This August marked another chapter in the Bikeridr saga… A chapter where paths diverge, where each man is forced to make his own way, to etch his own destiny. You read correctly… This August brought the TR3 to the Bikeridr boys.
We knew it was going to be an entirely new grab bag of pain, suffering and epic awesomeness (yes, I just said that) compared to last years Transrockies. But before we get started – A quick shout out to all our readers who came up and said hi!
STG 01 – Sheldon
Starting in Fenie this year, seemed like a great idea.
Great little mountain town, with world-class riding, what could be better? For me though, because the event + teams were all spread out over the town with people staying in different hotels, the camp being way down at the school, the registration over at the Community Hall and the start/finish line downtown, I felt that day one was missing something. For lack of a better word, it was missing a sense of ‘critical mass’, and seemed a little ‘disconnected’. Of course, I’m comparing this with last year at Panorama Village, where everything appeared so well contained and was within easy walking distance.
For me, the Time Trail scenario only compounded my feeling that the event lacked cohesion, with solo TR3 riders and TR7 teams going out at all times of the day, spanning from early morning, until early afternoon. My start time was 1:43pm, which wasn’t too bad because both Sam (Mothana), and Ken (Hurd) went out just minutes before me. It had been raining all night and morning, so standing on the start line watching other riders come in, covered head to toe in mud brought back some vivid memories from 2009. But, lucky for me by the time I rolled out for my lap, the rain had pretty much slowed to a drizzle, and I even saw some sun :-D
The TT course itself in my opinion, was nothing short of AWESOME! The course designers did a great job putting it together. Huge climbs, including the Hyperventilation Trail, followed by incredible Fernie single-track downhill – and the mud just made it all that much more fun. During the final KMs, I had too many close calls to count, as I slipped and slid my way down the muddy mountain. Unfortunately though, just like many other racers that day, I had some mechanical issues right from the start, with dreaded ‘chain suck’ and some shifting problems. Looking back, it was pretty funny actually because I had passed Sam not 15 minutes into my lap, as he stood, stopped on the side of the tail, trying to get his already muddied drive-train to comply. Then it wasn’t until Check Point #2 and hours later that I saw him again when he surprised me and caught up! At that point, I’d been stopping off-and-on, fighting with my chain as well, but just quickly cleaning it off by spraying it down with my water bottle. To add to the excitement, Mike (Sarnecki) and Mike (Blennerhassett) showed up at the same time, so I hammered it from CP #2, trying to stay in front of all three of them. I knew Mike and Mike were bound to catch me, but I still had to give it a go! And, well, sure enough they did, leaving me with Sam still to worry about.
All I can say is, what goes around comes around, so just like I’d passed Sam at the beginning of the stage, there I was stopped on the side of the trail with only a few KMs left to go as Sam flew by me! Hahah… Karma, baby! Karma! I watched him disappear down the trail as I emptied the last of my water bottle in a desperate spray to get my rear derailleur to finally release. I then decided to just stick my bike into a high gear and ride it in pretty much as a single speed to avoid any more mishaps. I hammered as hard as I could, trying to catch him, but just watched as Sam crossed the finish line in front of me as I sprinted, legs and lungs burning, down main street… Good times!
Stage Time: 3:17:35 | Place: 55/90 (Open Men Category)
STG 01 – Ken
We arrived in Fernie the day before the race to beautiful weather. The sun shone and we smiled.
Waking up the next morning to have Sheldon inform me that it had been raining all night and was continuing to do so I just about made me shit the bed. Truth be told, I just was not mentally prepared for inclement weather this Transrockies. A ridiculous expectation I know… It is the Rockies after all, but it was an expectation I had nonetheless. I figured we’d gathered so much good-weather-karma last year, it was guaranteed to be 100% sunshine this time round!
Needless to say, I spend the rest of the morning re-calibrating my mindset to become one with the mud.
Our appetizer for todays meal? Climbing. Up and up and up we went. I was a little disappointed that the trails were so wet, since the climb would have been a really great challenge if it was dry – technical and steep, with roots crisscrossing the width of it. With all the wet, however, it was nearly impossible. That said, with a particularly rowdy contingent of hearty fans cheering me to the top of a particularly extended steep section, I managed to clean it. I was told I was only the 3rd person of the day to pull it off. Smart managed to do the same behind me – Not bad for a couple of city boys!
The descent off the back was a loose bomb-fest… I just stayed relaxed on the bike and let the trail take me where it may… I let my speed creep up a little more than I should have perhaps and took a few small tumbles, but all in all a grand time!
Prior to the descent into Fernie, the singletrack was a little loose and boggy and I have to admit I struggled to keep the pace up, but did my best not to loose too much ground. Mechanically the bike held up well and I ended up passing a number of teams/individuals that were camped on the side of the trail dealing with problems. Considering the soupy conditions I’ll count myself lucky!
Stage Time: 2:48:22 | Place: 36/90 (Open Men Category)
STG 02 – Sheldon
Leaving Fernie in the AM after a classic Transrockies big breakfast was a great way to start the day. We knew we had a lot of climbing ahead of us (1,900 metres). I felt pretty good after Stage 1, so I pushed a fair pace up the mountain to CP #1. This was all fire road, so all very straight forward. After CP#1 though, we started the single track climb, and the ground was still pretty darn soft and soupy. I had a hard time turning the pedals over through this section. To add insult to injury, my drive train decided to start giving me grief again as well. I had to hike-a-bike for a little while in here, but thankfully the top wasn’t all that far and the amazing Porky Blue descent was there waiting for me. I think that was the best, and most fun descent I’ve EVER ridden! It was fast, tacky, steep and if you could manage to force yourself to pry your eyes away from the trail ahead as you screamed down, the views were stupendous! This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike:-D
Down at the bottom though, I was quickly reminded that in the Transrockies, there is usually always more climbing. In this case the 30KMs of rolling fire road into Sparwood that nearly left me a broken man on the side of the trail. I’m still not sure if I wasn’t eating, or drinking enough earlier in the day, OR maybe it was the 1,700 meters of climbing we’d already done that day, but this section was a struggle and a slog… Many of the teams I’d passed on the downhill caught me and slowly rolled away into the distance as I grimaced and strained to keep pace. This was even despite a very generous (Open Men) team that caught up and said, ‘Jump on! Let’s Go!’ offering a pull. I managed to hang on to them for 10-12 KMs or so, but eventually had to let them go. When I rolled across the line in Sparwood, let’s just say I was happy and relieved.
Ken, just having had his slashed open knee stitched up was still there to greet me with a grin, even though he’d come in well over an hour before me. That, was a shocker!!!! He’d beaten me be quite a bit on Stage 1, but I’d honestly thought little of it. Maybe he’d just had a good day? Maybe my mechanical issues had slowed me down more than I’d thought? Stage 2 told me otherwise… Ken was riding like the 6 Million Dollar Man and there was going to be no friendly rivalry in the standings. I will admit, this was a tough pill for me to swallow in some ways. After all, my goal is always to beat Ken. I mean, what more noble cause could there be, haha! So to see the gap he’d stretched out, and to know it wasn’t just a matter of me digging a little deeper to make up the time was discouraging. At the same time, I was also both amazed and proud of my buddy! I think he was just as stunned with his performance as I was actually, but there was certainly no question, he was racing at a new level, and it was awesome to see. I on the other hand I’d just had a mediocre day out there.
Stage Time: 5:24:47 | Place: 64/85
STG 02 – Ken
I had tagged this day before the race as potentially the stage that best catered to my strengths… A long double track climb, followed by a steep technical descent, finished up with a rolling fireroad. My game plan was to just set up a solid pace through the climb, soak up all the descent had to offer, then see what I had left in the tank for the fireroad home.
As luck would have it – I ended up not straying too far from that game plan.
The climb seemed to effortlessly disappear in front of me and I was passing and hangin’ with teams that I had no right (in my mind) being around. Everything felt like it was clicking right into place.
After a quick grind through some soft climbing single track we got onto a nice twisting trail dotted with bike-devouring pot-holes. The name of the game here was to park your ass behind somebody and watch them go through first. If they make it through, you’ve got a green light.
This strategy was working well for me until I ran out of leaders to chase… A single error in judgment had my bike fully submerged the very next pothole I hit. Before I could even get unclipped to save myself I was taking a ‘chocolate milk bath’ (thanks for that one Sarnecki ;-)… It was a good thing it wasn’t very cold out!
One the other side of the peak, the descent down “Porky Blue” (the name of the descent) was nothing short of epic. I could literally smell the brakes burning, but was having too much fun to concern myself with it! Somewhere on the switchbacks I got caught behind a slower group (almost walking their bikes), and had to quickly come to a complete stop. I promptly ended up crossing my bars and tossing myself head-first into the earth. I banged my knee pretty good, but felt solid, so just hopped back on the bike and pointed it down, oblivious to the copious amounts of blood running down my leg ;-)
Having laid on the gas pretty good through the ascent and descent, the 35km fireroad home was a sincere mental battle. I ended up falling in with Trevor Pombert (aka Old Man Diesel), and the two of us did a pretty good job at piggybacking team to team on the way in. The last few kilometers were pretty draining, but once that finish line comes into sight the pain in your legs always subsides (a little).
After mingling a bit at the finish, Mike Sarnecki and Mike Blennerhasset convinced me to get the gaping hole in my knee looked after… Ensuing a quick (and somewhat painful) scrub to get all the dirt and grime out, the awesome medical staff plugged me with 4 stitches and sent me on my way. Good as new!
A little blood, a little mud, a little suffering… The trifecta of mountain bike awesomeness.
Stage Time: 4:12:36 | Place: 26/85
STG 03 – Sheldon
This stage was really broken three parts: 40km of fire road with very little climbing, followed by an intense climb with hike-a-bike, and lastly a brilliant descent down the backside into the Etherington finish. My strategy, knowing that Ken was racing in another category, was to just try and stay ahead of my pal Sam. After two days of racing, I only had 17 minutes on him, so really anything could evaporate my lead… My plan then was to try and take it easy on the first 40KM, knowing the climb would be the make it or break it point for me. Sam is a faster downhiller, so I had to get to the top of the climb first, or I was sunk.
Sam and I rolled out in sight of each other the whole first 40KM. He got to check point #1 just before me, while I rolled into check point #2 just before him. I scarffed down as much food as I could, and quickly cleaned my drive-train to hopefully prevent any of the issues I’d had the days before. Then I set out ahead of Sam. Right away, it was tough going. Muddy, rocky, wet single-track that followed and crossed a creek for quite a while and then ‘IT’ started… We’d been warned the night before in the Stage Briefing, about the trail up the mountain. Organizers let us know much of it would be hike-a-bike and over grown with Alder bushes. Well, they weren’t kidding… This trail went up and up and up for what felt like an eternity. And the Alders were thick enough to cover the trail most of the time so you were pushing the bikes through these branches, getting smacked and whipped – not that much fun. Fortunately, they thinned out after a while, and then the climb was just rocky, muddy and steep. Some sections were even ridable, but for the most part this was a pure hike-a-bike experience like none I’ve ever encountered. It was just one false summit after another, and when I came around the last bend, thinking it was the top, to look up to see there was more, I honestly could not believe my eyes. I had to stop and squint to see if those were actually racers, way, way, way up near the top of this cut line. Sure enough, those little dots were racers, and after already hiking my bike further than I’d ever done in my life, I tossed my bike on my back and started up again.
This was one of those true physical tests though, the kind you wouldn’t easily take on if you really knew what was involved before hand. But once you’re faced with it, you bear down and push on, and when you do finally get to the top, after hours of carrying and pushing your bike, you take a second to look around and think, ‘WOW! I can’t believe I just did that! And look where I am…’ This, to me, made it all worthwhile, and I still had the descent to look forward to. Sadly, on the way up, my rear break had started making a metallic clinking and squealing sound. I’d stopped to look at it, sprayed it out and sure enough, my break pads were gone… One of the Course Marshals (Ambassadors) stopped to take a look and confirmed I’d worn them down to the metal. I was furious with myself! ‘Why hadn’t I gotten them checked the night before?!’, or better yet, ‘Why hadn’t I checked them myself?!’ Now I’d have to ride down the backside of a mountain with only my front break, and by the looks of it, I only had about a 1/3 of breakpad life left there!
Well, by the time I’d made it to the top, and started that downhill, it didn’t take me long to pretty much say ‘screw it!’. I tried to maneuver down using my front break only, but that trail was seriously steep and rocky, bouncing me all over the place. I needed to use both breaks. So, despite the crazy loud metal-on-metal SQUEEEEEEEAAAAALLLLL!!!!, I jammed on those breaks where ever I needed it. I figured if I melted the rooter clean off the bike, then I melted the rooter clean off the bike! Fortunately, I got to be bottom ‘sans’ incident. The worst part, other than the horrendous noise, was I had no breaking modulation on the back. I’d apply the break and there’d be nothing, nothing, nothing and then full lock out and skid out! This made for some ‘interesting’ moments to say the least, but once I hit the fire roads I was able to just let it fly all the way into the Etherington Creek campground, which was a truly beautiful spot to finish – remote, thick Rocky Mountain wilderness all around. That was fantastic!
Stage Time: 6:17:44 | Place: 67/85
Total Time: 15:00:07 | General Classification: 63/83
STG 03 – Ken
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to make of this stage… I knew we had a sincere hike-a-bike in store, but wasn’t sure how to approach things… Take it easy and save it for the climb? Bomb it and suffer the consequences? As luck would have it, I decided to simply follow the sage words of the wise Pat Doyle… “For the first 40k, hop on the fastest wheel you can and hang on for as long as you can.”
The race started with a 2km neutral processional through town with an antique firetruck escort. With all the mountain bikers out of their element on the fresh “pavé” there were a number of close calls, a number of ‘nudges’ and unfortunately a large crash that ended in a broken collarbone and wrist. Thankfully I managed to avoid all of that as we headed into the 40k stretch of gravel.
As with Stage 2 – I generally felt like I was surrounded with people that were way too fast for me to be around… This was confirmed when Pat Doyle rolled past me, did a double take and exclaimed “Wow… You’re really hammering today…” It’s not everyday I get to hang in such elite (ie. fast) company. I just kept turning the legs, trying to hang on, half expecting to blow up at any moment.
As I neared CP2 (just prior to the singletrack + hike-a-bke) I caught up with Trevor “Diesel Power” Pombert and was caught by Jason “Tow Rope” Redfern. We had been battling back and forth throughout the prior two days and having a great time. Despite knowing things were tight, I needed to spend a little more time resting/fueling at the checkpoint than they did and my heart sunk as I watched them disappear into the trees.
It was shortly after this as the hike-a-bike began that I truly gained an appreciation for the full TR7 and what racing with a partner can do for you. Prior to this point I had been lucky enough to be kicking it with enough racers that I knew that it felt like a really fast group ride… Great vibe, great fun. But at this point, with two of my ‘homies’ having disappeared into the bush, my legs feeling a little numb from pounding they took on the gravel track and an ominous, soul-crushing hike-a-bike looming in front of me, I longed for my buddy Smart. With the Alder bushes creeping right onto the trail you really felt alone and the few glimpses of the trail you got, just reinforced a long lonely climb up the mountain. With a team it’s a lot easier to rally, good teammates can feed off and motivate each other.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m probably being melodramatic… It was just a low for me that I had to grind through, I managed a few smiles as I passed or was passed by teams.
As I finally crested out of the Alders overgrowing the trail and started the more ‘serious’ hike a bike (ie. when you need to carry your bike) I glimpsed something I thought had disappeared forever… Trevor and Jason! With two fresh rabbits in front of me, I had renewed energy and quickly caught them shortly before we summited the Continental Divide. After some obligatory self-congratulation and photographs we started our descent.
Despite the fact that we were loosing elevation, this descent was definitely work… Super steep and highly technical. There was no relaxing and letting it roll here. Smart decisions were rewarded, and bad decisions were reprimanded quickly… Either by tossing you into the jagged rocks, or giving your tire a good thrashing (as Trevor found out the hard way).
Once we got off the exposed part of the mountain, things began to mellow out and the Jason and Ken show just let it all hang out… I LOVE those rolling descents where you can just pin it, let your momentum take you up the ascents and build it back up on the way down. The trail continued that way all the way until it deposited us our Etherington camp. There may have been another climb, but I think I’ll just block that from my mind ;-)
Stage Time: 4:39:34 | Place: 25/85
Total Time: 11:40:32 | General Classification: 29/83
TR3 – Sheldon
All in all, for me the 2010 TR3 was a great experience. The TR organizers take great care of you, and the riding was both epic in difficulty, and loads of fun at the same time. I’d have to say that this year, something that added a lot to the enjoyment was the fact that I knew so many of the racers. Sure, it was great to ride with Ken in a team format in 2009, but riding solo was cool in a different way, and knowing more racers helped with that. Come Wednesday morning, as I left, I was sad to know the TR7 teams were going on without me. The fact that my legs felt really good that morning might have had something to do with that, but I can honestly say, as much fun as the TR3 was, I would have really enjoyed doing the full pull again. The TR3 is a serious race, but it’s just a taste.
TR3 – Ken
This was definitely a much different experience than last years Transrockies… Sitting where I was in the GC, I was surrounded by people RACING the Transrockies… There were no leisurely chats at checkpoints, no soft-pedalling through sub-alpine meadows, it was go-time. That said, I can still say that I definitely got a chance to enjoy my experience, take some photos, look around and fly head-long into the bushes… Good times ;-)
Without a doubt the TR3 left me satisfied. Without a doubt the TR3 left me wanting more. I definitely could have ridden more, but what I really felt missing from the TR3 is the sense of camaraderie and kinship you get from gelling with all the teams on the “full pull.”
As a full on race, a primer for the real deal, or for those a little time-crunched, the TR3 is outstanding. But having lived through both however, I can tell you, it’s no substitute for the real thing. There’s just something about the epic nature of starting in Fernie and knowing that through hell or high water, you’re going to roll down main street Canmore in 7 days :-)