Gruelling TransRockies Challenge a test of spirit as well as endurance
In its second year, the TransRockies Challenge is widely considered to be one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world. Starting in Fernie and finishing in Canmore, the race weighs in at 600 kilometres spread over seven days, with more than 12,000 vertical metres of climbing. The course is steep up and down, and includes everything: technical singletrack sections to decommissioned logging roads to a gruelling climb over Canadas highest paved mountain pass.
The race attracted 149 riders this year, including a number of international riders who have tackled the TransAlps Challenge in the past.
A pair of Whistler riders, Tony Routley and Eric Crowe, more than held their own in the Masters category, finishing second overall behind a pair of Quebec riders. At one point the Whistler riders held the lead, but a few major mechanical problems, lack of sleep, and some wrong turns put them in second behind Michel Leblanc and Gilles Morneau, who finished in 35:29:15.
Their own time of 36:30:41 was good enough to put Routley and Crowe in seventh place overall.
Although both Routley and Crowe are veterans of mountain bike racing with national titles under their belts and strong results in the World Championships, and have raced their share of epic races, Crowe says the TransRockies Challenge was one of the toughest things he has ever accomplished.
"Honestly every one of those stages was the kind of ride that you wouldnt ride the day afterwards. Its 10 times harder than anything Ive every done," said Crowe.
The first stage of the race was 45 km, and according to Crowe the temperature reached 43 degrees Celsius in the alpine.
"It was so hot that it was boiling the oil in hydraulic disk brakes, and rim brakes were heating up the rims so much that tubes were bursting. It took us three hours and 45 minutes going pretty much as hard as we could, and that was the short race," said Crowe. "There were stages that were 130 km with more than 3,000 metres of climbing."
Crowe and Routley took the leader jerseys on that day with a few minutes to spare.
On the second day, which was 130 km with 3,000 metres of climbing, Crowe crashed on a descent, and damaged his pedal. They rode slowly down to an aid station to fix it, allowing the Quebec team to pass. At the end of the day, Crowe and Routley were still in the lead by just nine seconds.
The third day was 138 km, and the Whistler team and the Quebec team worked together on the climbs and descents. Crowe made a wrong turn and took two minutes to get back on track. When he returned to the trail, he found the two Quebec riders waiting for him, along with Routley.