August 13, 2005 – 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 who is 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 today 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 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 50 km 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.