. The pre-race briefing the night before had laid out the scope of the challenge ahead of them: over 2800 metres of climbing including several hike-a-bike sections and some steep, technical descending on trails which had been slickened by summer showers over the previous week. Most riders were planning on spending over 7 hours in the saddle with many aware that they would be pushed hard to beat the time cut off of 10 hours for the day.                                                           

                                                               

Those numbers held true as less than 10 per cent of riders finished under 6 hours with the majority of the field crossing the line in 8 hours or more.

The course served up both Heaven and Hell to riders in large doses. Hell came in the form of the raw, remote and steep second pass which had been cut specifically for the event to allow riders to cross from the Columbia River Valley in to the heart of the Kootenay Rockies while the Heaven came in the form of two epic and long singletrack descents mixing dry and choppy Rocky Mountain-style challenge with steep and slick switchbacks and rooty drops which wouldn’t be out of place on Vancouver Island.

The start of the Stage was more relaxed than the previous day as riders were able to warm up with a gently rolling 15km ride along the West Side road from K2 Ranch to Fairmont Springs where the first of the day’s three major climbs would begin. Once again Cory Wallace opened up the action with an attack on the first climb and Roddi Lega went with him as the other solo riders and teams chose not to respond immediately.

While Wallace and Lega got a gap, the first-place Open Men’s team from Rocky Mountain Bikes showed their multi-time TransRockies experience, biding their time working with the Portugese newcomers, Team Amarante BikeZone-Onbike to hold the difference down. The early effort took its toll on both Lega who suffered cramps which only a large serving of Aid Station jujubes could fix, while Wallace was eventually overhauled on the third climb by the Rocky Mountain Factory Team pair of Marty Lazarski and Stefan Widmer who had dropped the Portugese duo earlier.

Wallace hung on to first place in the TR3 Open Men’s race and took the leader’s jersey off the shoulders of Colin Kerr who snuck into second place while Lega was working out the cramps. Team Amarante held onto second place in the Open Men’s category of the TransRockies 7-day race but the 22 minutes that the Rocky Mountain riders put into them on the final climb and endless last singletrack gives the boys from BC a decent gap to protect as the race moves toward the Stage 3 time trial.

Elsewhere in the field, the huge day shook up standing in a number of categories. In Open Women, Team Nipika (Magi and Kate Scallion) not only crossed their home finish line first but they put enough time into the first stage winners Team Velo Bella to grab the Overall Leaders’ jerseys. Cory Wallace grabbed the Leader’s jersey in the Open Men’s division of the TR3 and has a comfortable gap of more than 10 minutes over Colin Kerr heading into the Stage 3 Time Trial which will conclude the inaugural TR3. In the Master 40+ Men’s Division of the TR3 Craig Bartlett of Canmore turned the tables on Stage 1 winner Cal Zaryski of Calgary and will wear the Leader’s Jersey into the last stage.

There may be stages at the 2009 TransRockies which cover more distance than Stage 2 but riders will not spend more time in the saddle or climb more vertical than they did on Monday. Despite the suffering, riders buzzed after the stage and through dinner about the superb singletrack and remote wilderness riding. A shorter day on Tuesday and free time to soak in the surroundings at Nipika Mountain Resort will help riders recuperate from the efforts of the first two stages 

Stage 3 Tuesday August 11th  Nipika Resort  to Nipika Resort    44.1km     1,129m climbing

 DIARY-

                    

STAGE 3 DETAILS-After two days of perfect racing weather, riders who woke during the night after the epic second stage heard the gentle patter of rain on their tents and campers. The start line at Nipika Mountain Resort is at roughly 1100 metres elevation, so rain and cloud also means cold temperatures so long sleeves and jackets were the order of the day for racers in the 9am start wave.

The weather continued to deteriorate throughout the morning prompting organizers to shorten the distance by roughly 5km—dropping the steepest and most technical sections of the course. Still, riders were faced with over 40km of wet and slippery single and doubletrack through the Nipika trail system including vertigo-inducing rides along the edge of the Kootenay River Gorge.

                                                               

The racers took on the stage in three waves from slowest to fastest with the final group leaving starting at 1pm. The tension was highest for the competitors in the TR3 solo event, whose event would be complete at the end of this stage. Nipika would be their last chance to move up in the standings.

The change in conditions offered up the possibility of big changes in the standings as the relatively smaller elevation gains and constant level of technical challenge suited different skills sets than the previous two stages, likewise the mud also raised the possibility of mechanical difficulties.

With relatively small time gaps between first and third places, the TR3 Open Men’s Race was going to be dramatic and it took a turn in the first half hour when second-placed Colin Kerr inadvertently shortcut the course passing first-placed rider Cory Wallace along with the first-placed overall team Rocky Mountain. He maintained the gap to the finish but was penalized 10 minutes at the finish dropping him to third. Behind, Wallace and third-placed Roddi Lega (Team Pedal Head) were having a classic battle with Lega using his superhero singletrack skills to close in the technical sections only to have Wallace pull back out on the climbs. In the end, the final climb was enough to give Wallace a 20 second win and the overall GC as well.

In the Open Women category of the TR3, Katharina Beeler of Arizona confirmed her overall win with a third straight stage win. Craig Bartlett of Canmore won his battle extraordinaire with Calvin Zaryski with his second straight stage win in the Master Men (40+) category.

In the TransRockies team event, Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarski continued their clean sweep of the action in the Open Men’s division with a 9-minute win over the hard-battling Portugese team of Joao Marinho and Jose Silva. Ray Adams and Ryan Leech of Team visitPA.com have been battling since the start and finished on the podium again to solidify their third-place overall standing. There were some first time stage winners in other categories as the technical mud masters got their chance to shine on a day when the sun didn’t.

With 107km of climbs and wide-open riding on the way to the wilderness camping at Whiteswan Lake tomorrow, the tables will likely turn again. In a classic ironic turn that mountain biking seems always to offer, the sun finally broke through as the awards presentations began meaning that the riders could enjoy the pictures and video from the day’s action knowing that tomorrow would very likely be a much better day for mountain biking in the Rockies 

Stage 4 Wednesday August 12th  Nipika Resort to Whiteswan Lake 107km  1,980m climbing.

 DIARY-Good days, BAD days.......

Today was a bad day. The cloudless skys of last night had changed to dark clouds again and the heavens were ready to open for the 2nd day running.We picked our bikes from the mechanics and packed our bags before heading to the start.Today was the longest day at 107km and once again far from civilisation. The route was to follow the the Royal group of mountains before attacking the 2 major climbs of the day, Lodgepole pass and Albert drainage.

As the race started we backtracked part of yesterdays route. 5km into the route Andy was having problems with his gears, slipping and changing. Eventually we stopped to check out what we thought would be a simple adjustment. To our shock we could see that the frame had snapped completly just below the front deraillier. Our initial thought was our race was over.  If we carried on how long would it be before the frame collapsed-there was still 102km and 2 major climbs before the end of the stage!  Anyway we decided to continue and patched the frame as best we could with duct tape and cable ties.  The break was also affecting the ability to change gear, limiting use to the middle ring.

        

Anyway, taking things easy, pushing up the steeper gradients and with a good bit of luck we reached the first checkpoint well down on most of the other teams.  After further temporary repairs we set off again for the 2nd checkpoint at 55km, then the 3rd checkpoint and eventually the finish. In the afternoon we managed to pass about 12 teams before finishing in a time of 8hrs 45min, an amazing achievement.  Conditions again were more like back home with heavy rain all day turning the tracks into mud baths.

                                                                                                                   Andy's broken bike at the finish

Andy's bike is not repairable but he's been kucky enough to aquire a proto-type 29"  bike from sponsors Rocky Mountain Bikes. If we can't get a bike for the last 2 days Andy's race could be over .Once again we made the video highlights of the day, being interviewed with the broken frame.Watch this space.

                                                                    

STAGE 4 DETAILS-With the competitors from the TR3 leaving camp for home this morning, it was down to business for the TransRockies teams who had a huge 107km day ahead of them on the middle day of this year’s seven-day epic. This stage, which started under low cloud at Nipika Mountain Resort, was going to be a long haul through some high and remote Rocky Mountain backcountry to the wilderness campground at Whiteswan Lake.

The new stage 5 routing omitted a major climb and instead took the field through roughly 30km of reclaimed singletrack to the base of the day’s major climb, Lodgepole Pass. By the time the riders reached the base of the climb, the morning cloud had turned into pounding rain and the visibility dropped down to mere metres as riders slogged through the ruts at the top of the climb. While they might not have enjoyed the pass, they probably came out of it in better shape than the TransRockies race partner whose brand new pickup truck lost both bumpers in the deep mud.

A change of tempo from the singletrack to more open riding meant that new teams surged to the front of the pack. First-placed Masters Men (80+) the Czechmasters Milan Spolic and Martin Horak made an early bid for glory with an attack after the first feed zone that dropped the second-placed overall Team Amarante but not the overall leaders, Rocky Mountain Factory Team who responded in kind and left the Czechmasters behind on the way to their fourth straight stage victory.

                                                         

The Czechmasters finished a superb second overall on the day and first in their class to extend their already impressive lead over second-placed 80+ Men Thane Wright and Dax Massey who race for Breck Epic and who always seem to find the beer at the end of every stage. They are going to be a force at the closing party on Saturday night.

An equally impressive showing was put in by the Open Mixed leaders Team Terrascape/Trek Toronto (Mical Dyck and Jeff Neilson), who surged to a fourth-place overall finish and a 20-plus minute gap over the super-strong Belgian Duo of Team Detrog-Granville (Xavier Vermeeren & Mieke Deroo) and a nearly insurmountable gap in the overall classification.

The big movers on the day were Ryan Correy and Brian Bain of Team Bow Cycles, who surged onto the podium for the first time taking back nearly half an hour on the third-placed Team visitPA.com. The boys from PA still hold their overall third place standing, but with two long stages in the next two days, Bow Cycles will have a chance to over come the remaining gap before the finish in Fernie.

By the time most riders crossed the finish line, the sun had come out again over the finish line at Whiteswan Lake giving them a chance to warm up and dry their shoes and gear on the numerous improvised clothes drying lines that staff strung up between the trees dotting the wilderness meadow. With feta and spinach stuffed chicken breast on the dinner menu and hot showers flowing from the 40-foot trailer which accompanies the event, recovery from the two rainy days could begin in preparation for the next days 87.5 km ride over two major passes into Elkford and civilization once more 

Stage 5 Thursday August 13th Whiteswan Lake to Elkford  87.5km  2,254m climbing

 DIARY- After yesterdays bad luck with Andy's bike and the wet weather we were hoping for a better day in the saddle for the 87km ride across 2mountain passes to Elkford. Andy had been given a proto type 29" wheel bike to ride for today from sponsor Rocky Mountain Bikes in return for an camera interview after today's ride. We set off at 8.00am confident that we could cement our 7th place. Unfortunately less than 2km from the start Andy's chain caught in the rear deraillier and snapped!! 20 minutes later and now at the back of the field we were again fighting against the cut off times. It was then we decided our racing was over and we were now just hoping to finish without further mishap.

Again the weather was not kind and heavy rain started a couple of hours into the race again turning the course into mud. As we climbed to over 6,000ft the cold also took hold and we wished the check points served coffee instead of energy drinks! After a long, cold, wet day we neared Elkford only for Steve to have a problem with his front tubeless valve. Anyway we eventually rolled into Elkford with a time of 9hrs 20mins.

Can Andy blag a bike for tomorrow - see note below!                                               

Friday AM update-We thought we we being clever last night. Now that we are back in civilisation [Elkford?] we had the dinner/awards ceremony in the local sports centre. Instead of sleeping in the tents outside we bedded down in a quiet corner of the hall, warm and smug as we could hear the rain lashing on the roof. Not so smug now at 3.0am as the lights and music are on as the caterers cook and set up breakfast! We have now commandeered the media room and locked the door.  Better news is Andy has managed to hire a bike from a local bike shop. Not quiet the right size or spec but hopefully it will get him through the last 2 days.                                 

STAGE 5 DETAILS-After four straight years with almost unbroken sunshine, it was inevitable that the Rocky Mountains would demand a little payback from the TransRockies. The riders of the 2009 have been hit with three straight days of unseasonably cold and wet weather that has added an extra level of epic effort to each long day in the mountains.

                                                            

On Stage 5, the TransRockies field rolled out of Whiteswan Lake deep in the wilderness with the mountain town of Elkford in their sights. As they have since the first year of the TransRockies, one of the friendliest and most enthusiastic groups of locals anywhere would welcome them with hot showers, dry clothes and ample snacks to recharge. With the basics of life like high-speed internet and cell phone reception, riders were anxious to get back in touch with family and share stories of the 2009 race so far.

With tough conditions on the menu and two major passes to cross, the leading groups of riders stayed together early on in the 87.5km stage sharing the work before splits began to appear as tired legs needed to take a rest. As they have since the start, Marty Lazarski and Stefan Widmer from Rocky Mountain bikes were again the strongest as they rode away from the group and rolling into Elkford solo. Testament to the tough conditions was that fact that their finishing time of 4:36:07 was just 8 minutes faster than the day before despite a route 20km shorter.
In the Open Women?s division, the VeloBella/Vanderkitten duo of Erika Krumpelman and Shannon Holden took advantage of the burly conditions to grab their second stage win of 2009 with a 13 minute gap over Magi and Kate Scallion of Team Nipika who retain their overall first place position with two days to go. 

A number of overseas teams are battling for podium spots despite the tough and complete foreign conditions. Team Cox (Hans-Tore Steen and his partner Gisele Langslet) from Norway have a 23-minute lead in the 100+ Category, while the Czech Republic Czechmasters, who again finshed second overall on the stage, have nearly an hour on their closest competitors, Team Breck Epic. The Flemish Belgian contingent from Team Detrog Granville occupies 2nd and a close 4th in Open Mixed and were also in 2nd in 80+ Mixed until hypothermia problems dropped them to 4th after Stage 5.

Every team, whether local or from across the World had to battle through some tough riding throughout Stage 5. The last descent became as much of a survival course as the climbs as the steep and sketchy Rock Garden descent from top of Crossing Creek pass was slick and scary-a huge opportunity to open up time gaps for the technically adept teams and an exercise in care for those not comfortable with 3 km of vertical rock field.
Despite the conditions, only a few teams failed to make the finish cut off time of 10 hours, which was extended by a few minutes in light of the conditions. With hot showers, dry clothes and a town-run barbeque at the finish, riders were restored to wellness quickly and were left to tell war stories as the mechanics braced themselves for another night of bike repair which would require headlamps and ample caffeine to make sure that hundreds of cables, chains, brakes and shocks would be buffed and ready for another 101km and 2600m of climbing across the Continental Divide and into the Crowsnest Pass region of Alberta.

Stage 6   Friday August 14th   Elkford to Crowsnest Pass    101km    2,467m

 DIARY-Todays stage was to take us from the town of Elkford across the continental divide to Crowsnest Pass. Another morning of putting on wet cycling shoes however apart from a little early morning mist the sky was clearing and we hoped for a dry day.

                                           

Within 30mins of the start the rain started again this time in biblical proportions, so much so we hear later that organisers seriously considered cancelling todays stage. Armed today with waterproof leggings, fleeces and plastic bags wrapped around feet we trudged on through roads and tracks that had now turned into rivers. On reaching the 1st checkpoint at 25k the rain eased but we could see that it had been falling as snow on the mountains.

Andy was on his 3rd bike in as many days,this time a heavy bog standard specialized but it was doing the job. The 1st big climb of the day took us to 6,000ft and the rain started again this time with thunder & lightning. The temp dropped considerably, so much so that Steve said it would be good to get struck by the lightning to warm his feet up!! Despite the bad condition we still manage to laugh and today's topic is to compose a song for Steve to perform on stage on the last night. We sing it to teams as we pass to mixed reactions! After a long 10hrs we reached the finish to a great surprise. Eleanor & Amy had arrived a day early and were at the finish to welcome us. Tonight the rain is continuing so much so we fear our tents will flood but hey, tomorrow we party in Fernie. Bring it on!            

STAGE 6 DETAILS-There are days in endurance racing when many riders would turn back if it wasn't for the responsibility to their teammate and the support from other riders in the midst of the same test. Stage 6 of the 2009 TransRockies was one such day.

                                                             

An already long day turned crushingly hard with another day of rain and trails that had turned soft and rutted over the previous 48 hours. Despite the test, teams continued to press forward to the finish, most with smiles and good cheer in the face of the struggle. Instead of the estimated finish time of 4 ½ hours, the winning Czechmasters duo of Martin Horak and Milan Spolc rolled into Crowsnest Pass, Alberta with a finishing time of 5:38:48. They were followed closely by Team Amarante BikeZone-Onbike (Joao Marinho and Jose Silva), who finally got the better of Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarski from the Rocky Mountain Factory Team in the Open Men’s category. The first three teams who had agreed to ride most of the day together as a measure of safety in the cold conditions and the Czech duo were able to maintain enough energy to burst free for the win near the end. Behind, teams drifted in one at a time looking spent but glad to know that just one day remained in perhaps the hardest mountain bike stage race ever held.

It was a huge effort for all at the front of the field and Team Amarante in particular dug impossibly deep to snag their first category win. Joao Marinho was holding onto his partner Jose Silva down the last metres of the finish chute as Silva was too spent to even lift his head up. This was the rare day when many slower teams looked better at the finish than the winners—they were probably better prepared for the cold conditions at the top of the climbs with extra clothes and jackets than the winners went out with the bare minimum of cover. The day had started in Elkford with hope of improving weather. There was low-lying fog but the patches of blue indicated that there might be a break in the rain that had soaked riders during the previous stages. The residents of Elkford had demonstrated the kind of hospitality and warmth that has made it a favourite stop at the TransRockies, spontaneously billeting riders in spare rooms and taking loads of dirty laundry home to be returned in the morning to riders emerging from another great breakfast—this morning breakfast burritos and pancakes were on the menu.

Hopes of a brighter day soon ended in chilling rain and thunder that hit the field before checkpoint 1 at the base of the climb up and over Deadman’s Pass and the Continental Divide. With 70km of riding still left, conservation of energy was the order of the day for most riders rather than straight competition. As riders rode down Main Street in Crowsnest Pass, the locals looked at the riders as though they were aliens, soaking wet and coated head to toe in mud. Despite the day’s drama, there was little GC movement in the field as the Rocky Mountain Factory Team held their overall lead. The Scallion sisters, racing for stage host Nipika Mountain Resort, won their fourth stage and holding onto the overall lead in the Open Women’s category. National team rider Mical Dyck and her partner Craig Neilson continued their clean sweep of the Open Mixed division with a top-5 overall ride and another dominant performance.

                                                       

Tomorrow is the home stretch to the finish line in Fernie and the party which the town has lined up for the riders. Fernie has been a part of the TransRockies since it began in 2002, and the town understands well the sacrifices that are made to get to finish the hardest mountain bike stage race in the World. The wild and unseasonable weather has made 2009 perhaps been the most challenging edition of the TransRockies in half a decade so the celebrations will be that much more intense for the teams who reach Fernie and earn the toughest t-shirt in mountain biking. 

Stage 7 Saturday August 15th  Crowsnest Pass to Fernie  74.8km   1,293m

 

 

DIARY-The final stage of Transrockies 2009 and due to the conditions the toughest Transrockies in their history. We awoke this morning to the usual heavy clouds and rain. 3 pairs of sock, 2 jerseys, fleece, coat, waterproof gloves and trousers were again order of the day as we set off from Crowsness Pass cheered on by Eleanor.

Today we decided we were going to fully race, not only to get to the finish ASAP but just to see how well we could do. Andy raced ahead to the first checkpoint and Steve having fallen off (cut knee) was not far behind. We were riding with people we had'nt ridden with all week so we knew we were going well.The weather even picked up and the sun started to dry the trails out as we kept up the fast pace to the 2nd checkpoint. Only 18km to go as we stripped off our outer layers (must look good at the finish!!). We came to the top of the final climb above Fernie and we could hear the music from the finish. Only 5km of downhill singletrack left and we sped down and onto main street. The finish area was packed with cheering crowds as we crossed the finish line to receive our finishers medal and t-shirt.We crossed the line in a time of 5hrs 42mins-we were flying!! That time put us 5th in our category, less than an hour behind the winners and only 30mins from being on the podium!! An amazing ride.

Overall we finished 7th in our 100+ category and in the General Classification 79th out of 124 teams.            

We both agree that this week has been our toughest challenge and to finish we had to survive and grind out a result each day. Many times it wasnt enjoyable and we wondered why we were putting ourselves through it. Saying that ,we had some great times, met some fantastic people and had some fun and laughed every day.

 STAGE 7 DETAILS-After four consecutive days of unseasonable cold and rain, riders left Blairmore, Alberta for the final stage of 2009 with the finish line in Fernie squarely in their sights. The euphoria of completion added an extra level of excitement to the morning, as did an extra hour’s sleep with a later start made possible by slightly shorter and flatter route than the previous three days which had seen most riders on course for at least 7 hours a day in tough conditions. At 75 km long with 1300 metres of climbing, Stage 7 looked like a mere blip compared to the 300km and 6700 metres of climbing they’d overcome in the previous three stages. It would still mean nearly four hours on course for the winners and much longer for most of the field thanks to course conditions which remained slick after the wettest edition yet in eight years of TransRockies riding. The leading group of riders stayed together through the first two feed stations before the leading Rocky Mountain Factory Team duo of Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarski dropped the hammer, determined to celebrate their GC win with a solo ride down Victoria St. in Fernie. They had been the fastest team on the singletrack all week and again, they were able to open a sizeable lead on the technical sections and rolled into the finish alone for another impressive stage win.

                                                              

Next across the line was PeteTurnbull of the UK, who has been riding solo since his partner was forced to pull out on day 1 with a serious virus. Though only teams are eligible for prizing, Pete has been in the action all week pushing the leaders and being one of the top finishers every day. Even though the GC gaps were often very big, riders did not treat this as a ceremonial ride to the finish. Pushing for a podium finish on the last day, the Bow Cycles/Specialized duo of Ryan Correy and Brian Bain overcame a broken chain in singletrack. Correy used his elite running skills to get to the bottom then Bain took over towing his chainless teammate to the line to hold onto third place on the day as Team visitPA.com breathed down their necks.

In the Mixed 80+ category, Pat Doyle and Trish Grajczyk of Team Deadgoat took the suspense out of things early with a dominant ride and a sweep of all seven stages. Doyle was one of two competitors who was completing their fifth TransRockies and was honoured with a commemorative belt buckle that will go nicely with the pile of leaders’ jerseys he’s got. The other 5 TransRockies finisher was Dean Irvine of North Vancouver who finished third in the Open Mixed division. Team Cox of Norway held on to their gap to win the 100+ division while the Czechmasters in 80+ and Team Terrascape/Trek Toronto Open Mixed, both of whom had diced with the leading teams all week, won their respective categories. Finally, event host Nipika Mountain Resort also put their name on top of the standings as their Open Women’s team of Magi and Kate Scallion held off a hard challenge from the Velobella/Vanderkitten team to win the gold.

In every category and from front to back, riders made heroic and repeated efforts to get to the end of each stage. The TransRockies is considered to be the most difficult and epic mountain bike stage race and this was the most difficult edition of the TransRockies yet. The machined aluminum finisher medals will be only the smallest part of the reward that the competitors take home after overcoming the worst that the Rockies could throw at them over seven days, 532km and 14300 metres of climbing.