August 10, 2005 – After an evening of torrential rain, the riders of the TransRockies Challenge woke up to ominous grey skies which promised to make Stage 3, the longest of the race, even more of a test than the 135km distance and climbing heavy profile would have indicated. The rain held off and the skies cleared, but the wind didn’t, and the 40km descent from the top of Highwood Pass at 2250 metres to the finish line was ridden into a biting headwind.
In the 2004 TransRockies, Stage 3 was disastrous for Team Rocky Mountain Business Objects as the race leaders suffered a drivetrain mechanical which cost them over 40 minutes and forced a monumental fightback that allowed them to grab the jerseys back on the penultimate stage.
This year, Stage 3 was very nearly as calamitous as a crash at km 15 of the opening fireroad section four riders down including three of the six from the top three teams. In the process, Marty Lazarski of Rocky Mountain Business Objects got off the ground to find his rear wheel shaped more like a Mobius strip than a circle. It was a piece of blind fortune for Rocky Mountain that Tom Zidek, whose partner was injured yesterday, was riding with the leaders wearing a helmet camera gathering footage for the TV broadcast. He gave Lazarski his wheel and the team was back in the fray almost immediately.
From there the second-placed Race Face Mountain Men upped the pace shedding all other teams except for Rocky Mountain who marked them closely protecting their lead. As the teams rolled into the finish at Etherington Creek Campground, the Neil Grover and Troy Misseghers of the Mountain Men got the jump on Rocky Mountain and grabbed their first stage win of 2005 in a time of 5:07:47, one second faster than Hestler and Lazarski of Rocky Mountain. “Well it seems like Day Three giveth and it taketh away,” said Andreas Hestler later. “Dealing with mechanicals is part of epic racing, but after last year’s disaster, it would have been crush to lose the race this way.” Team Reevax.be were one of the teams involved in the early incident, and though they seemed to suffer the most bumps and bruises of anyone with both Peter Paelinck and Domenic Sacrz hitting the gravel, they toughed out the remaining 120 km to grab their second consecutive third place finish.
Stage 3 of the TransRockies Challenge was an eventful one in the Open Women’s and Open Mixed events, as the leaders’ jerseys changed hands in both categories. Nikki Kassell and Hillary Harrison of Team Momentum Training followed up their Stage 2 victory with a dominant ride in Stage 3 to finish ahead by more than 23 minutes, completing the day with a time of 6:00:19 to the 6:23:50 for Team Cane Creek. In the process they opened up a gap of 17 minutes in the general classification.
In the closely fought mixed division, Team Adidas/Roll up the Rim’s Marg Fedyna and Blair Saunders had another strong day completing the ride in a time of 5:27:06, nine and a half minutes in front of the Irish duo of Tarja Owens and Robin Seymour, Team Rodge and Podge. In the process, they grabbed the leaders’ jerseys and established a cushion of five and a half minutes over Owens and Seymour who remain in second. Louise Kobin and Eric Warkentin, who have raced as many of these epic events as anyone in mountain biking, had another great day on the bike to finish in third and maintain their hold on third place in GC.
The shape of the TransRockies Challenge could change again tomorrow, as the riders start into three straight days of spectacular and technical Rocky Mountain singletrack””over 150 km of it–in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country. Tomorrow is a shorter stage of 61 km, but as over 50 is on singletrack the races will not be about raw horsepower, but will place more emphasis on being efficient and fast through steep climbs and lightning fast twisty descents.
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