The time had finally arrived and it had been a long haul to get here. Months and months of training and preparation were nearly blown with three days to go as I picked up deli belly and was very unwell until the morning of the first stage, I will not go into detail but the trip from Dublin to Panorama Village was the longest journey of my life and I was completely drained and very worried about actually starting the race. We had given ourselves a couple of days to acclimatize to the atmosphere etc in the ski resort of Panorama and this really paid off. Some much needed sleep in the very generous double beds of the resort before the grind of 6 nights in tents and on thermarests was a good way to start. The initial talk as we queued for registration (the first of many Trans Rockies queues) was that the climbing had been increased significantly for 2008, 2007 had seen 11,500 meters of climbing; this would be blown away by the 17,500 meters planned for us in 2008. As if the nerves weren't bad enough this just sent them off the scale. We picked up our bags, shirts, caps and other instructions and headed back to our room to digest the contents of the next seven days. Myself and Bryan had two different approaches to looking at the information, mine was more like denial, I didn't really want to know much other than the broad strokes (how long each stage was plus elevation, one day at a time) whereas Bryan ate up the detail. We hung out for those couple of days and met some nice people that would become our companions for the trip, these included Joanne and Gordon, a newly married couple that had promised to do this while on honeymoon last year, Dec and Gav two 24 hour marathon racers from the UK, Mike and Mike from California, Rodney and Jaxxon from Australia, two guys who had made a 36 hour trip to get here and of course Sally, a pro mtb marathon racer who was always in good spirits, her cycling partner for the week Eric who had just arrived from California and was characteristically laid back. Also there was Fiona and Niall from Cork who would have a great week and finish in the top ten in the mixed pairs.
Stage 1; Panorama to K2 Ranch Distance; 55 km (34 mi) Elevation; 2200 m (7217 ft)
St age Profile
Day one and we lined up in the grid, the nervous tension was palpable but thankfully the build up was coming close to a finish, we just wanted to get going. The first day looked 'ok' we thought, a bit of a fluffer as Bryan (my partner) had said, not so, we were to be baptized in fire to the tune of AC/DC's Highway to Hell which is the theme song for the start of every Trans Rockies stage!! Off we went, initially a little downhill through Panorama Village and then up, and up and up…..In Wicklow we had tried to find all the toughest hills and climb them again, and again and again. There are no off road climbs in Wicklow where we had needed to use the front granny ring for more than a few mins, the first hill in the Trans Rockies put us in the granny ring for two hours solid, bang, what a start. It didn't stop there either, we were greeted with sleet and snow at the top for about an hour or so and we were not prepared for this, suffice to say we were a bit chilly for a while! The next while we traversed a ridge and spent a good deal of time hiking the bike on some sections that were not ride-able, this was frustrating when you knew this meant for a long day as the ground was covered very slowly. We then spent some time on some lovely technical single-track and eventually we hit the downhill section which was fast and furious as it was open fire road. I managed to pick up my only puncture of the week here along with several other riders who all got pinch flats on a rocky section. The puncture was quickly fixed and we were on our way again. There was a sting in the tail left for us (this turned out to be a Trans Rockies trait) and we were greeted with one last incline before a descent in K2 Ranch. We were delighted to be at the finish but it had taken nearly six hours and it had been a lot tougher than expected. Usually after a spin like this normally you would put the feet up at home, grab a well deserved cold beer, some food and generally be in the comfort of your own home! We on the other hand had to clean and fix the bikes, get in the Q for the shower, the food, our tent, the bags, unpack, get settled, organise gear for the 6am start the next day, try and get some sleep etc, etc, etc……this was when the enormity of what we had taken on hit home, six more days of this, this is going to be tough, really tough! Day two had been rumored as the toughest stage of 2008, the hits kept coming!
Stage 2; K2 Ranch to Nipika Resort Distance; 74 km (46 mi) Elevation; 3000 m (9842 ft)
We woke on day two to drizzle, cold and generally not the kind of weather you want to get out of a tent for to go cycling for 6/7 hours. Today was 3000 meters of climbing and the rumour mill had us all worried, yesterday was tough but today was more distance and more climbing. We grabbed breakfast in the mess tent and chowed down to as much food as our stomachs could handle we knew we would be calling on all reserves later. The first section of this stage was a flat fast 15k on the road, Bryan spotted a move and we jumped on the gravy train and headed out with the lead group at about 40 clicks an hour, this road would take us away from the Purcell Mountain range of day one to the Rockies proper for day two. The stage profile showed three long, hard climbs. The first climb began directly after exciting the road section; thankfully the initial section was not too bad, more of what we were used to at home i.e. being actually able to cycle the bike as opposed to hiking it. We got to the first check point in reasonable shape. There were generally two or three check points a day and you had to enter these with your partner or suffer a time penalty of one hour. These checkpoints also served as food and water stops. Generally we'd stop for 4/5 mins and munch on fruit, clif bars, fill camel backs, apply chain lube if necessary etc…. we excited the first checkpoint to be greeted with the real hill, this meant about an hour of hike a bike. To make matters worse when we arrived at the most difficult hike a bike section the race had come to a stand still we looked up and saw a long line of cyclists-I should say hikers with bikes on their backs, this was no place for a cyclist!! The leaders had continued up steep section of scree and had missed a turn that, to be fair, was poorly marked, luckily we arrived just in time for the trail to be found and Bryan managed to lead stage two of the trans Rockies for a while!! We continued on to a nice section of technical single-track and then on to another check point before another tough hill section that was both very steep and technical, at this point some of the lost leaders began to pass us. We trudged on for a while and were rewarded with a 10k long section of technical single-track criss-crossing a mountain stream that was great fun! We then hit a logging road and had about 25k to Nipika; we got in time trial mode and tried to get home as quickly as possible. We were hit with a final nasty little climb after 7 odd hours but made it in one piece and since we started the day at 8am, as opposed to 11am on the first day we had a few more hours down time. Nipika our day two destination is a mountain resort literally in the middle of nowhere; it is a fully self sustaining resort and is very proud that all materials they use are recyclable. Check out http://www.nipika.com/ for full details. Here is an extract from the website: The 2000 acre Nipika Mountain Resort brings to life the dream of Lyle & Dianne Wilson to create a unique wilderness haven for outdoor enthusiasts that is in harmony with the Kootenay's spectacular Rocky Mountain setting. As an eco lodge, Nipika generates all its electricity via solar, micro-hydro, and takes pride that its beautiful cabins and lodge are energy self-sufficient. There is a natural emphasis on self-propelled recreation at Nipika. With its 50-kilometre trail network and rivers nearby, the resort beckons visitors to hike, cross country ski, snowshoe, mountain bike, canoe and kayak. We were happy to arrive at Nipika as we knew that we would staying for two days which meant that we didn't have to pack and unpack bags etc and could relax a little more. On top of this Day three was a shorter flatter stage of 50k but was in the form of a two up time trial.
Stage 3; Nipika Resort to Nipika Resort Distance; 44.2 km (27 mi) Elevation; 1514 m (4967 ft)
We were up early for the start of our time trial, the race leaders would be going in the afternoon, and this was a blessing as the day turned out to be an absolute roaster. The scenery was spectacular on this stage, the day was beautiful and it was more like what we had pictured in our heads for the Trans Rockies before we had the brutal introduction on day one! The crew in Nipika had pulled out all the stops and there were burgers and beers when you finished along with a guy with his guitar singing old favorites from Bob Dylan to The Eagles to Neil Young, you get the picture, a lot of hippy love. We lasted two beers and about an hour before we were too tired and too hot to stay in the sun, we found some shade and lazed away the afternoon, tomorrow was the longest stage of the event, 110k to Whiteswan Lake. We would be back into the trudge of getting gear packed and ready but we had enjoyed our time in Nipika. Every evening from 8pm the trans Rockies crew would put on a show, firstly the days stage winners would receive their awards, then the overall stage leaders from the different categories (open men, mixed categories etc) would be presented with their jerseys for the next days stage. It was always a big hoo-haa and this distracted us for a while from the next day's torture; however we were quickly reminded when the race trail builder (Al Neal) would arrive to present the next day's stage using Google earth. You were generally left under no illusions as to how tough the next stage was going to be. Lastly they had either a video of the days stage or a set of photos running on a slide show which always picked up the magnificent back drop of the Rocky mountains and you wondered how you ever managed to miss some of the views but no matter where you looked the scenery and sheer raw beauty of the area was breathtaking.
Stage 4; Nipika Resort to Whiteswan Lake Distance; 109.7 km (68 mi) Elevation; 2567 m (8421 ft)
Hump Day, three days down and once we managed to get over today it was a run in to the finish, yeah right! Anyway that's what we told ourselves, we lined up at 8am and off we went it was another fast start on a logging track/road for a while before heading off road proper for some single track and the all too familiar initial leg breaking climb that were the story of the first two days. The word was to watch out for the water breaks on the downhill sections. Two people had been heli-coptered off the previous year with pretty bad injuries. These water breaks are designed to allow the flow of melt water in the spring season. They came upon you all of a sudden when you were hurtling downhill behaving like a teenager in the sheer delight that your legs were getting a break from the relentless hills. We were told that we were really entering the back country today and to stay in groups and make noise should there be a bear in the vicinity, today there was the possibility of the famous Grizzly bear making an appearance. We also started the river crossings today with some of the iciest water you're feet would ever touch. Sometimes it was nice to step into the cold soothing water and allow you're legs a break but sometimes it was not, it just depended what mood you were in when you got there. Was it a sugar boost mood after a feed station or was it a tired hungry mood during a long haul between stations, sometimes you really felt in the middle of nowhere and alone out there, other times you were chatting away to complete strangers who were crazy enough to share the journey with you. Anything to stop you from thinking how long it might take you to get to the stage finish and other times hoping it would last longer so you didn't have to go back to work next week! Emotions ran a roller coaster ride over the full week and it was important to keep them in check for the good of team spirit. Myself and Bryan were lucky, we only had one minor tiff over a bike clean one evening, otherwise we got on great but cracks were starting to appear in various teams, this was only natural as the toll of the week began to tell. Personally the toll manifested itself in my knee beginning to swell and the nightly visits to the medical tent for 'butt cream' and ibuprofen, these were just more Trans Rockies Q's to content with!! Anyway enough of 'butt cream' and back to the stage…..We rolled along some more single-track before crossing several smaller streams and then onto a check point where we gorged ourselves on water melon and clif bars. We took a few photos here as the back drop was beautiful and then we got ourselves to the river for the largest river crossing of the trip, this was not going to be easy, the river was moving swiftly and was quite deep. One false step could see you up to your neck in icy, chilling water which would not leave you in good form for the remainder of the 50k or so we had to travel. We made it across although it wasn't easy by any means and there plenty of stories of those that took a dip. On we went for some rolling fire road and onto our next almighty climb; thankfully this was the last one before a long rolling descent to Whiteswan Lake. This climb like others never seemed to end and provided the usual sting in the tail before we hit the long downhill fire road section. There was some diversion along the way as we ate some wild strawberries which were delicious! There were more river crossings and water trenches cut into the downhill sections, one of the leading mixed teams bought it here with the guy breaking a collar bone on the fast descent. We had one more large river crossing before the final check point where we met Niall and Fiona a mixed team from Cork who we had met in Panorama on day one, they were going well and I think finished top ten in their class. We stuffed our faces as usual and got on the bikes for some time trialing down to Whiteswan, it was 30k or so and we hit it hard, we got on a gravy train with some others and eventually caught up with Niall and Fiona, we stayed together for the last 10k and finished the stage as a group of four Irish nutters in the Trans Rockies which was nice. Hump day was over, three days left. I popped off to get my bike serviced as my forks hadn't really worked all day only to discover that the rear triangle had come loose and the bike needed to be rebuilt. The Trans Rockies is notoriously hard on bikes and over the course of the week I needed a new cassette and chain, rear mech, bottom bracket, new bearings in both hubs and finally this rear triangle melt down. I have to thank Adrian Harding our mechanic for keeping us in the race; there was no way I would have finished without his and his teams help. To finish off the day we cooled our legs in the nearby river and then headed to the massage tents!!
Stage 5; Whiteswan Lake to Elkford Distance; 88.5 km (56 mi) Elevation; 2147 m (7043 ft)
Today was our trek back to civilization while the journey would take the bikes 88.5k, the Trans Rockies road show of buses, vans, RVs and cars would take a 300k round trip to Elkford as the mountain ranges hadn't lent themselves to road building. The previous night I had asked one of the locals how far we were from the nearest town, they said the nearest house was about 50k away and the nearest town probably over 100k. We had had no phone coverage for three days and really felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere; we were running out of cash for our massages and bike maintenance etc so needed a cash machine and other mod cons. This stage started in bright sunshine and we worried that the hot weather would affect us, the factor 30 was applied and off we went. Unfortunately we went straight to the darker side of the mountain and were plunged into the cold shade of these enormous hills where we stayed for the next two hours; there were also a couple of river crossings that literally numbed our feet. We hit the compulsory hill and we were on our way. I had more trouble with the bike today as the nuts and bolts kept working themselves loose and I had to stop every 10k or so to tighten them up, this was a real pain and I began to get paranoid that the bike would fall to pieces on one of the more challenging downhill sections. It was yet another tough slog and the trail became ever dustier with the belting heat and dry air. The lungs, nose and eyes filled with dust, it was everywhere!! The trail led to another final climb that culminated in the famous rock garden, this section is about 3/4k long and consists entirely of football sized boulders, it was incredible, how we managed to stay on the bikes I don't know, a lot didn't. There was a further rolling downhill section until we finally got to the road; a sign said 20k to Elkford. We got in time trial mode and put the boot down, we were back in no time and to cap it all off Bryan's parents were waiting for us at the finish. Another six hours in the bag and two stages to go. We afforded ourselves a couple of beers in the trailer with Bryans Mum and Dad who would be our support crew for the final couple of days. We chatted away and shot the breeze and began to look at the next day, we were to discover over the next hour or so that day 6 and not day two was going to be the toughest stage in the race, and that's exactly how it turned out!
Stage 6; Elkford to Blairmore Distance; 102.4 km (64 mi) Elevation; 2998 m (9835 ft)
The penultimate stage, we woke to a roaring hot morning, the heat was already in the air no mistaking it, no need for a gillet or cap for the first couple of hours today. It was hot from the gun and we had to mind ourselves, plenty of factor 30 for the pale Irish skin. Today was going to be tough not only for the distance and elevation gain but the fact that you had already 5 hard days in your legs, had slept in a tent and generally were fairly knackered. You couldn't get enough food in as your appetite was gone, your thighs felt like two massive hematomas, all you wanted was a decent bed to fall into, a TV remote, you just wanted to be finished. Today was about mind over matter, this was not about cycling ability, or something as benign as fitness, this was about mental toughness and just general graft, this was going to god awful right from the get go and so it was! Bryan had dug really deep the last two days and today would be no different. Our conversations had become monosyllabic, SH "are you ok?" BK "yeah", SH "keep going?" BK "yeah"……and that's the way it went. We started out from Elkford with another lovely climb, some technical single-track that on any other day you would die for but every little root and branch cost you energy which you knew you would need. We then got onto a long fire road section, I lost Bryan here for a while as I had to stop and tighten my ever annoying frame. Bryan managed to get on a gravy train but I was caught in no mans land for about 20 mins trying to catch the group which I was managing but at a very slow pace, I looked back and there was no one behind me. I got to thinking that if a bear came out to get me then all that would be left is the bike! Finally the train ahead slowed in anticipation for the first check point of the day and I got back in with the group. Today there seemed to be more open fire road which was a little boring in parts but there was as always the tough leg breaking and back breaking hike a bike climbs that toyed with your spirit just to see how you might react. Then there were the joyous downhill descents where you could admire the spectacular scenery and wonder how the hell you had made it here. People were starting to suffer though and some of the guys that had previously finished stages ahead of us were suddenly behind, it was crazy how each day saw people break and then come back or vice versa. Today there were no real nice section to look forward to it was simply a hard slog in incredibly oppressive heat that melted your skin. The previous night we had been told in no uncertain terms how tough the stage was going to be and we had been told that the final three climbs would sap our energy, so we had to be prepared for them. This was another cruel twist that had become the sure thing sting in the tail of each Trans Rockies stage. I don't know how many hills I counted but I can be sure that there more than three and each time we summated one there was another in the distance waiting to test your mettle. We kept going because in this race you can't stop what would you do? You are in the middle of nowhere, you have to keep going! Finally we hit the road and again time trialed home, this was not like one of the other triumphant finishes, this was the toughest 8 hours 24 mins you are likely to spend on a bike, and even though Bryan had punctured (only our second puncture) it was easily the longest and toughest stage. There were teams still coming in two hours later, today had taken its toll on everyone, the heat had been savage and we were weary! One more day and we'd be there but it wasn't the swan song of previous years where 40 to 50k would have got you to the finish. This was another tough 80k stage to get to the ski town of Fernie and the awaiting hotel bed, shower, toilet, etc!! Oh yeah and for some reason I had had a craving for pizza for the last two days that I needed to satisfy, couple that with a cold beer and heaven was waiting! Bryans Mum and Dad cooked us steak in the camper van that night and we had a couple of beers before heading off for our last night in the tents.
Stage 7; Blairmore to Fernie Distance; 78.8 km (49 mi) Elevation; 2101 m (6893 ft)
The final day was here, the atmosphere was distinctly different, the air of expectation was clear, there was a bit more buzz; people were smiling, could we be so relaxed? Everyone had put yesterday behind them and the next few hours would see us make it to the finish. 80k on a mountain bike is still tough, it's equivalent to about 150k on the road or thereabouts so we still had our work cut out. Unfortunately one of our companions from Panorama had not made it to the start line today the heat of yesterday had taken its toll and Rodney had suffered heat stroke. It was a real shame, Rodney was a lovely bloke from Oz with a quick wit and a warm dry humour that kept everyones spirits up over the course of the week, I really felt bad for him. The elevation gain was not as significant today but the legs were pretty knackered so any hill would hurt. The start to the stage was a shock to the system, another kick right in the teeth, straight up a ski slope and off road to a brutal hike a bike climb, they don't let up these guys. There was going to be no easy way to earn your Trans Rockies finishing t-shirt and I wanted one now! The initial shock settled into a rolling double track back country ride again over dry and dusty tracks, we hit the road in a few places to get across to Fernie, there were two more climbs left, one long climb that resembled the sort of gradient we had been used to, Bryan rode well. We hit the top of the climb and the last check point, Bryan turned and spoke, "only 20k left Stu, 15k downhill and a sharp climb some single-track and we're home", my reply was "that is your first full sentence in three days, you must be coming round"…….the last climb as always was a nasty stinger, not nice at all but the single-track into Fernie was outstanding even though my arms felt like collapsing on the twisting downhill section that I would normally love, I wanted to be finished, we all wanted to be finished. Half an hour later we were rolling out of the single-track across some back roads and into Fernies main street, we unfurled the Irish flag and rode down the main street holding it up between us, it was fantastic, there were big crowds banging the hoarding and we had made it! We eventually made it to the hotel after a couple of beers and celebrations on Fernie Main Street with Bryan's parents and low and behold there was a pizzeria attached to the hotel, we were in heaven ;-)
by Anthony Crean
11 May, 2004
Event Sponsored By Duffs Lounge, Main Street, Bray
Well what a contrast in weather conditions to the earlier attempt of hosting the
Christy Mc Manus race, today we had much warmer temperatures and bright blue
skies, although there was still a strong breeze blowing which will make it hard on the
back end of the circuit.
When I arrived at the sign on at 10am there
were already quite a few of the usual
suspects ( the Lane Brothers, Keith Sullivan, Dollo and all the Bray Lads etc. ) already
there, and eager for the battle to commence . I signed on and had a chat with some
of my club mates where we discussed Brians sudden death earlier that week and the
new circuit which was to be used today due to Major Road works on the Hill in
Rathdrum causing the organisers to revert back to the old circuit, a 7.2mile loop to be
completed 5 times.
At about 10.30am I start to get my loyal Terry
Dolan bike ready for action with a
couple of blasts of air into the wheels, at this stage I noticed how may Bray Wheelers
riders were taking part today, 13 in total I counted, well if we cant do something
today it will be a bit embarrassing I thought.
11am came and it was time to line up for the start, on the line myself and my brother
Declan had a few words with Paddy Kelly ( Bray Wheelers, finished second ), we were
saying that he had great form and we want to see him up the road ( only joking with
him ), well little did we know at the time that he was to finish second .
Prior to the start, race organiser Urban Monks ( Herbie ) asked for 1 minutes silence
for the late Brian Lennon which was observed brilliantly by the riders, you could have
heard a pin drop .At this point on behalf of myself and the Bray Wheelers I would I
like to send my deepest condolences to Brians parents, family, friends and Team
The Ladies, 2 of them in total were first to
be set of followed by the Vets, Juniors and
C riders and last of all the B bunch. The first few miles were downhill to Annamoe
were we turned left towards the circuit, up the little drag and this is were the speed
shot with a few Ravens riders on the front upping the pace. Straight through
Tomriland crossroads and on to the next left turn. Before we came to the turn I moved
myself up to the front of the bunch because I knew what was ahead, over the hump
back bridge and up the short Bitch of a hill. After that the road dragged uphill for a
while into a head wind towards Ballyduff crossroads then across the filter beds and up
to Westons gates. At the end of lap one the ladies, Juniors and C riders where still
leading with the B bunch chasing hard behind.
As we started the second lap I noticed we were
passing some dropped riders from the
front group which caused a lot of attacks at the front of the B bunch. I noticed that
every move that was made had a team mate in it, fortunately the winning break
which formed on lap 3 had Paddy Kelly (Bray) in it who rode a great race. Also on lap
3 I found myself and four other Bray riders in a counter move (Aidan, Cyan, Ger and
Tom) unfortunately we were brought back over the top of the hill, I tried to go again
with Aidan Duff but my legs were starting to scream in the head wind, Duff persisted
on his own for a while but was reeled back in down the road .Lap four was steady
enough with a few rider trying to get away but only ever managing to gain a hand
full of seconds one the bunch
Towards the end of the fifth lap coming up to a junction I had Lennie ( Dublin Wheelers ) to my right and to my dismay a team mate came up behind him and shouted at him to move out of his F****** way, but fair play to Lennie he told him were to go. As we finished the fifth lap and turned back towards Annamoe myself and my team mates tried to get close to the front for the drag up to the line. During the winter we would train on this road every weekend so we knew that the bunch could split on the run up to the finish and being our clubs event none of us wanted to be caught in the wrong place if there was a split even though the break was going to take all the placings. With about 1 mile to go I was about fifth from the front with John Lynch and Tom Duggan at the front of the bunch setting a high pace. I looked behind me with about 500m to go and there was Urban Junior getting himself ready to sprint for the junior prize. At 100m to go Urban jumped with me onto his wheel, we stayed this way crossing the line with Tom and John close behind us. Urban on his way to taking the junior prize Urban Monks took the junior prize and Paddy Kelly took a great Second Place behind the winner Brain Taaffe to end a good days racing, I think I finished in the top 12 so I was happy enough to. Many thanks to Ken Duff of “ Duffs Lounge “ for sponsoring the race and the marshals who did an excellent job as always and also thanks to Brain Harris who did service car for the Bray Wheelers.