Posted by Editoress on 08/18/08
All reports supplied by TransRockies, all photos by Dan Hudson and are courtesy TransRockies.
Day 6 (August 16th): Elkford to Crowsnest Pass: 102.4km/2998m climbing
There was no rest for the wicked today, as TransRockies traversed the Continental Divide in a grueling 103 kilometre stage punctuated by periods of long, steep climbing.
With only two days left of competition, teams saddled up under a blue sky already knowing the day would be technically punishing, but unaware what the toll would be for a picture-perfect morning. Temperatures climbing above 30 C, combined with the length and difficulty of the route, saw several teams drop out of competition throughout the day and those that made it to the finish line were feeling a little worse for wear. Still, the theme of the day was definitely "No Pain, No Gain" and those that pushed through were rewarded with the realization that the most difficult days of TransRockies VII are behind them. Though difficult, the course had something for everyone and offered riders a chance to cruise some epic trails that TransRockies was forced to bypass in 2007 due to wildfires.
With Stage 7 on the horizon it's quiet in Tent City tonight, as thoughts and dreams turn to tomorrow's celebratory finish in Fernie Ã‹â€ but only after 80 kms of riding up and over 2101 metres of elevation.
After losing a large chunk of padding in their overall time during Stage 5, Italian cyclists Johhny Cattaneo and Marzio Deho careened across the finish line in 4:42:09 today, pushing their overall lead going into Stage 7 to nearly half an hour. Barring any major mechanical disasters on Saturday it's likely the pair will walk away TransRockies champions on their first attempt.
Prior multi-time TransRockies winner Andreas Hestler and his teammate Chris Sheppard appeared to hit their stride today, coming in 2nd place, 12 minutes off the leaders, but still sitting just off the podium in 4th place overall.
"It was a hard, 104 kilometre day," said Hestler at the finish line. "Though I'm actually feeling better today (than previous days)." According to Hestler, the top teams rode fairly close together until the second checkpoint, at which time the top riders pulled away and began to spread out the field.
"I'm a little older now," he quipped. "But I tend, when I warm up, to get better and better."
Sheppard and Hestler have 20 years of racing against each other behind them, but this year's TransRockies represents the first opportunity the pair have had to team up.
"He's a hard-headed athlete," said Sheppard, "and I'm learning a lot from him."
Both Hestler and Sheppard are impressed by the larger field of competition in the Open Men category this year, attributing it to TransRockies' steadily growing profile as an international event.
"Overall, in the top 10, this is the most competitive TransRockies yet," Hestler said.
Stefan Widmer and Marty Lazarski came in second for Stage 6. Overall, the top three teams are Deho and Cattaneo (ITA), Kris Sneddon and Max Plaxton (CAN) and Widmer and Lazarski.
It appears that powerhouse duo Carey Lowery and Lisa Randall (USA) are poised to take the trophy in the Open Women category this year, as the team has a more than 2-hour lead time going into Stage 7. Undefeated thus far in their category, their next closest competition is Canadians Amy Guidinger and Meghan Osborne, who have swept 2nd place in every stage thus far.
Scooping 3rd place today were Teri Majer and Shelley Mattson (CAN). Overall leaders are Lowery and Randall in 1st place, Guidinger and Osborne in 2nd and Angie Bryans and Inga Ivany (CAN) in third.
In a category with teams playing musical podium, today's stage was critical for teams looking to eke out a spot in the top three come Saturday.
First place today went to defending champions Wendy Simms and Normon Thibault, who have easily swept the top spot all week long and will likely be taking home the trophy once again, though neither believe Stage 7 will be a cakewalk.
"The last day is always so mentally challenging," said Simms upon crossing the finish line. "And last year (Stage 7) was shorter, so we don't know what to expect."
Simms' and Thibault's closest competition this week suffered a setback today when Steven Wallace crashed and broke his thumb. After being checked by medics, Wallace and his teammate Katerina Nash were given the green light to go ahead and finish the stage, but had to settle for 3rd place behind Dallas Morris and Mical Dyck.
"They were super strong today," Simms said of Wallace and Nash before the crash.
Overall, David Harris and Lynda Wallenfels (USA) sit in 3rd place behind Simms and Thibault, and Wallace and Nash.
Day 7 (August 17th): Crowsnest Pass to Fernie: 78.8km/2101m climbing
No ceremonial Stage 7 cakewalk, the final leg of this year's TransRockies was the toughest in the event's history and took place on another blistering day above 30-degrees Celsius.Longer than it has been in prior years and with more famous Fernie, B.C. singletrack, the last leg of TransRockies VII proved a rewarding but tough slog for many teams, even those at the front of the pack.
Jesse Jakomait of Sobe Cannondale, who came in 3rd with teammate Mike Garrigan in Stage 7 and 5th overall summed up the week by saying, "The first 20 minutes of the first day and the last 20 minutes of the last day were the toughest. It started with a bang and ended with a bang."
Jakomait said the top five Open Men's teams went pretty hard from the last control station to the finish in Fernie, which was evident at the finish line in the form of some surprising twists.
Multiple-time TransRockies winner in years past, Andreas Hestler and his first-time TR teammate Chris Sheppard crossed the finish line first, cheered on by crowds enthusiastic about a Canadian team coming in first, ahead of expected stage winners Marzio Deho and Johhny Cattaneo of Italy. Hestler said upon finishing that he was happy to get his teammate atop the podium at least once this week and that the plan that morning had been to attack early and stay ahead with the goal of crossing the line first.
"Shep attacked early and I went with him," Hestler said of the first punishing ascent in the lead group. "It hurt though. They all fought pretty hard."
"The Italians were dangling just behind us and then about 10 to 12 kilometres in on the logging road we noticed all of a sudden they were gone."
Deho suffered a broken seat around the 10-kilometre mark but managed to hold it together for 70+ km by wrapping a tube around it. In the end, Deho and Cattaneo came in 5th for the last stage, but easily swept the overall Open Men's title with a time of 22:39:40 - 25 minutes ahead of 2nd place overall winners Kris Sneddon and Max Plaxton (CAN), who also came in 2nd place during Stage 7. Third place overall went to Marty Lazarski and Stefan Widmer (CAN), who came in 4th for Stage 7.
Despite the last day's grind on a broken bike, Deho was all smiles at the finish line, nodding happily when asked if he felt good about the week. "Today I am happy," he said.
"It was a great opportunity and I appreciate the chance to do this with Andreas," Sheppard said, acknowledging he may be back next year. "If you had asked me two days ago on top of a mountain my answer would have been no," he laughed, "but today is a good day." Hestler admitted he approached the week with a more laid-back attitude than he has in year's past. "I'm getting old," he laughed. "It hurts too much."
"I have always had a good friend to do TransRockies with," he said. "Just about any of the pro guys can race together because they all ride about the same level, but at the end of the day you have to be able to spend eight hours in an RV with them. I have rode every day of all seven TransRockies races - never missed a day - and always had a good friend to do it with."
"He drank the last beer in the RV last night," Sheppard interjected. "That hurt."
"This was a tough, tough, tough year. There's no two ways about it. It was a good course and a tough field (of competitors)," Hestler said.
So is this it for the TransRockies veteran? Hestler said the question is not so much about what to expect from a potential new course or other event-related unknowns, but rather what to expect of himself.
"It's more about knowing what to expect of your body at this stage," he said.
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