Panorama to Invermere: 33km/1302m climbing

The first stage of the TransRockies Challenge has traditionally been a shorter prologue stage to allow riders to work their way into the race before the route takes them deep into the wilderness of the Kootenay Rockies. Starting from Panorama for the first time in event history, the riders faced a short 33km course which opened up with a 1.6km start loop through the village past the crowds of friends, family and well-wishers before rolling straight into a gruelling 1200 vertical metre climb including a significant hike-a-bike to the summit of Taynton Pass.

The potential bottlenecks made a ripping fast start a tactical must for teams with podium ambitions. Last year’s second-place finisher Tim Heemskerk of United Cycles has teamed up with longtime National Team member Roddi Lega with the single goal of taking the top podium spot this year. They went to the front early sending a message to all the other teams with a furious pace up the first climb.

Many teams were shed in the process including the defending champion Andreas Hestler and his partner Kevin Calhoun (Rocky Mountain Haywood) who had to back off the early pace when Calhoun found that his legs hadn’t bounced back from the efforts made in a podium finish the BC Bike Race stage race earlier this summer.

The toll of doing multiple mountain bike stage events in one season was a theme of the day: on the women’s side, pre-race favourites Marg Fedyna and Nikki Kassell (Team Raven), didn’t even make it to the start line when Fedyna fell ill after a TransAlp Challenge ride which saw them win five out of eight stages. Ironically, the women’s team which filled the gap was an ad-hoc assembly of former La Ruta des los Conquistadores champion Hillary Harrison (Giant Bicycles) and Sue Haywood of Trek who stepped in as a late replacement for Harrison’s original partner who broke his clavicle in training.

On the men’s side, Matt Green of Rocky Mountain EASports who finished fourth last year was forced to find a new partner at the last minute as Stefan Widmer, his partner from last year fractured his fibula in a crash at mountain bike nationals . . . not an gentle sport, this mountain biking.

Luckily for Green, fellow Rocky Mountain young gun Matt Hadley was ready to step in and they charged to a third place finish today just twenty seconds behind Ivan Amador and Federico Ramirez of Team La Ruta des los Conquistadores. Team United Cycles kept the hammer down all day to finish in a blazing time of 2:12:52, nearly four minutes ahead of the Costa Ricans.

The women had the closest finish of the day with Haywood and Harrison finishing only 20 seconds ahead of Team Canwi Girls, Jenny Hillman and Jo Turnbull with the British duo of Fi Spotswood and Meggie Bichard (Team Minx/Extreme Endurance) only another minute behind. In the mixed category, Wendy Simms (Team Kona) and her partner Normon Thibeault (Frontrunners) send a loud message to the rest of the field with a dominant 25 minute win in stage 1. Their finishing time of 2:27:34 was actually good enough for 10th overall.

day-1-awards-001.jpgAfter a short warmup stage on Day 1, the TransRockies kicks off in earnest on Day 2 with a
60km stage which takes the riders from Invermere to beautiful Nipika Mountain Resort deep in the Rockies. With 30km of trail including some very raw sections with debris fields and tight trees and roots, Stage 2 will be a classic TransRockies smorgasbord of singletrack, suffering and scenery.