August 14, 2005 – 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.
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 had 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, but 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 Day 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 50 km/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.