August 08, 2011 (Porky Blue, BC) – Stage 2 of the TransRockies, 51.6km from Fernie to Porky Blue with 2,000m climbing/2,000m descending switched up the challenge from the rolling technical trails of the opening day to a long leg-crushing climb and descent of over 1,000 metres vertical on Porky Blue, one of the signature rides in the area.
The racing stared off literally with a bang as the starter’s pistol was fired for the traditional loop of downtown Fernie behind the vintage fire engine. Team Fernie, the leaders in the Men’s Open TR7 category experienced a more ominous bang shortly after as Martin Vale blew his rear shock a short way into the course.
Upon hearing of the incident from Carter Hovey, the other half of Team Fernie, former TR winner Marty Lazarski offered his bike as a loaner but they had to chase Vale who’d headed back to the start to seek repairs. They caught Vale, switched pedals and Team Fernie began their chase now over a half hour behind the rest of the field with the entire field to pass ahead of them. The reports came in from checkpoints that Team Fernie was on a rampage tearing through the field back toward the front and by the finish they’d recovered to 5th place and had reduced the gap to only 15 minutes. The bike change and charge probably saved their race as they now stand only 11 minutes back behind Stage 2 TR7 winners Travis Hauck and Brian Cooke (Bicycle Café/Gericks Cycle) who also took the leaders jerseys.
Crashes were also a story of the day with Ryan Schellenberg of Stage 1 Open Mixed winners being taken down in a multi-bike crash and being forced to limp home to the finish line where they held their overall lead by only 16 seconds over the Swiss Team Zaboo 29 of Simon Zahnd and Yvonne Burgi who won stage 2. The long climb also suited Swedish two-time Olympic Biathlon medallist Anna-Carin Zidek who’s at the TransRockies competing in her first mountain bike race with husband Tom Zidek. They moved up several places and grabbed 2nd place on the day. Likewise, the Czech Masters found the course to their liking and grabbed the stage and overall lead in the Mens Master 80+ division from two Canadian teams chasing them. The overall leaders in the 80+ Mixed and 100+ Open Gender divisions remained the same.
After finishing 3rd on Stage 1, newly-crowned 2011 Canada Cup Champion Catherine Vipond stomped her pedals hard on the gruelling 25km ascent to the top of Porky Blue and held on for the stage win ahead of 3-time Xterra World Champion Melanie McQuaid with Dyck coming in 3rd. The changing places mean that the overall win is wide open between these three riders with only 4 minutes separating Vipond in 1st overall and McQuaid in third. Stage 3 is expected to be another 3+ hour test with 2400 metres of climbing, much of it on singletrack.
Canadian National Champion Max Plaxton seemed to establish his dominance on a Stage 1 which he won by 6 _ minutes over Neal Kindree but the former 2-time National Espoir Champion continued his remarkable comeback from long-term injury with a storming ride which pushed Plaxton to his limit. Kindree went over the top of the day’s main climb with a minute’s lead on Plaxton who fought hard to reel him back in. They entered town together and Plaxton took the stage win by only a second from Kindree. They remain 1st and 2nd in the overall standings with one day to go.
Kindree has one more chance to try and take a stage from Plaxton on the tough Stage 3 which serves up a relentless route of singletrack up and down across the North flank of the Elk Valley. Seven major climbs await and over 30km of tight, rooty singletrack must be mastered before riders arrive at the plush world-class facilities of Island Lake Lodge.
Stage 3 Preview
Fernie-Island Lake Lodge
44.8km/2275m climbing/1897m descending
After a time trial and a loop, Stage 3 is the TransRockies first point to point ride of the year starting in downtown Fernie and working West across the mountains North of the town including Mt Hosmer, Mt. Fernie, into the trails of the Fernie Alpine Resort and then a final climb up to the finish line at spectacular Island Lake Lodge. While the highest point of the day is less than 400 metres above the start line, the route has at least seven tough climbs, many on singletrack so the 44.8km length includes nearly 2300 metres of climbing. Expect average speeds to be slower and finish times to be close to the same or slower than Stage 2.