With North America’s third-highest ski resort vertical rise, Panorama Mountain Village is poised to its annual part in the epic send-off. Maybe that should read “send up” as riders climb straight up and over a vertical mountain wall into some spectacular scenic alpine singletrack at the literal high point of the week at nearly 2,500 metres.
Sheldon’s stage wrap-up
By the time the TR came around in August, I knew I had several months of training behind me, but I didn’t know at all if it would be enough – stage one gave me some rather dreary instant insight into that… By the end of things I wasn’t sure I was going to make it…
The start gun went off at Panorama Mountain Village at 11am on August 10th. Hundreds of riders spun through the small picturesque town at a high pace and then headed immediately up the fire roads toward the peak of Panorama ski hill. For Ken and I the top of Panorama was around 2 hours of solid climbing. This I found completely manageable – tiring , yes, but more than doable. What really took me by surprise though was how hard I found the singletrack sections at the top. The climb had taken a lot out of me for sure, but suddenly I was really struggling. The rooted and rocky off-camber trails were takin’ it to me. Looking back it was likely the altitude. I kept an eye on my heart rate as it sat steadily in the 160s as I huffed and puffed my way along trying to keep up with Ken. I started to take more breaks in hopes of recovering. This helped a little.
The backside of Panorama was a sketchy, run your bike section that had you stumbling down in ankle deep sandy terrain and then crossing a stream several times. By the time I got to checkpoint #2, I was feeling spent and felt a sincere headache coming on. I took some aspirin, food and a little water. We still had around 20km to go. The rest of the ride is mostly a blur. I spent it in a mantra-like state, staring at my front wheel as I concentrated on turning my dead legs over, and over and over. After 4 hours and 46 mins we rolled into K2, I was on fumes of fumes and feeling utterly horrid – nauseous with a pounding headache. I was stunned at how much that ride took out of me. It was only 40+km, granted with 2,267m in climbing, but how was I going to ride the 70 some km into Nipika the next day? As I collapsed into my empty tent, part of me wondered if my Transrockies was already over.
My wife, Kirsten, sat in the tent with me and was visibly concerned. I tried to hide how horrendously miserable I was feeling but she could see right through it. I guess everyone else could too, because Ken came by and told me to go to the medical trailer. It was clear to the medi-staff that I had severe dehydration and they hooked my up to an IV drip right away. Amazing stuff that saline and Maxran solution. Though it took around half an hour to drip into my system, once in me, I felt right back to normal again. What a massive relief!
I was able to get showered, eat a big dinner and enjoy the rest of the night and the beautiful K2 Ranch, feeling like I could at least get on the bike in the morning and start the ride. I was nervous about my hydration though because I’d felt like I’d been drinking enough water all day. I wondered why my body hadn’t been absorbing it. I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something…
Ken’s stage wrap-up
Ah, the start line…
The start of any race is always exciting, whether the race is meant to last 9.58 seconds (like Usain Bolts recent world record run), or 7 days like Team Bikeridr’s run at the Transrockies. Legs are fresh and vibrating from a few days off prior to the race, adrenaline is flowing, the music is pumping and everybody is excited. It’s tough not to get caught up in things. You feel so good, so strong, you think you can just pound out of the start gates. Given the course profile and the six days following, that would prove to be a dangerous strategy for some…
Now, though I’m far from a veteran racer I’ve been around the block long enough to know what a massive ascent right off the start line does to a field of racers. Long story short, you learn your pecking order pretty darned quick. The pros head out and are never seen again, the weekend warriors head out and tend to blow up quickly, the racers who head out modestly (like Sheldon and I) usually end up passing a number of people, saving their legs a bit, and sort themselves comfortably into the field.
Thus was the start of our day. We managed to keep our egos in check and remind ourselves that we still had 6 more grueling days after this one. As anticipated there were racers we never saw again, but as Sheldon and I comfortably spun up the hill (well, as comfortable as you can be while climbing a ski hill with grades varying between 13-20%) we routinely passed many riders walking, or huffing and puffing with strained looks on their faces. Climbing is never easy, but in mountain biking you’ve got to learn to love it.
The weather on day 1 was great and as we crested the hill/mountain the heat of the sun was tempered with a nice cool breeze, and we were treated to a quick ridgeline run before beginning our descent down a completely sketchy shale slope. If anybody has any experience with shale, you know that there’s no easy way to get down it, especially with a bike! Ultimately I found a quick descent to be the easiest having the bike beside me and using my front brake to slow me (and the bike) as needed. Though neither Sheldon or I encountered any problems on our way down, apparently most of the top racers in the field flatted multiple times on the sharp rocks here, sometimes needing to rely on the racers behind them for additional tubes and assistance.
As the stage progressed things didn’t get any easier, and Sheldon started to fade noticeably and really struggled during the last hour. I knew the hours Smart had put into the bike leading up to the Transrockies, so I found the whole situation really unusual. I did my best to help him along for the last bit and thankfully after some end-of-stage masochistic climbs the rest of the run into K2 was a rolling descent. Sheldon thought that he could sleep things off, and though I didn’t disagree, with this being the first stage I wasn’t going to take any chances. After a quick consult with the medics I was told to get Smart’s ass there as soon as possible. After about 45 minutes in the med tent I learned that Smart had become “severely dehydrated.” Admittedly I wasn’t monitoring my teammates intake of fluid, which I normally try to do, since I know that with the excitement of race day, forcing yourself to take in some fluid every 10 minutes or so is something that can fall off the radar. It was something that I told myself was not going to happen the rest of the trip.