August 9, 2005 – After the short sharp opening stage of the 2005 TransRockies Challenge, Day 2 served up a completely different test””123km of dirt roads and double track with nearly 2100 metres of climbing, the worst of which was packed into the last 20km and was followed by a fearsomely steep rocky descent to the finish in Elkford.
Stage 2 followed a similar route to the fire-altered 2003 edition of the TransRockies Challenge, and the warnings from the previous competitors which went something like “take it easy, it will be a looong day.” As the stage was so completely different from yesterday’s, the standings in many of the categories were shuffled as different teams dealt differently with the long grueling day in the saddle.
Setting out from Sparwood, the 156 teams that started Day 2 rolled through a 2 km neutralized opening before being turned loose on a rolling dirt road which offered several short steep climbs to immediately break up the field. The opening climbs were just a preview of the two passes to follow: a small unnamed pass at km 40 which rose over 500 m, then the massive Harley Pass which rises over 1000 metres to cross the Continental Divide at 2100 metres elevation. The descent from Harley Pass was gnarl defined””900 metres of vertical with at least three major sections of scree and loose rocks. Conditions only got worse for the last teams as a mountain rain and hailstorm made the rocks wet and treacherous.
The open men’s race was a two team race between Stage One winners Team Rocky Mountain Business Objects (Andreas Hestler/and the Race Face Mountain Men (Neil Grover/Troy Misseghers), who rode away from the rest of the field. The battle was short lived, though as the Mountain Men flatted on the first major descent of the day at km 40. Though they chased hard all day, they could not recatch the Rocky Mountain pair and finished the day 6 minutes behind, in 5:04:01 to the winners’ time of 4:57:44. Team Reevax.be, Peter Paelink and Dominiek Sacrz of Belgium put in a huge effort to make their first podium appearance of the race.
Both the Open Women’s and Open Mixed Categories saw different teams climb to the top step of the podium. In the women’s category Nikki Cassell and Hillary Harrison of Team Momentum Training rode away early and rode solo all day until Trish Stevenson and Karen Masson of Team Cane Creek made a Kamikaze descent of Harley Pass to catch them with 4km to go. Cassell and Harrison attacked on the road approach to Elkford to open up a six second gap, crossing the finish line in 6:14:19. Team Cane Creek held onto the leaders’ jerseys maintaining a six minute lead.
The Open Mixed category was a tight battle all day with Blair Saunders and Marg Fedyna of Team Adidas Roll-Up and Robin Seymour and Tarja Owens of Team Rodge and Podge dicing all day with Tom Zidek and Samantha Phillips of The Bike Shop/Bicycle CafÃ©. The ride (and hike) over the steep last section of Harley Pass was decisive. Adidas/Roll-Up dropped the other teams on the last climb to finish in 5:28:46, while Rodge and Podge hung on for second in 5:34:58, maintaining a four minute gap in the overall standings.
Tragedy struck Samantha Phillips of Team Bike Shop/Bicycle CafÃ© on the descent of the Harley Pass. She crashed hard in the rocks, opening a deep gash in her knee and cutting major ligaments in the process. Her team-mate Tom Zidek earned a medal of honour on the day””after piggybacking her up the hill where she was evacuated by helicopter, he tied her bike to his back and rode it to the finish, including the entire technical descent.
As this report is being written, the skies are still dumping enormous amounts of rain on the course. When dry, the 135km of Stage Three””the longest in the 2005 TransRockies Challenge–looks like a long non-technical roll into the amazing singletrack of Kananaskis Country in Alberta. With the rain that is falling and is forecast for tomorrow, it just got a lot tougher. The 85 km of doubletrack and gravel road is going to be slow and sloppy. The teams that were out on their bikes for up to 11 hours today can look forward to more of the same tomorrow . . . welcome to the Rockies.
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