Fernie-Fernie Time Trial
32km/1400m climbing/1400m descending
The TransRockies is the first North American epic to reach its 10th Anniversary and the riders who turned up in Fernie for Sunday’s start were treated to perfect clear, dry high mountain weather for the 32km Stage 1 Time Trial. Two racers were to be held on the trails at the same time: TR3, a UCI-sanctioned three-day solo event and TR7, the classic 7-day team event.
Run on much the same course as 2010, Stage 1 is the shortest ride of the week and gives the riders and chance to stretch their legs and get used to the endless singletrack before the first mass start on Day 2. Given the vastly different conditions from 2010 to 2011, finish times were faster even though the route contained even more trail and less doubletrack. On the start line, riders were more concerned about sunscreen and hydration than mud and traction.
Defending champion Max Plaxton of Team Specialized honestly assessed that he thought he’d be his own toughest competition before starting Stage 1 and, given his run of results which included his first-ever senior National Championship and his 2011 US Pro XC Series title, the confidence was well earned. In order to give the elite riders the clearest run at the trails, they started in the first wave and Plaxton left the line first at the stroke of 9am.
He shredded the course 6 minutes faster than the year before setting a new course record of 1:48:41 and laying a marker down that would be difficult for the rest of the field to follow. Sure enough, the next closest finisher was American Barry Wicks of Team Kona who was half of last year’s TR7 winning team. He finished in 1:54:32 edging third-placed Neal Kindree (Republic Cycles/SRAM) of Squamish, BC and fourth-placed Matt Hadley of Cycles Xprezo who finished within a minute of Wicks meaning a wide-open race for the podium placings.
In the Open Women’s division, multi-time TR7 winner Mical Dyck followed up on another strong showing at the Canadian National Championships with a first place finish on Stage 1. She was followed across the line by former World Cup mountain bike racer-turned Xterra World Champion Melanie McQuaid who showed she’s still a force on the bike beating current National Team members Catherin Vipond (3rd) and Jean Ann Berkenpas (4th).
Three riders from Alberta showed early dominance in the Master 40+ Men category led by current Canadian National Champion (40-49) Ian Auld who scorched the course in a time of 2:03:17 which would have placed him well into the Top 10 in Open. Second placed went to former TR7 Champion Jeff Neilson and he was followed closely by former Xterra Masters World Champion Cal Zaryski only a minute behind.
When it began in 2002, the TransRockies was the first marathon stage race in North America and the 10th Edition of the TransRockies (TRX) is not only another chance for riders to test themselves against the epic riding of the Rockies but a moment of celebration. A number of riders from the wild and woolly early days have returned to be part of TRX. During the week, we’ll catch up with some of them to hear about their most memorable TransRockies experience.
The migration of some elite teams to TR3 to grab the important UCI International Ranking Points offered has thrown the competition wide open in the TR7 team event wide open. Stage 1 gave a good indication of who’s going to be fighting for leaders’ jerseys and stage wins during the week.
Fittingly enough given that it’s the only stage host to have been part of all 10 TransRockies, Fernie was given strong representation by their local riders and as their local riders grabbed the leaders jerseys in the Open Men’s and Open Women’s Divisions. The Team Fernie Men’s duo of Martin Vale and Carter Hovey both have long and impressive resumes which include National Championship medals and World Cup appearances. While they’ve switched gears to the recreational side of riding, they powered through Stage 1 in 2:04:46, over three minutes ahead of the Swiss duo of Mat Haussener and Damian Perrin (Zaboo Pro Team) to grab the first leaders’ jerseys of the week. The Open Women’s team representing local outdoor magazine the Fernie Fix, Krista Turcasso and Angie Krasnay likewise put in an impressive ride to finish in 2:46:10 and wear the the first leaders’ jerseys as they set off in front of home town fans tomorrow for Stage 2.
The Master Men 80+ Years combined ages always offers some close racing and it lived up to expectations with the top two teams coming in on 26 seconds apart. Multi-time TransRockies champions Milan Spolc and Martin Horak were forced into second place by a great ride from the Team Deadgoat pair of Geoff Clark and Devin Erfle while another pair of Deadgoat riders Pat Doyle and Craig Bartlett finished third. Other category winners on the day who’ll claim their leaders jerseys at the nightly awards ceremonies included Ryan Schellenberg/Trish Gracyzk (Open Mixed), Clint Ball and Karen Tremaine (80+ Mixed) and Stan Magee/Jon Gould (100+ Open).
Tomorrow riders will leave in a mass start allowing teams in the same category to race head to head for the stage win and overall leadership.
Stage 2 Preview
51.6km/2000m climbing/2000m descending
After the warm up of Stage 1’s 32km time trial, the TransRockies gets underway in earnest with Stage 2 which takes the riders high into the alpine East of town to the top of Porky Blue, one of the signature trails of the area which plummets from its highest elevation of 2115m down to 1100m in one precipitous 7km plunge at an average steepness of 15 percent.
What goes down must have gone up though and riders earn this incredible descent with a long climb up to Coal Creek Summit and then even higher along a rough jeep until they clear the tree line and enjoy views up and down the Elk Valley and East to the Continental Divide.
As if the climb and descent of Porky Blue is bracketed by another 20km of singletrack along the shoulder of the valley just to make sure that Day 2 reaches the epic standard which TransRockies has set for 10 years.