Troy Misseghers of the 2nd placed Team Race Face Mountain men shows the strain (Pic: Dan Hudson)
Robin Seymour and Tarja Owens of Ireland celebrate their Mixed Division win. (Pic: Dan Hudson)
Stage 6: Bragg Creek to Rafter Six Resort
As the 8am start time rolled closer and the rain continued to pour on the riders of the TransRockies Challenge, no one moved toward the start line. After four straight days of impossibly tough mountain weather and hard riding, many riders were at their limit of endurance, unable to bear the thought of another grinding day in the saddle.
Grumbling and reluctant, the teams entered the start corral at the last possible minute, setting out for Stage 6, the last major test of the TransRockies Challenge. Unlike previous days, though, the weather did not deteriorate but improved as the day went on. As a bonus, the trail conditions were much better than expected and riders came across the finish line exhilarated by the amazing singletrack and views from the top of Jumpingpound Ridge. Stage 6 is one of the few stages in the TransRockies which has a net elevation loss, and the seemingly endless descending and wide-open vistas make this course a favourite with the riders.
There were few major GC moves on the day given the large time gaps which had opened through mechanicals, illness and crashes during the previous stages. One team which had established their lead on the basis of sheer dominance was the Irish team Rodge and Podge – Tarja Owens and Robin Seymour. They managed to work together more smoothly than their namesake Irish TV characters and started the day with a gap of over 40 minutes to second place.
Using the philosophy that the best defence is a good offence, Robin and Tarja went hard once again, beating all but four of the Open Men’s teams in the process of finishing the 80km in 5:08:04. Their closest competition, Team Adidas/Roll up the Rim to Win, made a wrong turn adding 30km to their day and losing a GC spot in the process to Eric Warkentin and his partner Louise Kobin, one of only seven people to have competed in every TransRockies Challenge.
In the Open Men’s race, Andreas Hestler and Marty Lazarski of Team Rocky Mountain Business Objects attacked early on the wet singletrack along the Tom Snow trail, testing the legs of the Race Face Mountain Men. They opened a gap which mushroomed as the Mountain Men suffered another flat tire. Hestler and Lazarski were among the early teams who slogged through hail and snow along the exposed Jumpingpound Ridge, but dry gloves and an extra layer of clothing ensured that there were no physical collapses and they rolled across the finish line at Rafter Six Resort Ranch in 4:24:32 for their fifth stage win in six stages. Neil Grover and Troy Misseghers hung on for second place on the stage and solidified their second place on GC—the same place they finished last year.
The battle for the final Open Men’s podium GC spot continued as the third-placed Swiss Team Sennebeube and the Fourth Placed local team Kelli Servinski and Jon Nutbrown from The Bike Shop went hammer and tongs throughout Stage 6. In the end, the Swiss pair grabbed the final podium spot on the day and solidified their hold on third overall.
Trish Stevenson and Karen Masson of Team Cane Creek continued to show the good form which saw them grab the leaders’ jerseys one day previous. They rode away from the rest of the women’s field on Day 6 as their closest rivals Team Momentum Training continued to struggle with illness.
Sitting down to an Alberta-style feast of prime rib and baked potatoes under clearing skies, the mood of the riders was ebullient. All that remains is a 50km ride into Canmore where the finish awaits, and the 10 am start means that everyone can grab a couple more hours’ sleep… or get a head start on celebrations.
Stage 7: Rafter Six Resort to Canmore
Like the last stage of the grand road tours, the final stage of the TransRockies Challenge is as much a time for reflection and celebration as it is for racing. A later start, a shorter course and a beautiful sunny day mean that riders get one more taste of great Rocky Mountain riding before they make the emotional run down Main Street to the Finish Line in front of crowds of family, friends and well-wishers in Canmore, Alberta, home of the 1988 Olympic Nordic events.
Views like this make the climb worthwhile (Pic: Dan Hudson)
The scene on Main Street in Canmore as TransRockies finishers reunite with friends and family. (Pic: Dan Hudson)
On the podium, Rocky Mountain Business Objects 1st, Race Face Mountain Men 2nd and Team Sennebuebe 3rd. (Pic: Dan Hudson)
Time gaps were big enough in most categories that only a complete collapse would change the top end of the standings. Instead, the 330 riders who began the last stage could focus on drinking in more memories of the hardest week many of them would ever spend on a bike.
On the day, Andreas Hestler and Marty Lazarski of Team Rocky Mountain Business Objects confirmed their GC dominance with their sixth stage win of the week in 2:12:39. They rolled down Main Street in the shadow of the spectacular Three Sisters Mountain with enough gap to drink in the cheers of the crowds. Their closest challengers, the Neil Grover ans Troy Misseghers of the Race Face Mountain Men came through the line less than a minute later to confirm their second straight runner-up GC position.
Looking back on the week, three-time finisher and two-time TransRockies Challenge Champion Hestler said, “I have ridden this race three time now and it is a different experience every time. This is honestly the best, most fun thing I have ever done on a bike. Endless singletrack, great people and the experience of working with a partner are so different from regular one day racing. Right now, I am not sure if I can commit to the suffering needed to come back and try for a third, but I’ll be back whether I am riding a course motorbike or just supporting other riders. This race rocks.”
During the 2005 TransRockies Challenge, Robin Seymour and Tarja Owens of Ireland amazed everyone with their speed, stamina and grit. Though they had lots of World Cup mountain bike racing experience, neither of them had ever competed in a multi-day race of this kind—they even forgot to bring mats to sleep on and spent the first four nights sleeping on the hard ground. In the end, grit and talent showed through and they won the Open Mixed category, often finishing near the top of the overall standings as well.
“That was the hardest thing I have ever done on a bike”, said Owens after the finish. “Last year I rode the Marathon Worlds in Austria, but this was so hard and technical, it was like riding the Marathon Worlds every day for a week. I am so relieved to be finished”. In the end, the suffering was all worthwhile as they rolled into Canmore second on the day with their huge GC lead intact.
In the women’s category, Trish Stevenson and Karen Masson of Team Cane Creek held onto the gap which they had established on Day 5 and 6, though Christine Misseghers and Kate Aardal of Team Elk Valley came up with a stellar ride on Stage 7 to grab their first stage victory of the event in 2:58:47. Nikki Kassell and Hillary Harrison of Team Momentum Training continued to battle, defending their second position on GC despite the serious bronchial infection which had plagued Hillary Harrison for days. “I am just looking orward to seeing a doctor and getting better”, she said. “This was such an awesome race and experience – I am looking forward to coming back so that I can stay healthy and hold the leader’s jersey to the end”.
Her story is not unusual. In every category and from front to back, the 2005 TransRockies produced stories of extraordinary grit and determination, none more so than David Kvick and James Shellard, the winners of the Men’s Masters category (combined ages 80 and up). Shellard crashed at roughly 50km/h during Stage 5, fracturing his clavicle in the process, and though he could neither pull his front wheel off the ground nor lift his hand above his waist, he was able to ride through the pain to defend the jersey and win the GC. That’s how much the honour of finishing means to the participants in the TransRockies.
Pete Sutton and Mark Banham of Bikemagic’s adopted Team 59 Commando are kept it steady and consistent throughout the tough seven stages and came home in 34th positition. From all of us, congratulations. We think they deserve a beer or two after what they’ve been through.
More details and full results at www.transrockies.com.