For many riders in the 2006 TransRockies Challenge, Stage 2 was the hardest day they have ever spent on a mountain bike. So it was a cold reality they faced lining up in Blairmore, Alberta for the start of Stage 3. In almost every measurable way, Stage 3 was going to be even harder than the previous day. With over 2,600 metres of climbing along its 109km length and the same unforgiving sun, high temperatures and technical riding, this was a day which would test like no other.
The course served up the suffering right out of the gate as the riders headed North up the Allison Creek Valley, along a road whose jagged profile sapped the legs before the riders turned West climbing to the top of Racehorse pass and back over the Continental Divide into BC. The top three teams in the overall standings sped away as the 4th placed duo of Matt Green (Rocky Mountain) and Stefan Widmer (Sugoi) lost 20 minutes to a bent cogset which had to be replaced at the first feed zone.
Neither Team United Cycles (Tim Heemskirk/Evan Sherman) nor the Olympian duo of Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain Business Objects) and Seamus McGrath (Felt Racing) could shake the overall leaders Troy Misseghers and Eric Batty of Mountain Bike City. The three teams rode together all day, though United Cycles faded slightly in the finale to finish a minute behind the winners Hestler and McGrath who crossed the line in 5:18:53, a scant second ahead of Mountain Bike City.
For most riders, Stage 3 was not about racing for position or time gaps, it was about survival and overcoming the hardest day to reach the finish in Elkford, BC – at over 1,300 metres, the highest community in British Columbia. One team who seems to be getting stronger every day is the Father and Daughter team of Dark Horse Racing. John and Calindy Ramsden are not only the first father and daughter to take on the Challenge, but 16-year old Calindy is by far the youngest ever competitor. Though she has a high-level athletic background in skiing and swimming, the TransRockies is a totally new proposition. After a tough first day, they have moved up the standings each of the next two and now sit in the top half of their class, ahead of many more older, more experienced athletes. With the two hardest stages of the race behind them, they are primed for the next four days on the journey to the finish at Panorama Resort.
In the other two Open Categories, the first-placed-Health FX (Lynda Wallenfels/David Harris) in Mixed and Uncivil Servants (Nikki Kassel/Lesley Clements) in Women’s has solid days to build on their overall leads.
Stage Four which takes the riders from Elkford to Whiteswan Lake Campground should be a little easier than the last two days. Not only does the weather forecast call for cooler temperatures, but the profile of the 95km includes 1,400 metres of climbing-the lowest daily total so far. After the marathon of survival which has taken place over the last two days, it’s sure to be a welcome change.
Coming out of two very hard days at the TransRockies, the front-running British teams are still doing well. The consistent Team Numplumz (Gary Hill and Jack Peterson) finished 5th on Stage 3, and a good time has moved them up a space in the overall standings to 5th in 80+ Men. Eden Wheelers (Jane Meeks and Gary Baum) in 80+ Mixed are being consistent too – another 4th in the stage, still 4th overall. A bit of a change-around in Open Men, with the highest-placed British team on the stage being Gnarly Nutters (Nathan Blake and Paul Crook). Lunar Power (Mark Spratt and Sebastian Huckson) were 17th. They’re still the highest-placed British team overall, although they’ve slipped to 11th. Gnarly Nutters have nipped up the standings to 17th, although in the Race of the Brits they’re still behind MTBWales.co.uk (Roger Hughes and Brian Lewis) in 15th. And it was a good day for Fancier Ride (Melanie Alexander and Richard Holmes) in Open Mixed – 4th on Stage 3, still 6th overall but only five seconds shy of the team ahead…