The start line of any race is intense, but that of the first day of a seven day stage race brings the energy, anticipation and stoke to a whole new level. Add a thousand meter climb right off the bat, and you can feel the energy pulsing through the field like the low grade hum of a bee hive.
Yesterday's Stage One of the TransRockies Classic began with the ascent of Panorama Mountain, bringing riders to the highest point of the entire week of racing at 2500 meters. A raucous descent down the Hopeful Creek Trail delivered riders back to the base area and to the end of the day's first timed segment. Riders commented that the views from the top were quite stunning, and the descent was world class fun, albeit slimy and hand punishing from being so gripped. (This trail was previously used as a stage at the TransBC Enduro, and is pretty spicy on an XC bike!)
A short neutral cruise down Toby Creek Road allowed for some moments of composure before racers were greeted with 11km of punchy climbs and descents on the Lillian Lake Trail network and the day's final timed segment.
A final neutral stage led riders through the town of Invermere, where some racers took advantage of the non timed portion of the day to stop off for Cafe au Laits and sandwiches before the final push down the Westside Legacy Trail to the K2 Ranch and the race's second base camp.
Yesterday's stage winners in the Open Mixed Category, Kate and Willy, came all the way from New Zealand to take part in today's race. They went out fast from the start and never looked back, gaining an advantage of nearly 20 minutes. when the day's timed segments were added up.
Here's what they had to say about the stage, as told to Barry Wicks:
"Kate: We decided to bugger off from the start because I always tend to get stuck in the crowd and that is stressful. We got over the climb pretty good, but then the descent hit.
Willy: Running a seat dropper is an unnatural feeling to me, but we had them on for this race. After feeling like I was squatting over the crapper for 45 minutes, I clipped a pedal on the side hill section and went tumbling down the hill. Both my legs cramped when I stood up and I could barely make it back up to the trail.
Kate: After that, we just tried to keep it rolling smoothly. I wasn't feeling it on the punchy up and down stuff on the second timed section, but Willy is good at that stuff, so we made a good team today. Once we were through that bit, we just kept on the gas and got to the finish."
Stage two from K2 ranch starts with a 25km neutral roll out before riders take on a climb up and over Tegart Pass and on to the Nipika Mountain Resort for a total stage distance of 75km with 1750 meters of climbing. The neutral portion of the race passes right by stage two sponsor Kicking Horse Coffee, so the smart riders will be packing a few loonies in their pockets to take advantage of delicious coffee and pastries available in route.