August 12, 2011 (Little Elbow, AB) – Stage 5 of the 2011 TransRockies took riders on an epic 66km loop starting and ending in the Kananaskis Country’s Little Elbow Campground. Over the day’s adventure, the bikers amassed a total of 2000m vertical ascent and naturally the same in descent. Lance Armstrong once described the Tour de France as “3500km of pointless suffering and with few exceptions, most ultra-endurance events fit this same description. The kind of people who sign up for epic adventures and races aren’t the kind of people who go home and brag about how great the weather was and how much time they spent by the swimming pool, instead, they talk about the pain, the difficulties, and the discomfort.
For these people, Day 5 of the 2011 TransRockies was a perfect day on the bike. The first sections of the course were coated with a thick layer of hail which fell the night before making traction hard to find and good lines through the singletrack impossible. With average speeds chopped by the conditions, even the fastest riders were out on course for 4 hours in the rain and cold and the average finishing time was closer to 6 hours on this classic TransRockies day.
Rolling out from Little Elbow Campground under cloudy skies, none of the riders were taken by surprise as they had been the day before and everyone took their extra clothes out of their gear bags and were prepared for an epic day in the high mountains. For most, this would be a day for survival, not racing.
This has been one of the closest races ever in the Open Men’s Division of theTR7 with four teams from three countries trading the top placings on a daily basis. The battle for first place tightened up again as former Canadian National Team riders Martin Vale and Carter Hovey (Team Fernie) grabbed the stage win and took three minutes out of the overall lead of Team Zaboo cutting their gap down to less than four minutes with two stages to go. Behind them, Team Honey Stinger (Nate Bird and Dax Massey) continued their methodical ride picking up another podium finish and closing in on an overall podium spot. After a mechanical-plagued 2010, their 2011 approach has put them in striking distance of their first overall podium at the TransRockies.
While the status quo held in the other Open Divisions, the Swiss KRAFTWERK-rockthisbike.ch team of Marco Carrer and Eva Carrer-Enz found the tough conditions to their liking and grabbed their first stage win of the week.
After the baking hot, dry conditions for the TR3, TR4 solo racers have seen the exact opposite side of the Rockies with back-to-back days of cold and stormy weather. As they had the day before, Team Kona Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon, who won TR7 as a team last year, grabbed the top two places in the TR4 Open Men’s division. Wicks again set the fastest time of the day with a scorching 3:55:49 and Sneddon was the only other athlete to finish in less than 4 hours with a 3:59:15. Another former TR7 winner, Marty Lazarski had a strong day to grab 3rd overall and move up into 3rd on GC. Kira McLellan secured her second straight win in the Women’s division to extend her GC lead.
For many riders, the commitment and sacrifice necessary to complete an event like the TransRockies is a great platform for fundraising around important causes and one team from Canmore has managed to raise over $40,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation through their riding. Team Zach Attack/Make a Wish Foundation is named for Zach Goodman, a heroic 13 year-old from Canmore who was able to take 14 of his family on a vacation to Hawaii with the help of Make-a-Wish before he died of brain tumours. Zach’s mom Dana and his aunt, Margie Smith are not only competing for a podium spot in the Open Women’s division but are close to completing a $50,000 fundraising drive for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Day 5 might have been the toughest day that many 2011 TransRockies riders have spent on a bike they came to the Rockies to test themselves against the toughest mountain bike race in North America. The thousand-yard stares at the finish were quickly replaced with war story telling around the campfire and over the endless dinner buffet and with two more tough stages to go before the finish line in Canmore including the legendary ridge rides of Stage 6, there will be more suffering and more new stories to tell at the closing banquet on Saturday night and when they get home to friends and family.
Stage 6 Preview
Little Elbow Campground-Rafter Six Ranch
72km/2050m climbing/2350m descending
The “Queen Stage” of the 2011 TransRockies is one of the most fun and memorable days it’s possible to have on a mountain bike. Stage 6 covers the most distance and includes significant climbing but a lower finish elevation means that riders get 300 vertical metres more descending. And what trails they get to ride–it includes dozens of kilometers of World-famous trails, fantastic ridgeline views and incredibly fun descents. Locals will surely recognize Powderface Creek Trail, Prairie Creek Trail, Jumpingpound Ridge Trail, Coxhill Ridge Trail, and Lusk Pass Trails as some of the best rides in the area and after today, the riders of the 10th TransRockies will do the same.