Thursday, August 16, 2007

Trans-Rockies 2007

I don't want to bore anyone with a long-winded detailed report from this year's Trans-rockies, but there were a few memorable moments I would like to share.
Eric and I flew direct from San Francisco to Calgary this year and this happened to be the one time on the way to a race we did not receive our bikes. To make a long story short we spent at least 5 hours on the phone to United Airlines call-centers in India and Manilla the day before the race. Somehow between San Fran and Calgary our bikes were lost in space and no one could tell us where they were. We got lied to, hung up on, and were really frustrated by "baggage supervisors" before finally receiving our bike boxes at 8:50 pm the evening before the race started. We were staying with Drew (announcer) and his wife Joanne in Invermere and they offered to loan us their bike so at least we had a backup in case the bikes had not shown up. Eric and I were both really happy when they did show up though, because Joanne's bike was way too big for me, and Drew's bike was more of a freeride bike and too small for Eric...

The first day was fairly short, but had a brutal 50 minute very steep hike-a-bike section which was pretty crowded. We ended up in 3rd place behind Wendy Simms and her husband Norm and a Swiss team we called "the towers". Trans-alps and Cape-Epic have banned towing for safety reasons, but it is still allowed at the Trans-rockies. In my opinion towing is lame, ridiculous, embarrassing, and should not be a part of mountain biking. The stronger team mate has either a pvc pipe with a bungee cord or a dogleash attached to his/her bike and the weaker partner has a hook on the handlebars so that they can easily "hook-up" or unhook depending on the terrain. Many of the mixed teams were using this method, which made it very satisfying to pass and beat them. Wendy and Norm and Eric and I were the only teams in the top 5 not using the towing system.

The second day from Invermere to Nipika Resort was the first day we beat "the towers". We caught them and were riding together in a group with 2 men's teams on the flat road when we hit some small hills a few kilometers before the finish. On the climbs we dropped the men's teams and the towers and ended up beating them by about a minute. Wendy and Norm won again (as they did every day).

Nipika is a really nice wilderness resort owned and operated by a couple from Invermere. The man, Loyd was cooking hamburgers and brats at the finish line which was very welcome, because the food served at breakfast and dinner was quite lacking this year (and that's all I'm going to say about that..) We actually spent 2 nights in Nipika this year because the course had to be re-routed due to forest fires in the area. One memorable event in the evening at the award ceremony was an auction to raise money for Al- the course maker- and his family. Al's 1-year-old daughter has a very rare aggressive form of cancer and the family has had to re-locate to Calgary so she can receive treatments. Al and his family had no idea what was coming. Nipika resort had donated 2 vacation packages and there was a free entry for next year's Transrockies. A helicopter ride across the rockies with dinner at a nice restaurant for 4 people was auctioned off and then Chester and Heinie were generous enough to give a free team entry to the transalps with airfare and accommodations. 20,000 dollars were raised for Al's family, pretty incredible!!

The fourth day went from Nipika to White Swan Lake and in this stage we ended up 3rd again.This time beat by (Wendy and Norm off course) the Silver-towers from Banff. They were super-efficient with the dogleash and this day had a lot of gravel roads which made towing efficient and speedy. We were still in 2nd place in the GC. That night I was so tired I almost missed the award-ceremony, but I was very glad I went. I am one of only 3 participants that have done all 6 years at the TR and this evening we were each presented with a huge Campagnolo corkscrew ingraved with our names and Transrockies 2002-2007. 4 people, including Eric, have raced 5 years and they received a belt buckle.

Day 5 went to Elkford. We beat the silver-towers by only 11 seconds. They were both very good descenders and almost caught us at the end. In Elkford we were able to go out for pizza, a nice change from the race food....

The 6th stage was the longest day. It was 116 km with 2300 meters of climbing. It had 2 long, steep technical climbs and ended with a quite annoying down-hill. The trail was overgrown with bushes that slapped your face and made it hard to see. It was also really rutted and had several waterbars across. The waterbars proved to be the most dangerous obstacle and 4 people had to be helicoptered out during the race after crashing hard. We got 38 more seconds on the silver-towers. The swiss towers had now lost about 20 minutes.

The last day which ended in Fernie was a very short one. With only 930 meters of vertical climbing in 48 kilometers we knew it was going to be a fast start. Since short races are not my forte Eric lined up early while I went for a 20 minute warm-up on the road. The race started out like a total sprint. I was hyperventilating, legs burning, anaerobic for the first hour. FINALLY, after the check point at 30 km we hit a 150 vertical meter hill and we were able to drop 2 fast teams. We were now right behind the swiss towers... We had 8 minutes on the silvertowers in the GC and I was hoping they wouldn't be able to make up that much time. Right when we hit the single-track with 6 km to go my rear-derailleur was pulled into my spokes and my wheel locked up. In a panic I yelled for Eric and he turned around to see what was wrong. I had to run up the trail lifting my bike since the wheel wouldn't turn, until we could find a spot to try to repair the damage. Eric had to take the wheel off to get the chain loose and bend the rear-derailleur out from the spokes. I rode as hard as I could to the finish, shifting only my front, hoping that we hadn't lost our place. We ended up 2nd with only about 2 minutes to spare!!

Great race with an awesome partner. Eric was superstrong after training-camp trans-alps and we had a really fun time, feeling good and strong for the most part with only a few minor spills and not one single flat tire this year.

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