Invermere to Nipika Mountain Resort
After a late-afternoon windstorm which blew through Invermere on Sunday, flipping tents and wreaking havoc in the rider village, conditions settled down for the evening and riders were treated to perfect cool mountain night to rest up for the second day of the TransRockies Challenge.
Leaving Invermere in a rolling closure provided by the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police, riders were launched into race mode after the first 3 neutralized km and the attacks came fast and furious as the top teams tested each other to see who had recovered after the first day’s effort. Riders rode uphill for the next 20km climbing to the top of Bear Creek, first via logging road, then on some steep and technical jeep trails. The majority of the last 40km was raced on singletrack, varying from raw and precarious trails down from Bear Creek into the Kootenay River Valley, finishing on the buffed and perfect trails of Nipika Mountain Resort.
Day 1’s winners Roddi Legga and Tim Heemskerk or United Cycles looked to do some more damage to their rivals and launched an early attack which again shed all but the top group of teams. As they ground to the top, they managed to escape from the rest of the field and kept the pressure on, surviving a late race scare when Legga had a slow leak which wouldn’t reseal. He ended up riding the last 5 km on a flat until they crossed the finish in 3:08:46 ahead of second place by 5 ½ minutes. Their overall lead in GC is roughly 10 minutes and they’re starting to establish the type of gap necessary to carry through the inevitable mechanicals which they had today and which are always a part of the TransRockies epic.
Behind them Team Rocky Mountain EA Sports and Team La Ruta were waging a UFC style battle for second. While Team La Ruta established a lead over the climb, the two Matts—Green and Hadley—of Team Rocky Mountain EA Sports used their superior downhill skills to catch them by the bottom of the Bear Creek descent. After Green broke his chain, the battle seemed to be over but La Ruta took a wrong turn and went off course for roughly five minutes allowing Green and Hadley to grab second place on the day in 3:14:16, the Ticos crossed the line in 3:17:50 and are now just over 3 minutes adrift of second place on GC.
The most competitive racing so far has been in the Open Women’s category with the top three teams coming in less than two minutes apart during stage 1 and battling closely again in stage 2. By the end, though Sue Haywood and Hillary Harrison of Team Giant/Trek Bicycles applied the pressure as Harrison began to felt better and they surged to a three minute gap by the time they crossed the line in 4:11:03. Behind them the Team Canwi Girls (Jenny Hillman/Jo Turnbull) stayed close and the British duo of Fi Spotswood and Meggie Bichard came in shortly after to keep the three-way battle alive.
One category which shows no sign of being competitive is the Open Mixed category in which the pair of Wendy Simms , one of Canada’s premiere women’s mountain bikers and her partner Norm Thibault, both based in beautiful Nanaimo, British Columbia, have put on a clinic with consecutive crushing wins and now lead the GC by over 32 minutes. .
As the sun set in idyllic Nipika Mountain Resort, all the riders bar a couple of injuries are through the first day nerves and settling into the eat, rest and ride rhythm of a stage race. With no cellphone coverage and very limited access to the outside world for the majority of the route, the hundreds of motivated type-A personalities who choose to take on this type of event are relearning how to just kick back and conserve energy for the next day’s riding, which in this case covers as many KM as the first two days combined . . .