On Sunday, August 9, 450 riders from 22 countries were set to kick off racing the 2009 TransRockies at the start line in Panorama Mountain Resort high in the mountains of British Columbia. The eighth edition of the mountain bike stage race features seven stages including six point-to-point rides along the spine of the Rockies and a time trial.
When they roll across the finish line in Fernie the following Saturday, they will have earned their finishers' medals with 532km of riding and over 14,000 metres of climbing.
This year's route is similar to last year with a number of modifications to improve the riding and to keep the route fresh for repeat competitors. Long stages, unpredictable mountain weather, deep rivers to be forded and majestic mountain vistas are the mainstays of the TransRockies, which crosses the Continental Divide.
It will be the second year for a time trial stage, but the first year that organizers offer a three day solo TR3 category to the event. The new, shorter event is in response to popular demand from riders who've been asking for a solo category for years. It takes place simultaneously with the first three days of the TransRockies and is intended to be both a stepping stone for riders building toward the full seven-day race and as an epic alternative for vets and elite riders.
By maintaining the integrity of the team format for the seven-day race, the TransRockies stays true to the original vision of a race.
Despite the world economy and the difficulties which have caused the cancellation or modification of many events, the TransRockies is moving forward with 450 riders from over 20 countries scheduled to participate. They'll spend each night in a travelling village of tents and RVs set up by the organizers, where they are fed and supported by dozens of staff and volunteers who do everything from cooking, to setting up tents, to fixing bikes.
Most of the riders who roll up to the start line of the TransRockies have the simple goals of completing the event and enjoying their epic ride through the Rockies. Every year, though, there's a group of elite athletes who arrive at the TransRockies with clear competitive goals and a desire to go for a share of the CAN$20,000 final prize purse, daily medals and leaders' jerseys.
In the Open Men's category, Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarsky of the Rocky Mountain Bicycles Factory Team are back and looking to step a little further up the podium after a third place overall finish last year. Lazarsky is a past champion from 2005 and is hungry for another win at the TransRockies.
In the Open Mixed category, Mical Dyck and her partner Jeff Nielson are looking for redemption after illness cut their 2008 TransRockies short. Since then, they have gone on to win the Mixed category at the BC Bike Race and Dyck finished on the podium at the Canadian National Championships.
The inaugural TR3 is set for some strong competition as past TransRockies Champion and National Team rider Rodi Lega has come out of retirement to take on the TR3. He'll be challenged by Colin Kerr, solo champion at the BC Bike Race and Cal Zaryski who is a medalist at the Xterra World Championships.
At a very young age, Ryan Correy has already established a track record of amazing success and accomplishments in endurance cycling as the youngest-ever Canadian finisher at the Race Across America (RAAM) and as the World record holder for riding from Alaska to Argentina. After these rides, the TR might seem like a quick warm-up but the Rockies have a way of those who don't respect the challenge. One amazing athlete who is coming to take on the TR for the first time is "The Ultramarathonman" Dean Karnazes, who is adding a bike epic to the incredible list of running marathons and ultras in which he has excelled.