Richard Paine and Stephen Davies are two middle aged men who are passionate about cycling. They combine busy work and travel schedules with sneaky training sessions. They have previously knocked off a couple of TransAlps and love the adventure of multistage mountain bike races.
Steve lives in Sydney and rides with the Tour de Cure bunch out of Neutral Bay. He is a one trick pony who can’t sprint, can’t time trial and can’t descend.
Richard has no such limitations. Rich lives in Singapore and races with the ANZA Mavericks. He is mining a rich vein of form this year which has seen him win the super masters category in the Singapore Nationals for the TT, the road race and the XC.
While Stage 2 was also a loop out and back to Fernie the stage had that epic feel to it. We both felt that the stage was very similar to a stage of the Transalps. Once again, the stage was tougher than the simple stats of 51.6km and 2,000m of climbing. While yesterday felt like a quick whip around the local’s favourite trails, today was a journey and a half.
We both felt that today’s stage suited our hidden talents, a long grinding ascent which would hurt the more it went on. The climb to the top of Porky Blue was about 28km long, but more of that later.
The pack rolled out of Main St Fernie behind the fire engine on a stunning sunny day. What is with all these stories of terrible weather? A slight climb on a wide gravel road started to sort the pack out, the following 250m vertical climb up a rough fire trail finished the job. The smaller field at the Transrockies (between 300 and 400 riders) results in the field being spread quickly.
At the top of the climb we dived into a steep Black Diamond single track descent “Splitting Bears”. Seeing the single track coming up, I put in a sprint to get in front of the pack and then almost fell off in the first 2 meters as the trail dropped into the forest. Not the greatest confidence boost. However, there is something about racing in a crowd in single track that fires me up and within a minute I was giving it my all. A furious descent through tight rooty pine forest ensured. All too soon we were spat back out onto Coal Creek road for the slog up to Porky Blue.
As the name would suggest, Coal Creek was the site of Coal mining in the past. We spent a lot of the climb grinding up a disused rail line. As expected, the forest was lovely and the views later in the climb were spectacular. Today was the first day of the race where it was compulsory to carry bear spray. Thankfully there were no bears in sight.
With the long climb, Rich and I were able to take some advantage of our teamwork which has become honed over previous races. Unfortunately for us, almost everyone doing the Transrockies in the Masters Category has considerable stage race experience and knows how to suffer.
As the climb continued, the grade became steeper. When we got to the aid station at the 26km mark we were almost broken men. Food, water and a pep talk and we were back on the road. We then hit the plateau at the top of the cliff for 5km of flat fire trail. This trail was punctuated with massive puddles. Some were so big we could have packed the Champagne and Kate’s biscotti. At the race briefing, Pat Gilmar had mentioned that they had built trails around the worst puddles and that we better use them. After sinking past the axles in a few, I was looking for any work around that I could find. We spend so much time worrying about lube and clean chains and then in the end run them on mud (those who did Dirt Works this year know what I mean).
Finally the trail turned up again into a muddy, rooty, rocky slice of single track. An absolute slog fest! This is the way that epic racing should be.
We came over the top of the cliff onto Porky Blue at 2,111m and spectacular views. We did not spend much time admiring the view as our eyes were drawn to the unridable double black trail below us. At the briefing we had been told not to ride the top 100m or the bottom 50m. We scratched our way down a steep shaley slope for the first 50m which took us to a rip roaring descent. We zig zagged down an old mining trail punctuated with river crossings. At least the rivers gave the brakes time to cool down, Oh the smell of melting pads. One thousand metres of sketchy descent later we scrambled the final 50m and I slid on my tail into the second aid station.