July 01, 2015 (Fernie, B.C.) – The 2015 Fernie 3 kicked off June 28 at The Cedars, located at the base of Mount Fernie Provincial Park. The three-day mountain bike stage race is a legacy of the legendary TransRockies Challenge, a seven-day epic race that used many of Fernie’s best trails throughout its 12-year history.
Now hosted by the City of Fernie and Tourism Fernie, the Fernie 3 continues to attract adventure-seeking mountain bikers of all stripes, ability levels, and ages to the scenic and friendly Kootenay Rockies town as they challenge themselves on a network of world-class singletrack trails. Over 160 riders signed up to take part in this year’s fun.
One of the initiatives of the Fernie 3 is that a portion of the proceeds from the event go back to the trails through supporting the area’s trail development and maintenance organizations.
Stage 1 – June 27 – The Cedars to Elk Valley Nordic Centre – 28km
Day 1 of the Fernie 3 mountain bike stage race got underway at The Cedars this morning, with 160-odd racers rolling out on fresh pavement before heading onto the new Elk Valley Nordic Centre ski trail and then ducking into the wooded trails of nearby Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. And that’s where the climbing on the 28km stage began in earnest. Bikers navigated up the classic rooty singletrack of Sherwoody before a brief respite down Old Goat, followed by a grunt up the aptly named Snakebite that forced all but the best riders off their steeds. The climbing continued to the top of race favourite, the old school techy DH Verboten.
The second climb of the day was by far the longest and toughest, starting from the park and ascending some more challenging singletrack, Hedonism, followed by Mushroom Head, and only getting steeper and hotter as participants hit Lactic Ridge and finally Stupid Traverse – named for obvious reasons with its exposed sections and ultra-steep pitches. The relentless sun ensured riders were forced to endure temperatures in the high 30s Celsius.
The reward came in the form of a panoramic view of the Kootenay Rockies Lizard Range with the town of Fernie nestled below, although many riders were probably too cross-eyed to notice. Perhaps even more enjoyable than the scenery was the ultra-long bomber downhill run of The Slunt, followed by a cruise down Brokeback Ridge, back to the park, where the third and final big climb of the day led gasping riders up the many stages of Gorby climb before entering the more gently graded Gorby Bowl doubletrack on the Fernie Alpine Resort slopes. The final plummet of Black Forest returned racers to the Nordic trail, which they followed back to the start/finish area at The Cedars, where they cruised under the finishing arch and into the beer garden, which had refreshing cold Slingshot Session IPA from local craft brewery Fernie Brewing Co. Hungry finishers were treated to fresh savoury crepes courtesy of Flippin’ Crepes French-inspired food truck. The beer garden provided bluebird views of towering mountains, as well as a look at the finish line.
Shane Keyser of Bragg Creek, AB took the overall stage victory and the Open Men’s category in a time of 2:01:01, followed by Ben Parsons (Sportsman Ski Haus Cycling) of Kalispell, MT, who finished second at 2:06. Third overall went to Open Women’s winner Sandra Walter (Liv Canada/Pedal Mag) at 2:41 back, followed by third place in the Open Men’s competition, Steve Devantier (Team Giant Vancouver). Devin Erfle (Deadgoat Racing) of Calgary took top spot in the Men’s 40+ category, with teammate Geoff Clark (Deadgoat Racing) just behind for the Men’s 50+ victory. The fastest Women’s 40+ finisher was Erika Krumpelman (Vertical Earth) of Idaho.
Fernie 3 organizer and course designer Dan Savage knew he was dishing up a challenging course for riders, but he also knew that’s what they had signed up for. He emphasized that Day 1 would be the toughest and the vertical gain for the final two stages would be significantly less, although the routes would continue to feature the quality trails Fernie is known for.
The day also featured a solo one-day event with Rhys Mcintyre of Sparwood logging the fastest Open Men’s time of 2:58:56. Jon Mawer of Calgary won the single-stage Men’s 40+ race, while fellow Calgarian Hilary Ebbern crossed the line first in the Open Women’s one-day event in 3:38:13.
After all of the long course riders had finished, it was time for the young guns to hit the trails. The U13 and U16 categories sprinted along the start straight of The Cedars into the Nordic trails and embarked on modified courses, highlighting some of the area’s best riding.
Riders will start from the Fernie Aquatic Centre in downtown Fernie tomorrow for Stage 2 and tackle the climb to Castle Mountain, Hyper Ventilation, followed by a rip down Hyper Extension, before heading over to the rolling Ridgemont trails and Coal Creek Discovery Trail to finish back at the Aquatic Centre. Temperatures are expected to exceed 30C again on Sunday for the 33km stage. Open Men’s and Women’s leaders Keyser and Walter will hit the start line wearing the yellow Fernie leader’s jerseys as they defend their GC positions.
Also happening at the Aquatic Centre is the ninth annual Kids’ Bike Rally, a fun and educational cycling event that is free for the first 150 competitors. Sign up is at the Gear Hub in Downtown Fernie.
Stage 2 – June 28 – Fernie Aquatic Centre (start/finish) – 33km
Light cloud cover and an earlier start made Day 2 of the Fernie 3 mountain bike stage race significantly less sweltering than yesterday as the pack rolled out from the Fernie Aquatic Centre at 9:00 a.m., led by Open Men’s and Women’s yellow jersey wearers Shane Keyser of Bragg Creek, AB, and Sandra Walter (Liv Canada / Pedal Mag) of Coquitlam, B.C.
Many a racer felt the telltale quad burn as the pitch steepened at the end of Castle Mountain Road and turned to doubletrack. Eventually, things became narrower as the pack funneled up the twisty Roots trail and then the infamous switchbacking Hyper Ventilation ascent on the steep slopes of Castle Mountain. If riders weren’t so bleary-eyed, they would have been able to check out a view of the town and the Stupid Traverse trail they had climbed on the opposite side of the valley on Stage 1. Pedal stroke by pedal stroke, the riders ground their way to the start of the rip-roaring dusty Hyper Extension downhill.
If racers thought they had the tough part over with after Hyper Ventilation, they were mistaken, as Fernie’s extensive mountain bike trail system took them on a rollercoaster ride of climbs and descents that added up on the vertical total. After crossing Coal Creek road, it was a grunt up Scary Trail through Cemetery Bypass to some of the Ridgemont network’s best singletrack before hitting a 5km rip along a gravel road, a nice respite and an easy way to tick off some mileage on the 33km route.
The rooty, winding rollers of the seemingly endless Coal Creek Discovery Trail sapped every last bit of energy from riders’ legs as they headed west towards the finish line at the Fernie Aquatic Centre. The finish was almost in sight when course marshals suddenly directed participants hard left – and up the Sidewinder Trail. The climb was unexpected for many who were not well versed in the Fernie trail system and curses may have heard through the trees. The climb was a significant bump on the elevation profile and added to the suffer factor, but finally it was time for the last dusty and fast descent. Cold drinks and fresh watermelon and pineapple refreshed finishers and some lucky riders were treated to free handcrafted cookies and cream ice cream from local Happy Cow Ice Cream.
Once again, Keyser took the victory in a blistering time of 2:05:17 to solidify his overall Open Men’s lead going into the final day. Walter also added to her Open Women’s GC lead with a win on Stage 2 in a time of 2:15:33. Devin Erfle (Deadgoat Racing) followed suit, racking up his second Men’s 40+ win in as many stages. It was the same scenario in the Men’s 50+ category with Geoff Clark (Deadgoat Racing) racking up another first place. There was an upset in the Women’s 40+ race, with Annie Quinnett of Red Deer besting yesterday’s champ, Erika Krumpelman (Vertical Earth) of Idaho, by 24 seconds. Krumpelman, however, remains in the overall lead.
The 32km Day 3 starts on Monday from the Fernie Aquatic Centre and features the brand new Montane Trail. The stage is mostly rolling and lacks a major climb, which race organizer Dan Savage planned in order to give weary legs a break. It’s expected to be another hot one as most of the province is experiencing an extreme heat warning, but there’s a 60% chance of thundershowers in the afternoon.
Stage 3 – June 29 – Fernie Aquatic Centre (start/finish) – 32km
Overcast skies and the risk of rain made the third and final day of the Fernie 3 mountain bike stage race a little cooler and riders welcomed the shade after the first two sweltering stages. The trails stayed dry and dusty, however, as forecasted strong thundershowers never materialized.
Today saw a young local, 18-year-old Carter Nieuwesteeg (Rocky Mountain Bicycles), win the stage in a time of 1:49:25 and take fourth overall in the GC. Shane Keyser of Bragg Creek, AB took home the overall Open Men’s victory after three days, winning the first two stages and finishing third on the final day. Ben Parsons of Kalispell, MT took second overall, followed by Steve Devantier (Team Giant Vancouver) of Pitt Meadows, BC in third.
Sandra Walter (Liv Canada / Pedal Mag) continued her domination of the Open Women’s contest to sweep all three days and finish eighth overall on the final stage in a time of 1:58:17. Trish Grajczyk (Deadgoat Racing) of Calgary, AB finished second each day to take second overall in the GC, while teammate Shauna Bygrave (Deadgoat Racing) of Calgary finished third in the overall.
In the Men’s 40+ contest, Doug Krumpelman (Vertical Earth) of Hayden, ID, won the final stage over GC winner Devin Erfle (Deadgoat Racing) of Calgary. Paul Martin (Cyclemeisters/Bow Cycle) of Edmonton, AB took second overall, with Steve Martins (Hardcore CC) of Edmonton tying up third in the GC standings.
The Women’s 40+ category was won by Erika Krumpelman (Vertical Earth) of Hayden, ID, by a massive margin of 3:35:31 over second place, Michele White (Deadgoat Racing) of Calgary, AB. Team Giant Vancouver’s Susan Weston of Pitt Meadows, BC, finished third in the GC.
Men’s 50+ winner Geoff Clark (Deadgoat Racing) of Calgary clinched the overall victory, despite some bad luck on the final day that would see him suffer a tire puncture and eventually finish fifth in his class. Teammate Pat Doyle (Deadgoat Racing) of Calgary picked up the baton, however, and took top honours on Stage 3. Doyle finished second overall, a mere 39s behind Clark. Dan Janzen (CABC) of Red Deer, AB was third overall.
Weary legs appreciated a course that lacked any long extended climbs and a relatively low total vertical gain of 1,048m that was accumulated over 32km of rolling singletrack, including the first grunt up Uprooted and Roots, before bombing down the new Montane Trail and then a gradual switchbacking climb back up to Coal Creek Road and over past the cemetery.
Back on the Ridgemont side of town, the course took riders in the opposite direction to the previous day on the swooping rooty Coal Discovery Trail, with its punchy climbs that pinched the legs just enough. Then it was time to turn back towards home and grind out the final few kilometres on some challenging ups and downs before a fast last descent of What’s Up Doc, Cemetery Bypass, and Scary Trail.
Post-race, competitors relaxed under the tent, drank cold beverages, enjoyed the offerings of the Flippin’ Crepes food truck, and cheered as their fellow racers finished the final day of the 2015 Fernie 3.
The City of Fernie has generously provided Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funds to help support this destination tourism event, plus lots of other organizations have stepped up to make the Fernie 3 possible, including: Rocky Mountain Bicycles, GearHub Sports, Hammer Nutrition, Jakroo Canada, Fernie Real Estate, Fernie Brewing Company, Tinhorn Creek Winery, The Cedars, Teck, The Bridge Bistro, Park Place Lodge, The Griz Inn, Fernie Central Reservations, Stanford Inn, Red Tree Lodge, Tourism Fernie Association, Happy Cow and Island Lake Lodge.