TransRockies Stage 5 Race Report

Heavy Weather Keeps Racers at the Limit

Whiteswan Lake – Elkford
87.5km/ 2254m climbing/ 2115m descending

After four straight years with almost unbroken sunshine, it was inevitable that the Rocky Mountains would demand a little payback from the TransRockies. The riders of the 2009 have been hit with three straight days of unseasonably cold and wet weather that has added an extra level of epic effort to each long day in the mountains.

On Stage 5, the TransRockies field rolled out of Whiteswan Lake deep in the wilderness with the mountain town of Elkford in their sights. As they have since the first year of the TransRockies, one of the friendliest and most enthusiastic groups of locals anywhere would welcome them with hot showers, dry clothes and ample snacks to recharge. With the basics of life like high-speed internet and cell phone reception, riders were anxious to get back in touch with family and share stories of the 2009 race so far.

With tough conditions on the menu and two major passes to cross, the leading groups of riders stayed together early on in the 87.5km stage sharing the work before splits began to appear as tired legs needed to take a rest. As they have since the start, Marty Lazarski and Stefan Widmer from Rocky Mountain bikes were again the strongest as they rode away from the group and rolling into Elkford solo. Testament to the tough conditions was that fact that their finishing time of 4:36:07 was just 8 minutes faster than the day before despite a route 20km shorter.

In the Open Women’s division, the VeloBella/Vanderkitten duo of Erika Krumpelman and Shannon Holden took advantage of the burly conditions to grab their second stage win of 2009 with a 13 minute gap over Magi and Kate Scallion of Team Nipika who retain their overall first place position with two days to go.

A number of overseas teams are battling for podium spots despite the tough and complete foreign conditions. Team Cox (Hans-Tore Steen and his partner Gisele Langslet) from Norway have a 23-minute lead in the 100+ Category, while the Czech Republic Czechmasters, who again finshed second overall on the stage, have nearly an hour on their closest competitors, Team Breck Epic. The Flemish Belgian contingent from Team Detrog Granville occupies 2nd and a close 4th in Open Mixed and were also in 2nd in 80+ Mixed until hypothermia problems dropped them to 4th after Stage 5.

Every team, whether local or from across the World had to battle through some tough riding throughout Stage 5. The last descent became as much of a survival course as the climbs as the steep and sketchy Rock Garden descent from top of Crossing Creek pass was slick and scary-a huge opportunity to open up time gaps for the technically adept teams and an exercise in care for those not comfortable with 3 km of vertical rock field.

Despite the conditions, only a few teams failed to make the finish cut off time of 10 hours, which was extended by a few minutes in light of the conditions. With hot showers, dry clothes and a town-run barbeque at the finish, riders were restored to wellness quickly and were left to tell war stories as the mechanics braced themselves for another night of bike repair which would require headlamps and ample caffeine to make sure that hundreds of cables, chains, brakes and shocks would be buffed and ready for another 101km and 2600m of climbing across the Continental Divide and into the Crowsnest Pass region of Alberta.

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