By Steve Medcroft
The TransRockies stage race got underway in British Columbia on Sunday. 700 pro and amateur starters, paired in teams, began the weeklong race across Canada’s portion of the Rocky Mountains with a short-by-race-standards forty-kilometer singletrack prologue. The opener featured 1,150 meters of climbing from Fernie and Sparwood, B.C. Between then and next Sunday, riders cover 600 kilometers and 12,000 meters of rural mountain terrain featuring, according to race organizers, “grueling climbs, technical singletrack and deep un-bridged river crossings.”
In the prologue, the team of Andreas Hestler and 2004 Canadian national espoir XC champ Marty Lazarski (Rocky Mountain) rose up to their billing as race favorites in the men’s division with a 9:17 win over fellow Canadians Troy Misseghers and Neil Grover (Race Face Mountain Men). "We're really happy with the way the day went," Hestler said at the finish. "Though it's only day one and there's nothing even remotely decided yet, having a nine-minute cushion is way more than we hoped for and gives us a tactical advantage for the moment."
Normally, tactical advantage means to sit back and let someone else wear themselves out trying to make up the time. But in Stage 2, the Rocky Mountain team found themselves with another chance to open the gap. In the 123 kilometer, 2100 meter route between Sparwood and Elkford, they Rocky Mountain and Race Face Mountain Men rode off the front of the race together until one of the Mountain Men flatted and the pair had to hold back. The pair chased Rocky Mountain to get back into contention but lost an additional six minutes in the overall.
The race is far from over though. On Friday alone, in the Stage from Sandy McNabb Campground to Bragg Cree, racers have to deal with 110 kilometers (44 of them technical singletrack) and 2300 meters of climbing.
There’s also more to the race than just the pro men’s event. Different teams have held the lead at the end of each of the first two days in both the women’s and the mixed-gender categories. In the 100+ Age Open category, Keith Bontrager (yes, that Bontrager) and British MTB journalist Steve Worland are sitting second behind Canadians Lindsay Gauld and Don Sissons (Olympia Prairie Boys). Bontrager is writing a daily diary from the event. You can read it here.
And the race is full of drama beyond just the unbelievable vista’s and hard-core racing. In one scary and dramatic moment on Monday, Samantha Phillips of Team Bike Shop/Bicycle Café crashed on the descent down Harley Pass in Stage 2. She opened a deep gash and cut major ligaments in her knee. Phillips’ teammate, Tom Zidek, piggybacked her up the next hill where she was evacuated by helicopter. He then strapped her bike to his back and rode it to the finish; including down the day's entire technical descent.
Results, race reports and pictures: