TransRockies Stage 2 Report by Paul Done…
K2 Ranch – Nipika Resort
72.2km/ 2835m climbing/ 2650m descending
When riders woke up this morning at K2 Ranch, the mood was a little more serious and a lot less giddy than the day before in Panorama. The pre-race briefing the night before had laid out the scope of the challenge ahead of them: over 2800 metres of climbing including several hike-a-bike sections and some steep, technical descending on trails which had been slickened by summer showers over the previous week. Most riders were planning on spending over 7 hours in the saddle with many aware that they would be pushed hard to beat the time cut off of 10 hours for the day. Those numbers held true as less than 10 per cent of riders finished under 6 hours with the majority of the field crossing the line in 8 hours or more.
The course served up both Heaven and Hell to riders in large doses. Hell came in the form of the raw, remote and steep second pass which had been cut specifically for the event to allow riders to cross from the Columbia River Valley in to the heart of the Kootenay Rockies while the Heaven came in the form of two epic and long singletrack descents mixing dry and choppy Rocky Mountain-style challenge with steep and slick switchbacks and rooty drops which wouldn’t be out of place on Vancouver Island.
The start of the Stage was more relaxed than the previous day as riders were able to warm up with a gently rolling 15km ride along the West Side road from K2 Ranch to Fairmont Springs where the first of the day’s three major climbs would begin. Once again Cory Wallace opened up the action with an attack on the first climb and Roddi Lega went with him as the other solo riders and teams chose not to respond immediately.
While Wallace and Lega got a gap, the first-place Open Men’s team from Rocky Mountain Bikes showed their multi-time TransRockies experience, biding their time working with the Portugese newcomers, Team Amarante BikeZone-Onbike to hold the difference down. The early effort took its toll on both Lega who suffered cramps which only a large serving of Aid Station jujubes could fix, while Wallace was eventually overhauled on the third climb by the Rocky Mountain Factory Team pair of Marty Lazarski and Stefan Widmer who had dropped the Portugese duo earlier.
Wallace hung on to first place in the TR3 Open Men’s race and took the leader’s jersey off the shoulders of Colin Kerr who snuck into second place while Lega was working out the cramps. Team Amarante held onto second place in the Open Men’s category of the TransRockies 7-day race but the 22 minutes that the Rocky Mountain riders put into them on the final climb and endless last singletrack gives the boys from BC a decent gap to protect as the race moves toward the Stage 3 time trial.
Elsewhere in the field, the huge day shook up standing in a number of categories. In Open Women, Team Nipika (Magi and Kate Scallion) not only crossed their home finish line first but they put enough time into the first stage winners Team Velo Bella to grab the Overall Leaders’ jerseys. Cory Wallace grabbed the Leader’s jersey in the Open Men’s division of the TR3 and has a comfortable gap of more than 10 minutes over Colin Kerr heading into the Stage 3 Time Trial which will conclude the inaugural TR3. In the Master 40+ Men’s Division of the TR3 Craig Bartlett of Canmore turned the tables on Stage 1 winner Cal Zaryski of Calgary and will wear the Leader’s Jersey into the last stage.
There may be stages at the 2009 TransRockies which cover more distance than Stage 2 but riders will not spend more time in the saddle or climb more vertical than they did on Monday. Despite the suffering, riders buzzed after the stage and through dinner about the superb singletrack and remote wilderness riding. A shorter day on Tuesday and free time to soak in the surroundings at Nipika Mountain Resort will help riders recuperate from the efforts of the first two stages.
Stage 3: Nipika Resort – Nipika Resort
44.1km/ 1129m climbing/ 1129m descending
Last year’s debut time trial was a popular first for the TransRockies and it will again offer riders a great opportunity to recover from the big elevation of Stages 1 and 2 with a tour around the sweet singletrack system of Nipika Mountain Resort. With start times throughout the day and no move to be made, riders get to unwind a little and cheer for their fellow riders. The teams at the front of the field get no chance to be comfortable as the close on-course proximity of their closest overall rivals will keep the intensity high during the ride around the trails. The ride throught the Rockies backcountry includes scenic highlights like trails along the rim of the Kootenay River gorge, and though a surreal forest fire burn area on Mitchell Ridge above Nipika Mountain Resort–which underwent a prescribed burn last year as a measure of protection against the destructive Mountain Pine Beetle ravaging the area’s forests. A day like no other during the TransRockies and a perfect set-up for the three massive days to follow.