August 9, 2004 – With a number of returning champions along with first appearances from riders whose palmares include wins in other marathon events like the TransAlp and Cape Epic, the first day of the 2004 TransRockies Challenge was going to be the day for the race favourites to make their statement.
The first stage of the race covered 95K from Fernie, British Columbia to Blairmore, Alberta. With a profile that included 1,800m of climbing and the only 30K of pavement in the race, this would be a tactical stage likely to be decided in the last 20K that contained 700m of climbing in short sharp chunks.
At first glance, the fiercest battle looked like it would be for the men’s title between last year’s champions Team Fiat/Rotwild (Anreas Strobel/Silvio Wieltschnig) and Team Rocky Mountain with TransAlp Champion Karl Platt and half of last year’s second place team Andres Hestler. The battle lived up to its billing with the two teams going head to head throughout the entire length of the stage.
For much of the stage, the fight was joined by Team Crowsnest (Neil Grover/Troy Misseghers) and, together, the three teams rode away from the rest of the field on the first climb. After the halfway point, cramping for Misseghers meant that the fight was down to two teams – Team Rocky Mountain and Team Fiat Rotwild. They traded blows repeated until a slight bobble by Fiat Rotwild on a short technical climb allowed Rocky Mountain to open up a small gap with about 10km to go which they defended tenaciously until the finish in Blairmore where they crossed the line with a slim 15-second margin.
The battle might have been just as close in the women’s category except for stomach troubles for one member of Team Drake made up of Isabelle Dube and former Canadian National Road Team Member Maria Hawkins. A couple of forced stops during the race allowed Team Scott Contessa (Karen Eller and Sabine Grona) to ride to a 20-minute margin of victory. The margin is far from safe, though with six days ahead where bad days are measured in hours lost, not minutes.
Tomorrow stage from Blairmore to Dutch Creek runs a similar distance but with more climbing and a 50/50 split between gravel road and trail. The key to tomorrow’s stage could be the infamous seismic line trails which follow a dead straight line regardless of contour, leading to brutally steep hiking sections and scary steep descents.
To read daily reports from the trenches as Paul Newitt and Nels Guloien (both riding for Team Pedal/Kona) complete TR 2004, click here:
Stage 1:Fernie to Crowsnest Pass, 95km
1. Rocky Mountain Business Objects (Hestler/Platt) 3:40:22
2. Fiat / Rotwild Adidas (Wieltschig/Stroble) at 0:03
3. Crowsnest Red Niks (Grover/Missegheres) 20:50
4. swisspower /fehr-velo (Hinrichs/Zumstein) 31:07
5. Swissbike Team (Morf/Maag) 31:14
6. Cybercycle (Doyon/Larivee) 33:12
8. Haro Cda/Cybercylcle (Poirier/Desforges) 36:35
9. Team Bianchi (Friesen/Stappler) 44:55
11. DMH Racing (Hewitt/Hewitt) 49:16
12. Enerplus (Bulcock/ERlam) 49:17
For full results, click on http://www.transRockies.com/media/images/stage1_results.pdf