August 13, 2011 – Water? Check. Food? Check. Tube, tools, rain jacket? Check. Bear spray? Bear spray! There aren’t many bike races which list bear spray as mandatory equipment but the TransRockies route travels through some very active bear country and route changes due to wildlife are part of the TransRockies.
Little Elbow Campground-Stoney Nakoda Resort
72km/2050m climbing/2350m descending
If a small route change counts as a hiccup, it was the only one on a day which was as perfect as the TransRockies has ever seen. Riders and crew woke up to a clear mountain morning and the temperatures rose quickly before the 9am rollout under the . The weather held, temperatures stayed moderate, the winds never picked up and the field was able to enjoy the Queen Stage of 2011 in pristine Rocky Mountain weather. Three times they ascended trails to above 2000m metres where the rode in jaw-dropping panoramas of the rugged front ranges of the Rockies and three times they rode down legendary descents. On the day riders would accumulate a mile and a half of descending.
If it was a beautiful ride, it was also a long a tough one, and winning times for the pros were again close to 4 hours. After two straight TR4 wins, Barry Wicks took second place behind his teammate Kris Sneddon. After two trying days in the bad weather, the teammates called a truce and rode the day together with Sneddon taking the win as they rolled across the finish line together in the same time of 3:42:52. Behind them David Gonda finsihed a clear third to grab the final overall podium spot. Marty Lazarski, his closest competition suffered a number of mechanicals on the day, losing over a half hour and slipping to fourth overall.
Mechanicals blew apart the Men’s 40+ podium race as former TR7 winner Jeff Neilson suffered a double tire cut while in the lead. After a long repair process he knew top spot had slipped away and showed epic mountain bike spirit, stopping to help Marty Lazarski with his mechanical problems. Neilson’s bad luck was Simon Pulfrey’s fortune as he rolls into the last day with an almost-insurmountable 26 minute lead.
The women’s TR4 race has been a one-rider show with Kira McClellan winning all three stages but behind her, Cassandra Stamm and Pam Pearson are separated by only 40 seconds so the ride into Canmore will be anything but ceremonial.
The Open Men’s category of the TR7 event has produced some the best racing of the week with four fast teams battling for the podium spots all week. Stage 6 produced another battle which was eventually decided by the fickle hand of mechanical fate. The leading team from Switzerland, Team Zaboo, has had a relatively mechanical-free week but their luck changed on Stage 6 when both Mat Haussener and Damian Perrin broke their saddles but they managed to stay with the other teams and lost only 1:27 to second placed Team Fernie who worked with eventual stage winners Team Honey Stinger to paceline the last few KM of the rerouted course to increase the gap.
Team Fernie who have lost almost 20 minutes during the week to mechanical issues have cut Team Zaboo’s lead down to a mere 2:16 with one stage to go. The former World Cup racers Marty Vale and Carter Hovey of Team Fernie have promised to come out guns firing on Stage 7 in an effort to overcome the gap and win the overall.
The battle for third is just as interesting as Team Honey Stinger’s late surge has cut their gap from the overall podium from 18 minutes after Stage 3 to a hair under 4 with one day to go. Third-placed Team Bicycle Café/Gericks Cycle might have the locals advantage but Honey Stinger has seen this stage before and will be chasing the last overall podium spot along with their third stage win of 2011.
Full results HERE.
Stage 7 Preview
Rafter Six Ranch-Canmore
45km/1330m climbing/1330m descending
The final stage of 2011 takes riders up the beautiful Bow Valley to the town of Canmore, just outside Banff National Park with more than 1300 metres of climbing and lots of singletrack, this is more than a ceremonial champagne ride to the finish.
This stage features long sections of the TransCanada Trail which includes challenging rooty sections and fast fun trails leading to the town of Canmore. Once in the town, the route will explore some of the Quarry Lake trail network, and then into the Canmore Nordic Centre, host venue of the 1988 Winter Olympics and UCI Mountain Bike World Cup racing from 1998-2000. Finally, the route will descend into the Town of Canmore and the cheers of the assembled crowd on Canmore’s Main Street.