Crowsnest Pass-Fernie74.8km/1,293m climbing/1,633m descending
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 seven hours a day in tough conditions.
At 75km long with 1,300 metres of climbing, Stage 7 looked like a mere blip compared to the 300km and 6,700 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 Pete Turnbull of the UK, who has been riding solo since his partner was forced to pull out on day one with a serious virus. Though only teams are eligible for prizes, 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.
The top-placed Brits were Team Hayland (Nicholas Ringwood and Philip Richmond) in 14th place.
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 were 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 five-times 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 14,300 metres of climbing.