Bow Valley riders rip up TransRockies
Jon Firth had one goal this summer: win the hardest mountain bike race in North America.
After seven days and 388 kilometres of riding between Fernie and Canmore, it’s mission accomplished for the Canmore native, the 2012 TransRockies Open Men’s champion. He led a successful contingent of Bow Valley riders who found the podium on Friday (Aug. 3).
“It’s huge. I can’t believe it. For throwing a team together two weeks before the race, this is amazing,” Firth said.
After his original partner Leighton Poidevin pulled out of the competition, Firth recruited Honey Stinger teammate Stefan Widmer from Vancouver and they crushed the course with a total time of 18:49:37, more than 26 minutes ahead of the second place team of Greg Day and Colin Kerr (19:15:54). Gareth Jones and Andrew Royle were third with a time of 21:29:21.
Firth and Widmer were the fastest team on five of the seven days, staking a six minute lead after the initial time trial. They stayed ahead on the strength of their hill climbs and took no chances in the final stage, where they loaded up with spare parts.
“For me, it’s my single greatest accomplishment. You trained so hard for this,” Firth said.
They were pushed by the second placed team, which kept them honest, Widmer said.
“They are a competitive team and we were always looking over our shoulder.”
Widmer is a former TransRockies winner and helped the team pace itself.
“He knew when to be patient, when to relax and when to push it,” said Firth.
Although they had to contend with three days of rain and mud, they kept their strength and energy up.
“It’s hard to judge. Every day felt different. The fifth day felt really strong and we found a good tempo,” Firth said.
The race is very much an exercise in pacing, as the teams who succeed kept the mechanical breakdowns to a minimum and legs relatively fresh.
Craig Bartlett of Canmore partnered up with Pat Doyle of Calgary to win the TR7 (seven days) 80+ men’s division with a time of 20:41:58. Bartlett is having a career year on the bike this year, and this is the team’s third attempt at TransRockies.
“It’s good to be done. It was a tough seven days,” Bartlett said. “This was my best year. I trained more and used the computrainer at Ascent physiotherapy over the winter and that helped me hit the ground running this year.”
The second and third place teams both ran into trouble early on, allowing Bartlett and Doyle to focus on clean riding. Milan Spolc and Jiri Benes finished second (22:56:43) and Brig Seindl and John Minerich were third (26:22:05).
Well supported by his girlfriend and the team at Bicycle Café, Bartlett said that played a big role in keeping the wheels rolling.
Next up, he wants to race in the 24 Hours of Adrenalin world championships.
Neal Kindree won the men’s open TR3 (three day) and TR4 9 four day) competition. He battled it out in TR3 and won with a six minute lead (11:33:05), then cruised through the TR4.
Kristin Walters won the women’s TR4 with a time of 18:12:07. This was her first time in the event.
“I’ve been racing for a few years and wanted to push myself. This is a great international race and everyone said it was the best riding they’ve done,” Walters said.
Houston Peschl of Canmore finished third in the TR4 – a remarkable feat considering his disastrous second day. His bike seized up after a nasty crash and his podium spot was in danger. However, he would not be deterred.
“I had to run the last six kilometres in carbon shoes and with a flat tire on my bike,” Peschl said.
Sandra Walter and Jean Ann Berkenpas won the women’s TR7 event. They usually compete against one another, but joined forces for the win.
“This was a lot of fun. There were some excellent riders, Walter said. “It was a really good challenge. The scenery and organization was awesome, but I ate several pounds of dirt.”
“We’re still smiling and felt we had a good time,” Berkenpas said. “The important thing with this race is to remember it’s seven days. It’s easy to get caught up with speed, but pacing is most important.”
“It’s also important to go with someone you like to ride with,” Walter said.
Margie Smith and Dirk Dorenbos were the top mixed local riders, finishing fourth.
Marc and Amy Gagnon of Canmore also finished their first TransRockies ride. Cycling for MitoCanada.
“We were prepared. We knew it would be hard. Fernie was definitely draining, but in K-Country we knew what we were getting into,” Marc Gagnon said.
The level of competition did take them by surprise.
“The riders were incredibly strong. I was super impressed with the calibre of the riders,” Marc said.
Full results are available at www.zone4.ca
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