With both Sheldon and I having fairly serious commitments this summer it just wasn’t in the cards for another full fledged 7-day epic. As we pondered what this summer had in store for us we eventually determined that the only logical alternative we had was the TR3 – well, as logical as mountain bike stage racing is ;-).

Granted we may not be officially racing together this year, but we’re still Bikeridr teammates… Here’s how we’re feelin’ from the north and south of Alberta!

How are you feeling about your current form? Feeling crunched, like you need more time, or good to go?

Ken: Just like anything, I wish I had more time… But mentally I’m ready to get rollin’. The legs will either be there or they won’t. Though far from stellar, I’ve managed to put in a descent training year so far, so I’ll just have to accept that the fitness I have now is going to be what I’m rollin’ with come TransRockies time! The big difference between this year and last is that I’m not really as concerned with “being able to finish” the stages. I know that I have the fitness to finish things, I’m just hoping that I’ve got the legs to go out and feel strong all day and be ready to rumble the next day as well!

Sheldon: I’m cautiously optimistic, but that’s still a hard question to answer… I ‘think’ I’m in pretty good form going into this. Looking back on my races this year, I can say with some certainty that I’m stronger and faster than I was last year. Some of that is fitness, and some of that is technical skills – I’ve simply gotten better this year. The upgrade to the Rocky Mountain Element 90 also gave me some new confidence and ever since, I’ve just been willing to roll faster. So, yeah, if I’m honest, I don’t think 100% of my race results this year are due to a step up in fitness, necessarily – I mean, a mountain bike race is about going up and coming down… The other part of the pie here is, okay, I’m faster, but I haven’t been putting in the long, long miles like I was in 2009. I’d say 80% of my training this year has been for 90min races. There isn’t a single stage on the TransRockies that only takes 90mins… That said, the last month, I’ve re-introduced hill training, and I’ve been out on a few good 3+hour rides that have felt pretty solid.

You’re racing for less than half of the time/distance from last year (3 days from 7), how has your training differed this year from last?

Ken: Knowing that there isn’t a whole week of mountain passes and 100km+ days ahead of us definitely has me a bit more relaxed for this years race. That’s not to say my training has slipped necessarily, but I definitely haven’t gotten in as many long miles as last year. I’ve hit a few more ABA races as well, so the tunnel vision of focus for the TransRockies wasn’t ever present in my training either. Really I was just looking for a good, well rounded base going into this years TransRockies – Let’s hope it holds up!

Sheldon: Well, that’s certainly part of the reason I’ve approached this year’s TransRockies the way I have. 3 days is a totally different world than 7. I don’t think there can be any comparison. So when I decided to commit to the TR3, I knew right away, I wouldn’t need to train in the same way as I did in 2009. I hoped that I could just rely on my regular ABA race season training to get me through. Also in my favour this year, is that I’ve been racing/training solidly for almost 2 years now. Overall, compared to last year, that’s a lot more miles under the legs and has to result in something good. If not, I’m still pretty confident I can just push through 3 consecutive days of riding without too much trouble.

With only 3 stages, which one(s) are you most stoked for, most apprehensive about? Do you even care?

Ken:I’m just stoked to get out there! I found the finish coming into Fernie last year one of the best days (granted it was also one of the only days with sun, but that’s beside the point ;-) so I’ve got my money on the opening time trial being a blast! I’m not really apprehensive about any of the stages, but day 3 is probably going to hurt the most. After two days in the legs and stage 3 calling for pretty much a continual climb all day with the really steep stuff at the end, it should be a solid day of pain!

Sheldon: Having raced the full TransRockies last year, I know that each stage will offer its own unique and sinister form of punishment. Day 1 is short, sure, but it’s a TT, so the pace is going to need to be pretty high. Toss in a sincere 1,300m of climbing and suddenly a short 30km ride doesn’t feel so short anymore. With all excitement, and it being day 1 in Fernie, I can see this day potentially being the most fun.

Days 2 and 3, I am sort of indifferent about. I’m looking forward to them for sure, but anytime you get near 2000m of climbing, it’s going to be a real test of metal out there. Last year, we dealt with cool and wet conditions, while this year, it looks like it could be dry and hot, making those days pretty gruelling. I expect the trails to be super fun and fast though, and the scenery to be spectacular, but I’m still most apprehensive about these 2 days. That’s where the fact that we’re only out there for 3 days will really work in our favour – we can push hard and leave it all out there, while the full-pull TR teams will still have 4 more days to go…

What’s the game plan going in – Are you treating this as a race, or as more-so an epic weekend ride?

Ken:To me this type of riding is hard to classify as purely ‘racing.’ Without a doubt I’ll have a race-type mentality to each stage, but as with last year, I think my expectations for each stage will evolve with the race. I also don’t want to be putting myself so far into the hurt-box each day that I’m unable to enjoy myself… Experiences like this don’t come around too often, it will be a delicate balance of pleasure and pain ;-)

Sheldon: For me, every race, including the TransRockies is always a little bit of both. I get more out of riding/racing when I’m shooting for the podium, so to speak. It’s what gets me excited and makes me nervous on the start line, and I like that part of it. But, racing is about much more than where I finish in the field. It’s always about the scene and the people – riding with my buddies is one of the things I like doing most in the world, and 3 days in the rockies, racing in the TR, how can you beat that?

Do you anticipate being satisfied with a 3-day experience, or do you think you’ll be left wanting?

Ken:If I’m being honest with myself, I think I’ll be left wanting more – Last years 7 days was simply too epic not to want to recreate. My brain has done a good job at blocking out the level to which I suffered, so I think despite the 3-day being the ‘correct’ choice for me this year, and despite it ending in much happiness and satisfaction, I anticipate there being a sense of wanting to continue. But alas… There will be other races, and other years. I’ll just have to try to jam twice as much fun into these three days!

Sheldon: Easy answer, yes and no. But, honestly, I think I’ll wish I was out there for all 7. As hard as the 7-day race is, there are few things I enjoy more than being out there suffering on the bike, haha… Sounds perverse, I know, but there is a rare joy found in it and I don’t know if 3 days will be enough. And like I mentioned already, it’s about more than just the racing. Knowing that all the 7-day racers are continuing on day 4, camping in more incredible locals, sharing stories over dinner and all that great stuff will be a bitter pill as I get on the shuttle back to Fernie.

How are you feeling about this being a solo endeavour?

Ken:I am filled with happiness, I am filled with sorrow. There’s something about going through a stage race with a partner that has a certain magic to it. Having somebody there to suffer with and help you through the lows and enjoy the highs is definitely something special. I think the solo nature of this years race will provide a truer test of mettle though – Now it’s literally just me and the mountain. Looking back on last year, the entire field was really supportive of the solo riders, but when it gets right down to it your race is completely on your shoulders.

Sheldon: I don’t know, actually… I mean, I think in some ways I might have missed the mark with suggesting Ken and I only do the TR3 this year. Sure, it’s 3 days of fully supported racing in the Rockies, but we won’t be riding together, and to me, that should have been the point. Sure, we’ll hang out in the AM for breaky, and may see each other from time to time on the trails, but more than likely, with Ken being faster, I won’t see him until I roll back in at the end of the day. At this point though, it is what it is, and I’m still excited and pumped for it and all that good stuff. It will be fun for both of us to just push as hard as we can, and see how we fair against the field. We also both know a lot of other racers now, and I think we’ll both have a great time regardless. TR3 here we come baby! WOOOO!!!!