By Chris Armstrong •
Racers lined up this morning for the Polar Bottle stage 1 of TransRockies Singletrack 6 at the Fernie Aquatic Centre in beautiful Fernie, BC.
Polar Bottle Stage 1
Elevation gain: 1,150m
Temperatures were cool but sure to bring welcome relief as the approximately 200 racers at the start line would spend much of their day on the steep slopes of the Ridgemont, Montane and Castle riding areas.
The gun went off promptly at 8 am, and racers were treated to a neutral start along the edge of town to Coal Creek Road. A few kilometers down Coal Creek and it was on to Ridgemont Road as racers slotted themselves into the pack—based on ability—before hitting the first singletrack of the day.
When it was finally time to leave the gravel of Coal Creek and Ridgemont Roads behind—and the racers would see very little gravel for the rest of the day—the “Queen V” trail provided relatively gentle uphill grades to warm up the legs for the bigger climbs to come. From Queen V, riders raced through checkpoint 1 at 5.2km, then a loop around Ridgemont, before returning to that same checkpoint again at 14.5km. Having gone through the checkpoint twice, racers made their way down the short, but fun, “Roxy Roller” descent and onto the “TransCanada Trail” before crossing back over Coal Creek Road and into Montane.
Rolling trails soon gave way to steeper terrain as racers powered their way to the most vertical climb of the day—the dreaded “Hyperventilation.” As the name implies, Hypervent is an advanced singletrack climb that switchbacks its way up nearly 300 vertical metres. But that grind to the top left only a very short distance to the reward “Today’s Special”. As the stage 1 timed descent, Today’s Special is steep, windy and rowdy. And as word around the checkpoint located just below the descent had it, also very dry, dusty and loose. None of that put a damper on the fun though as smiles were everywhere and the stoke was high.
Once up the day’s single steepest climb and descent, it was all downhill from there to the finish line back at the Fernie Aquatic Centre (ok maybe a few short up hills along the way).
Crossing the finish line first overall in a time of 2:00:08 was local racer Carter Nieuwesteeg, followed by Mackie Franklin of El Prado, New Mexico in a time of 2:07:36.
For the Open Women, Emily Williams of Salmon Arm, BC crossed the line first in 2:24:28, followed by Emma Maaranen of Bend, Oregon in a time of 2:33:55.
As the rest of the field made their way across the finish line, the concensus seemed to be that this first stage was definitely “difficult but doable.” Exactly how we think a Singletrack 6 stage should be!
What do the racers have to say?
“[Racing on my home trails] is pretty special. I don’t think many people get that opportunity…waking up in my own bed right from the start, it’s so different from anything most racers are used to. I’ve done Singletrack 6 five times—it’s the race that kind of kicked me into mountain bike racing—and I’ve been back all those times trying to win it, so even though I still have five stages to go, this win is pretty special” - Carter Nieuwesteeg, Open Men
“Definitely a beautiful course, I loved the flowy downhills! The black descents were a little bit out of my skillset but everyone on the course was great. Overall, I really enjoyed it and I’m really looking forward to two more days.” - Katie Hauck, ST3 Open Women
“It’s a super cool course. Super fun trails out here, and I’m glad that they’re dry because that’s what I’m used to..that Today’s Special descent was just so cool because you don’t usually get that steep of a descent on cross-country races. Overall, I just had a really great day out there. I really, really enjoyed it.” -Mackie Franklin, Open Men