Trans Rockies was big, beautiful and we won the open mixed category. We showed up peaked, super fit, healthy and fresh - and it was hard. 564 km and 10,173m of climbing. We finished the seven stages in 32:54 which was good enough for 11th overall out of the 230 teams that started. Six stage wins and one third place on stage six.
Huge respect goes out to every athlete who finished the event with their team mate. A few teams clocked over 60 hours - which is a whole lot of chammy time in a week. The vibe from every racer collecting a finisher medal and t-shirt was euphoric.
Stage One Fernie to Sparwood 61km, 1225m. This was the most technical stage with lots of steep rooty single-track. 230 teams started, so the pack was huge. We were staged in about the middle and I was super nervous about the start. The first 15km were on a mix of flat and rolling paved, dirt and gravel road. 460 mountain bikers in a pack is a sketchy recipe... and it turned out to be very fast and sketchy. Dave worked the pack like a charm and somehow through all the wheel bumping and getting pushed around by big guys I managed to stay on his wheel as he worked up the field. At the 10 km mark was a 180 degree turn where the road narrowed and went uphill. Dave made it through fine but I got caught in a big crunch up and lost his wheel for a few moments. I worked really hard to stay upright and even rode over someones back wheel, managing to skip through unscathed and fight back up to Daves wheel. From there we were pretty much home free as it headed uphill and the field began to string out nicely. We had good position by the time we hit the single-track and the spectators had started to shout out "first place woman" at me - a sound which was very nice to hear.
The rest of the stage was super fun single-track with the occasional tremendous view when we came out of the trees. We hammered it out without seeing another mixed team and were jubilant to finish first and be the first mixed team to wear the open mixed leaders jersey. Second place team X-fusion came in just over 6 minutes later then Cannondale/LandRover 3rd at 8 mins and Crystal Hotels 4th at 10 mins. The competition was deep. We were impressed and immediately realized we would not be able to sit up and keep this lead going. Wake up call!! Here we are in purple. Green is masters, pink of course open women, blue is mixed masters, orange is 100+ masters and yellow open men. The 100+ masters winning team was fast and we yo-yoed with them the entire week.
Stage 2 Sparwood to Blairmore 77km, 2140m. We got staged at the front of the field being the leaders. We didn't know about this and were dorking around mid-pack before the start when the announcers shouted out asking where we were and pulled us up to the front - how cool!! There was a bottleneck only about 2km off the startline today and a front line stage gave us a huge, huge advantage. We led from start to finish. Lots more dirt road and lots more climbing today. Dave worked super duper hard and rode like a king today doing everything he could to make my ride easier. I rode light and fast - what a treat! Team X-fusion crossed about 8 mins behind and Cannondale/LandRover were right behind them.
Stage 3 Blairmore to Elkford 109km, 2612m. This was the longest stage with the most climbing - a prime opportunity for us to put a big pad on our GC lead. With lots of dirt road off the start line our front line staging was not such an advantage today. A few kms off the start team X-Fusion passed us. This was the first time we had a mixed team in front of us. They attacked really hard and we watched them ride off. We stayed smooth and slowly reeled them back in. Then the road turned super rough and crossed a creek. Lou the girl on X-Fusion was about 20m in front of me and got cut off by a media motorbike and crashed right by the river. Being the super nice gal that I am I rode past her fast and upped the pace for a few km. When Dave caught up to me he told me I was going crazy and should slow down!!! So we slowed and settled into our go-fast-all-day pace. The course led over to Elkford on a long gradual climb. Super nice views. We could see a long way back and no X-Fusion in sight. One mens team were slowly reeling us in but we were relaxed and were not worried about them until they passed and tucked right in behind them out of sight were Lou and Eric of X-Fusion. Crap! They were amped and flew passed us and were gone from sight quickly as we had to stop for a minor mechanical which took us about 5 minutes to fix. Once back on the bikes we wound it up into chase mode. Next up was a big wide open climb up RaceHorse pass and we got a good visual on exactly how far ahead of us they were. They went over the top of RaceHorse pass about 5 minutes ahead of us and we were able to hammer down the descent and catch them. My bike and tires worked like a dream all week and I was descending fast. From that point on we pinned it for the next 58 km to keep the lead to the finish.
The last 9km of stage 3 were on some of the most fun trails I have ridden and we ripped them. They followed the rim of a canyon for a while. It was incredibly beautiful and we had worked so hard for the win that day. We were flowing along the trail together, almost riding like one and I got choked up over the beauty, the teamwork and the effort - it was a moving moment. Right then we passed a photographer near a huge view point and he took a picture of me. I shouted out I'd love a copy of it and low and behold it ended up on CyclingNews the next day. Here it is.
We finished out the stage with a 32 minute lead on the X-Fusion team who ran into a few of their own mechanical problems. Cannondale/LandRover pulled up to 2nd for the stage 21 minutes behind us.
Stage 4 Elkford to Whiteswan Lake 94.5km, 1368m.We were not real sparky today. We did lead from start to finish but had our closest one yet crossing only 4 minutes ahead of a hard charging Cannondale/LandRover team of Sam Koerber and Trish Stevenson. The views dropping down into Whiteswan lake were knock-your-socks-off. The types of huge vistas I'd hoped to get a glimpse of when I signed up for the race. At one point I slowed and sat up for a while so I could look at the view. It was just too good to miss. We were hooting and hollering shouting look at this, look at that, wow...
Enuf for now. I'll write up stage 5-7 later. Stage six was the doozy for us where we came in 3rd.