Words by Barry Wicks / Photos by John Gibson / Video by Ben Saheb
"Snacks!" I holler at Zoe as we top out at the high point for day seven of the TransRockies Classic. I root around in my fanny pack and find a single smashed up croissant slathered in blueberry jelly from the breakfast buffet a few days earlier. It tastes delicious. As I ram the buttery delight into my face and try to consume some of the tepid electrolyte drink in my water bottle, I take a moment to look around and appreciate the scenery surrounding us. As the mosquitoes zero in on our location, we quickly decide to eat and run, the choice of choking down our mouthfuls on the descent preferential to being eaten alive.
We've spent the last six days riding across massive landscapes, traversing two different mountain chains from the Panorama resort to Fernie, BC. It has been a surreal experience in many ways. I've raced the TransRockies and SingleTrack 6 many times in the past, but this one is different, and better. I've allowed myself to take my eye off the shiny medal waiting at the finish, and instead we have been taking our time, staying on the good side of hard in terms of riding effort. Stopping for coffee on the neutral stages, snacking on massive amounts of watermelon and chips at the aid stations, and trading pulls with all sorts of people as we make our way across the Rocky Mountains.
One of my favorite parts of doing these multi day, remote camp based races is the family vibe that quickly develops between all the athletes. By the end of the week, strong friendships have been built, and plans laid for meeting up again whenever paths will cross. Each day after the race, Zoe and I interviewed people about their experiences during the race, and what they were feeling. These are excerpts of those interviews.
Kate and Willy, Open Mixed Overall Winners: "Kate: We decided to bugger off from the start because I always tend to get stuck in the crowd and that is stressful. We got over the climb pretty good, but then the descent hit.
Willy: Running a seat dropper is an unnatural feeling to me, but we had them on for this race. After feeling like I was squatting over the crapper for 45 minutes, I clipped a pedal on the side hill section and went tumbling down the hill. Both my legs cramped when I stood up and I could barely make it back up to the trail.
Kate: After that, we just tried to keep it rolling smoothly. I wasn't feeling it on the punchy up and down stuff on the second timed section, but Willy is good at that stuff, so we made a good team today. Once we were through that bit, we just kept on the gas and got to the finish."
Lindsay Ford, Second Overall in the Open Women's Solo category:
"Lindsay: My favourite part of the day was riding past Tim Hortons during the neutral roll out this morning and seeing all the bikes lined up out front. I bet most of them were not from Canada.
The climb up over the pass was great. When the intention of the ride is to traverse from a specific place to another, route possibilities expand. I'd never think to go ride what we did today on a weekend, but doing it as part of the race experience was awesome.
I got a new bike and thought I'd sign up for a seven day stage race. I haven't really raced very much, but I really love riding my bike and it seemed this would be a good way to do a lot of that."
Troy Nixon, TR3 Second Overall Open Men:
"Troy: I turn 50 this year, and was able to convince my wife I should do the race as part of my 50th birthday present to myself. The three day version gave me the ability to sneak away for a few days of riding amazing trails, and still take the family out to the lake this week.
The racing in our group was super tight. I was third on days one and two. I was about 53 seconds back from the guy in front of me, and was able to chase him down today on the trails and put enough time on him to finish up second overall.
I am the president of the Fernie Mountain Bike Club, and serve on the Fernie City Council as an elected offical as well. My boss, the Mayor of Fernie, was super supportive of me doing the race. When I told her I was planning to do it for my birthday this year she was fully on board. In Fernie, we are all about team work."
Cedric Clyburn, Solo Open Mens third overall:
"Cedric: This is probably the greatest thing I've ever done in my life. I used to not be very into Canada for some reason, but man, after being here, I really like it. My mom is from France, so we usually go there every summer. She and my sister flew up here and met us and are supporting us in the race. I got on the podium on day two and dedicated it to her because I think she is amazing. I've been having an awesome time riding with everyone, meeting tons of people out on the trail, and having great conversations about all kinds of things. I talked to a guy for like 15 minutes today and now I'm totally rethinking my major for next year."
Toru Watanabe from Kanagawa, Japan and Yuzo Kawai from Sendai, Japan, met via faceook five months ago when Toru asked Yuzo if he would come to Canada and race TransRockies with him. They decided to team up after talking for five minutes, but only met each other in person six days before the start of the race. Toru moved to Canada after traveling to Vancouver on a working vacation and trying mountain biking on Vancouver's North Shore for the first time in 2002. He went back to Japan, bought a mountain bike, and found a way to move his company over to Calgary so he could ride his bike more. Yozo has been riding and racing XC mountain bikes for a long time. He says in Japan, there are many trails, but they are all secret and you have to be taken by the locals who built them. Otherwise, it is very hard to find places to ride. Toru and Yuzo have made an excellent team all week, with Toru leading the way on the downhills and Yuzo doing all the work on the hills and flats and they say that they are very complimentary riders. They are excited for the remaining stages and very excited for the after party in Fernie were a dance party is alleged to be planned.
Magda Mihura, an Argentinian currently living is Sao Paulo, Brazil, signed up for the TransRockies only ten days before the start. She arrived early to visit Banff, then hitched a ride with some of the race crew down to the start line in Panorama.
“Magda: I did the Cape Epic race earlier this year with a friend from Brazil. It was pretty fun, so I decided to do some more traveling to ride my bike. I did a small tour type of trip to Guatemala, but then I saw TransRockies and thought if there were something like 200 people there, I was sure to find some people to ride with.
I’ve never traveled by myself before, so flying up here and doing the race alone was kind of scary. It has been an amazing week though. Everyone is so friendly and hanging out and talking all the time and I feel very welcome. I am happy I came here.
Back home I am just a mom type of person, and some people find it strange that I go do this kind of stuff, but to me it feels very good to do things that maybe not a lot of mom type people would do.”
Zoe Roy, Open Mixed Teams second overall:
"Zoe: It is pretty amazing what the human body can do. Before this race, any one of these days would have totally cratered me, but there is something about doing back to back days that tricks your mind into keeping going. It's pretty great to experience that.
My favourite part of the week was that we started way over there, and finished here, and we rode our bikes the entire way. It feels like no time at all and also an eternity has passed all at the same time.
It's going to be strange to not have to get up and ride my bike tomorrow. I feel like there will be a bit of a depression in the next few days as the body and mind readjust back into the real world and I have to think about more than just riding my bike and having snacks all day.
I was so impressed with everyone out there doing the race. It was a very hard physical and mental challenge, and everyone performed so well. It was very cool to watch that process for everyone."
TransRockies Classic goes on hiatus for a year in 2020, but Singletrack 6 is on the docket and is sure to be an amazing single track experience for anyone looking to spend some quality time out in the woods getting rad on their bikes and winning at life. Registration is open over at Singletrack6.com See you on the trails!
Full results are here