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Whistler riders front of TransRockies pack

Clements, Kassel, Tabbernor, Heslter and Edwards on the podium



The seven day, 600-plus kilometre TransRockies Challenge wrapped up at Panorama Mountain Village on Saturday, with riders making the final grunt from Invermere. Several Whistler riders took part this year, several of them making the podium in their respective categories.

The race started at Fernie the previous Saturday, with riders taking a network of backroads and trails from stage to stage while accumulating over 12,000 metres of climbing.

Whistler’s Jennifer Tabbernor competed in the 80-plus mixed category with Jeff Bandura on Team, completing the course in 44 hours, 37 minutes and 26 seconds. The team started strong and placed second in one stage.

After the sixth leg they were about an hour and 20 minutes back of second place, but they lost time on the grueling 1,400-metre climb to the finish to wind up over four hours back of the silver medal.

"It was awesome," said Tabbernor, who races for Team Whistler and was competing in her first TransRockies Challenge. "It was spectacular scenery, and there was a lot of new trail cut just for that race, nobody had ever been through there. In one stage we went through grizzly bear territory, and they had to go in ahead of us to scare the bears away – it’s probably a good thing because it was a four kilometre hike-a-bike and we weren’t moving very fast.

"It was really challenging, but you got to meet awesome people from around the world, and the race was really done well from an organizational standpoint."

Tabbernor’s only complaint had to do with her partner, who she never met before the ride. She teamed up with Bandura through a mutual friend, then discovered that Bandura’s fitness level was not up to the demands of the race. Tabbernor had to pull her partner up some sections on the final day, where they lost several hours on the rest of the field.

Tabbernor’s next big mountain bike race will be the West Side Wheel Up, followed by the Cheakamus Challenge. She’s also hoping to race in the fall provincial cyclocross series with her Team Whistler teammates.

Andreas Hestler, who lives part-time in Whistler, partnered with Vancouver Islander Seamus McGrath to win the Open Men’s category in 27:08:44 for the Rocky Mountain Business Objects team.

It was a close race for first overall this year, as the Rocky Mountain team traded stage wins with Mountain Bike City and United Cycle Trek teams over the course of the race. Hestler and McGrath had about 10 minutes on the field in the last leg when Hestler’s stomach troubles from earlier in the week kicked in again, but the team held on to win by just two minutes and 44 seconds.