TransRockies Challenge wrap-up

By Steve Medcroft The seven-day epic mountain-bike race, the TransRockies Challenge, wrapped up...

By Steve Medcroft

The seven-day epic mountain-bike race, the TransRockies Challenge, wrapped up Saturday in Canmore, Alberta. After more than 600 kilometers of racing, Rocky Mountain Business Objects teammates Andreas Hestler and Marty Lazarski won six of the seven stages to claim the overall win in the open category.

“I have ridden this race three times now and it is a different experience every time,” said Hestler after the finish. “This is honestly the best, most fun thing I have ever done on a bike. Endless singletrack, great people and the experience of working with a partner are so different from regular one-day racing. Right now, I am not sure if I can commit to the suffering needed to come back and try for a third win, but I’ll be back whether I am riding a course motorbike or just supporting other riders. This race rocks.”

Second-time participant Keith Bontrager agrees that the race is an ideal challenge and thinks serious cross-country endurance pros should give it a shot. “Pros from North America and Europe should adopt this race as part of their calendar,” he wrote in the diary he contributed daily to CyclingNews during the race. “Ten elite-level pro teams, men and women, duking it out in a situation that is as wide open as this would be a great race… They've got the support and resources to do it as long as there are no big scheduling conflicts, and there is enough prize money at the end to make the payday worth their effort if they are successful.”

But TransRockies is not purely a professional racers' opportunity to score a decent purse. Most of the participants were there for personal challenge and for the rewards that epic mountain-bike rides can give all of us: companionship of other riders, the pleasure of pushing the body to and beyond its limits and the chance to be in the spectacular outdoors.

In the case of one team though, the rewards go even further than that. British Columbian father and son team Eric and James Crowe finished sixth in the open category.

”We won an entry from Race Face,” explained Eric by telephone two days after the event. “We submitted a video and people from the cycling community voted online for who they wanted to win the trip. Race Face paid our fees, provided transportation and fitted our bikes with a bunch of components; the even sent a mechanic on the trip with us”

Nineteen year old James was Canadian Junior Champion at 15 and forty-five year old Eric is a strong masters expert racer - both have B.C. Cup Championships to their credit - but the 2005 TransRockies was the first time father and son had raced together. “I’ve been racing since 85 - doing BC races and one world cup,” says the elder Crowe. “My son was doing races when he was nine years old.”

One dynamic to TransRockies racing is the team concept; the two riders must stay within two minutes of each other throughout the entire race or be penalized. Which usually means the stronger rider at the moment is helping the weaker rider. In the beginning of the race, Eric seemed better prepared. “That race is so unique in that it’s seven long days,” he says. “You can’t duplicate that in training. I made sure we put some long four to five hour rides on weekends and backed them up with intense rides during the week. But my son had a lot of things going at the time; graduation (high-school), jobs, girlfriends and so on – he didn’t get as much riding as he could have and only had a month of intense training in before the race.”

Eric carried his concern into the opening of the race. “For the first three days, he held on for dear life. After that, I faded and he got stronger. He has youth on his side, which was what we needed after that.”

Eric says he and his son worked well together throughout the tough seven days race. “I think we communicated well. Every once in a while he’d say ‘come on come on’ and I’d have to say ‘shut up’ - but we really were good together.”

The only true challenge for the Crowes, besides the grueling physical work of the race itself of course, was the occasional mechanical. “We had breakdowns - spokes, shocks, components - but we were pretty efficient about putting things back together. And my son was great; we were in a long section where it was important to stay in the pack and use the draft and I broke a spoke. We had to stop and wind it up. He gave me his bike, would the spoke himself, then caught us both back onto the group.”

So what was the highlight of the race for Eric? “Finishing. I busted my chain two kilometers from the finish. The motorcycle guy told us we were only two kilometers out and it was mostly downhill so I held on to James’ Camelback and rode chainless. It was the easiest two kilometers I’ve ever done.”

Asked if he thought he and James would repeat the race next year, Eric said, “My son’s off to school so it’s out. But it’s a totally awesome event, and I’d like to do it again.”

Results, race reports and photos:

    Day 1 - August 7: Fernie - Sparwood
    Day 2 - August 8: Sparwood - Elkford
    Day 3 - August 9: Elkford - Etherington
    Day 4 - August 10: Etherington - Sandy McNabb
    Day 5 - August 11: Sandy McNabb - Bragg Creek
    Day 6 - August 12: Bragg Creek - Rafter Six Resort
    Day 7 - August 13: Rafter Six Resort - Canmore

Keith Bontrager's diaries

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