TransRockies Stage 5: Kona storms back into the lead.
After a day of riding over and through the foothills of the Rockies to the west of Calgary, riders headed back into the heart of the mountains on Stage 5. In doing so, they left the mud and meadows of the cattle ranch lands behind entered the high peaks and spectacular valleys of Kananaskis Country.
54km, 1500m climbing/1300m descending
Team Rocky Mountain tails Team Kona somewhere near the gates of Heaven.
The 54km route starting at Anchor D Ranch included no major passes or high-altitude rides but a relentless up and down profile and endless singletrack added up to another gruelling day in the Rockies for the over 200 riders still moving toward the finish line in the TransRockies.
After losing 43 minutes and the overall leaders jerseys the day before, Kris Sneddon and Barry Wicks of Team Kona came out determined to set a shattering pace and overcome their 9 minute deficit to the first-placed Rocky Mountain Factory team of Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarski. From the gun, Team Kona pushed the pace and was able to drop the rest of the field early. With a relentless performance, free of mechanical-problems, they were able to push their final gap over Rocky Mountain to almost 20 minutes by the end of the race which they finished in just a few second over 3 hours and 23 minutes, grabbing the leaders jerseys back and establishing a solid 11-minute overall lead with two stages left to go.
Behind them, the Honey Stinger duo of Nate Bird and Dax Massey finally shook off the mechanical woes that have plagued them since their race started with an inauspicious smashed wheel on Stage 1. With a clean run, they were able to chase the Rocky Mountain boys all the way to the finish line for a strong 3rd place finish which moved them up into 5th overall on GC. With 4th on the day Team Timex/Sugoi held onto the last overall podium spot. These two teams look set to battle the 4th placed Belgian Granville/Trustteam for the last podium spot all the way to the finish line in Canmore.
After surviving an early three-way challenge, the 2009 Champion CzechMasters (Milan Spolc/Martin Horak) took a stranglehold on the 80+ men’s division with four straight stage wins. Their closest competition Team Mule Bar/Abergavenny Cycling have been unable to close the gap as one half of the team Peter Turnbull has been struggling for two stages with stomach problems that have left him unable to eat. He’s bravely fighting to the finish line each day with partner George Rose but is unable to ride at full speed and close the gap to the Czechs.
It’s testament to the international flavour of the TransRockies that, after five days, the six sets of leaders jerseys have so far been held by riders from no fewer than six countries (Canada, USA, Brazil, Czech Republic, England, Wales).
One of the truths of the TransRockies is that there are two different race experiences, one for the elite riders and one for the recreational riders who can sometimes be out on course for twice as long as the elites. By the time most of the recreational athletes reach the finish line, they top finishers are showered, massaged and changed, and are often grabbing a recovery nap before dinner.
The summer weather pattern of the mountains normally brings any precipitation for the day during the afternoon when the heat builds and storm clouds bloom. Stage 5 was a case in point as all the teams who managed to finish in 5 hours or less rode the stage under dry skies while teams who were out longer than five hours were caught out in a storm which rolled fierce black clouds down the valley. Storms like this are not unusual in summer and the TransRockies team kicked into gear making gallons of hot chocolate and tea and putting up extra tarps and tents to provide a dry place for the riders as they came across the finish line.
Even through the clouds, the riders can see and feel the finishline coming ever nearer with just two more stages left until they roll down Main Street in Canmore to be greeted by friends, family and well wishers celebrating their successful completion of an epic 2010 TransRockies.
Little Elbow Campground-Rafter Six Ranch
72km, 2250m climbing/2550m descending
Stage 6 is certain to be the Queen stage of 2010. Not only does it cover the greatest distance but it also includes more climbing that any other day of the event. Starting deep in the jaw-dropping Elbow River Valley ringed by impressive mountains like the Forgetmenot Ridge, Mount Remus and Powderface Ridge which they’ll climb the to start the day reaching an elevation of over 2000m before descending along steep singletrack to start the climb of Jumpingpound Ridge.
The 2200m top of Jumpingpound Ridge is always epic whether it buries the riders in snow and hail or whether it envelops them in blue skies and a canopy of imposing peaks. Another fast, challenging technical descent take riders to Cox Hill, for a ride they’ll never forget along an wide-open ridge before descending 700 vertical metres on one of the greatest trails in the Rockies.
There are still 30km to ride to the finish including the Lusk Creek descent and a ride around the glacial aquamarine Barrier Lake before they reach the welcoming surroundings of Rafter Six Ranch for the final overnight stop of 2010.