2019 TransRockies Classic Recap By Nick Gould
As I sit here in the Spokane airport getting ready to catch my flight back to Colorado I'm realizing just how much stoke and adventure was had the last 10 days. First off, I barely made it to the race to begin with. A delayed flight out of Colorado Springs forced me to miss my connecting flight in Denver to Spokane. I ended up spending the night in Denver and catching the first flight out to Spokane the next day. My teammate Travis Hauck picked me up at the airport after driving down from Nelson, BC. My bike and bags made it safely and we hit the road. Needless to say, the stoke was already super high. After an 8 hour drive across the border, we finally made it to Panorama 30 min after the pre-race meeting around 8pm the night prior to the race. Side note- Travis built my bike in the back of the sprinter van we were fortunate enough to use the entire race week (thanks Stellar Heliskiing).
Day 1- Panorama Ski Resort to K2 Ranch (48 miles, 7200 feet elevation)
Day 1 featured the biggest climb of the race right out the start. A 4,500-foot monster straight up to the top of the ski resort. Travis, Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette, and I quickly got out front and established a solid lead we would continue to hold the rest of the week. One of the best parts of racing in the Canadian Rockies is racing in the mountains at such low altitude. The early morning 8am start would have been super cold in Colorado, but at only 2,000 feet it was super warm. After climbing to what feels like 11-12,000 feet in Colorado, you are only at 6,000 feet and can breathe and produce huge power and recover super quickly from the efforts. I had my all-time best 90 min power on stage 1 and averaged 310 watts. Once we got to the top of the climb we traversed on to one of the sickest singletrack descents- Hopeful Creek Trail. We were greeted with a 4,500-foot descent of pure high alpine bliss with techy creek crossings, roots, rocks, and hero dirt. It reminded me of the riding in Crested Butte with twice the O2. Ultra.
Day 2- K2 Ranch to Nipika (46 miles, 6,200 feet elevation)
We started out with an easy 15k neutral start to the beginning of the first timed segment. The first climb was gnarly and close to 3,000 feet. Super steep, granny gear, loose rocky bitchy grunt. We got a group of 3 off the front again and climbed to the top of the pass where the lead motos were stopped. I thought there must be a grizzly but they couldn't find the secret singletrack to get us over the pass. We stopped and helped them look and after about 30 min of searching, we finally found the hidden entrance. Someone had sabotaged the entrance so we couldn't find it. By this time most of the race had caught up and we decided to stop racing and neutralize the remainder of the stage. Kind of a bummer, but the epic views from the top of the pass lifted the stoke.
Day 3- Nipika (25 miles, 3,000 feet elevation)
The night prior to Nipika it thundered with rain and lightning all night. It was epic and hearing the thunder rattle off the mountains as the lightning lit up my tent was slightly nerve-racking and super rad at the same time. I woke up to continued pouring rain and knew it would be a tough day as Nikpika was the most technical stage of the race and featured 100% singletrack. Crazy steep, punchy, anaerobic climbs with super slick off-camber roots, sharp rocks, and tight trees. This stage forced me to bring out every mtb skill I've ever learned as I pushed myself to keep up with my BC partner as he flexed his ninja trail skills, anaerobic capacity, and VO2 max. About halfway through the sky turned black and the rain, thunder, and lightning started again. With 10k to go the team from France behind us in GC almost caught us and we could hear them in the woods in hot pursuit. This was one of the highlights of the race for me, as Travis and I kicked it into high gear for the remainder of the race to avoid losing any more time in GC. This was true MTB racing at it's best with the impending doom sky, thunder crackling, and bright blasts of lightning, driving us to push harder towards the finish. Unfortunately, the French team missed a turn at the finish and lost a few minutes as they had to backtrack and make up the turn they missed which scored us a few more minutes in GC.
Day 4- Nipika to Whiteswan Lake (63 miles, 7,600 feet elevation)
This was the longest stage (102k) and I suffered pretty hard. Once again we started out on a 3,000-foot climb and Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette set a blazing fast pace. Travis and I dropped the Frenchies and stayed w Matt all the way to the first descent. The fatigue of the prior stages was starting to take its toll, and I couldn't find the legs for the first 2.5 hours. I also sliced my sidewall on a steep scree field descent. Travis and I did the fastest flat fix ever, but once we went to hit it w a CO2 we realized that the valve stem wasn't long enough for my deep dish rims and the CO2 adapter wouldn't fit. The first CO2 just exploded all the air out and the second one got in about 10psi. Neither of us had a pump, so I had no choice but to ride the next 10k on a rear flat w barely any air in it. Luckily it wasn't very technical and mostly downhill. We forged a few waist-deep rivers as well which helped cool off my screaming legs. We were able to make it to the next aid station and were lucky enough to score a pump. I was able to fill it to 30 psi and we were good to go. The adrenaline of the situation must have kicked something in because my legs felt great after the fix. I came around and felt great the last hour of the stage to the finish. After the stage, we soaked our legs in the creek and it was amazing. A shout of to Ellexis Lathan Athletic Therapy for stretching out my legs after the stage which helped increase blood flow and range of motion in my tired legs. Whiteswan Lake was my favorite camping spot and we were the only ones out there other than a few horses. Shout out to Barry Wicks for hooking up the best smores ever over a sweet fire. Good times!
Day 5- Whiteswan Lake to Elkford (55 miles, 7,200 feet elevation)
Another massive stage with another 7,000 feet of climbing. This was one of the most brutal stages as it included a few thousand feet of steep hike-a-biking, a grizzly up ahead warning (fortunately, we never saw it), and one of the gnarliest 4,000-foot scree descents I've ever ridden. Even Travis said he felt like he was in another country when we got to the top of the pass. Huge craggy peaks, deep dense forest, creek crossings, and some stellar singletrack. Sick day!
Day 6- Elkford to Crowsnest (56 miles, 7,100 feet elevation)
This was the second hardest stage and included more hike-a-bikes, crazy headwinds that had us working together, and the last 2,000-foot climb absolutely kicked us in the nuts. We weren't expecting it and thought the last 10k would go by fast, but boy were we wrong. This climb was straight up a power line and I was in my 50 tooth chainring spinning for a good 45 minutes. We were suffering so hard we got to the top of the climb and missed the singletrack descent turn and kept climbing an extra 500 feet. Eventually, we realized we were off course and backtracked until we found the trail. It ended up costing us at least 10 min but luckily we still won the stage as the French men were suffering even harder. Once we arrived in Crowsnest it was so windy that they had to take down the finish line and people were bringing their tents inside the hockey rink. Total armageddon! I was completely shattered after this stage and took a nap, squeezed the legs, and chilled out as much as I could to prepare for the final huge day.
Day 7- Crowsnest to Fernie (51 miles, 8,500 feet elevation)
The final stage was the longest and hardest and featured the longest climb of the race. Everyone was so worked after stage 6 that it seemed almost impossible to try and race the last day. Just finishing alone would be a feat, especially since there was a 2k hike-a-bike/bushwack up and over the pass. The climb was 5,000 feet and went forever up a doubletrack road. Luckily it was pretty gradual. My legs felt horrible and I had no power left. I was forced to spin a super high cadence to keep up with Travis and Matt and not get dropped. My mind started to go to the dark side and I could feel myself paying too much attention to my thoughts. I decided I needed to push directly into the pain and suffer as hard as I could. I knew my cardiovascular fitness was at an all-time high, so I decided that since my legs had absolutely no power left, I would go completely anaerobic and spin an extremely high cadence to maintain their pace. I ended up going off the front and even though my heart rate was only 140-150, it felt like it was 200. I was drooling, breathing so hard I sounded like I was hyperventilating, but I knew I had the fitness to hold it for another 30 min to the top. Finally, we topped out and started the hike-a-bike. Once my heart rate dropped I was able to get O2 to my legs and go aerobic. Every stage I would hurt so bad anaerobically for the first 2 hours, but 2.5-3 hours in my aerobic/muscular endurance would kick in and I would have more power and steady-state endurance as the fat burners kicked in. Here's to old man strength! This was exactly the case this stage as well and I crushed the last 2 hours. I even KOM’d the last climb in Fernie on Strava over 5 hours into the stage. Amazing what the body is capable of! Travis, Matt and I finished together and it was an epic finish line with a welcome greeting from the town of Fernie. We took photos, were awarded our finishers t-shirt and belt buckle, and got interviewed by the Fernie Press. Then we ate ice cream and drank beer! What a week! 7 stages, 7 wins, and winning the overall.
A huge thanks to everyone who helped me get here and all my sponsors keeping me going strong all week:
Team Ska Zia Trek- The backbone
Trek Bicycle- My Top Fuel 9.9 was flawless all week. This bike has 3,500 miles of mostly racing on it and still going strong. At just 22 lbs it climbs like a mountain goat and descends through the steep and techy stuff with ease. I was really impressed with its ability on the technical Nipika stage.
Amp Human- I went through 2 big bottles of this stuff and used it 30 min prior to every stage.
CarboRocket- I ran the Kiwi Lime electrolyte mix in my bottles every day. A few of the stages were super hot, so this helped me to not cramp.
Maxxis Tires - USA- I ran the Aspen 2.25 F/R on the fast gravel stages and the Rekon and Rekon Race F/R on the more technical stages. Only one flat and superior traction all week.
Smith Sunglasses- I ran the new Trackstand all week and the dark lenses on the exposed sunny gravel days, and the orange lenses on the darker forest days.
Seven Points- I took .25mg every day after each stage which helped my body relax and recover more quickly. I also used the salve on my legs and arms.
Enduro Bites- I ate 3-4 packages a stage and used the Beta Red 30 min prior to start every day. This helped wake up my nervous system and get me going for the early morning starts.
Honey Stinger- I used the gels for quick fuel and easy access. Non-caffeinated for the first half of each stage and caffeinated for the last few hours.
Elevated Legs- I'm so stoked John and Kathy were there all week squeezing legs. I squeezed after every stage combined with soaking in the river.
Ellexis Lathan Athletic Therapy- She stretched my legs 3 times and brought me back from the dead after stage 4.
Lastly, a huge shoutout to TransRockies Classic & Singletrack 6 for providing such a sick race format. I highly recommend this event to anyone looking to push their mental and physical limits and bike handling skills. The Canadian Rockies are impressive and awe-inspiring!
And of course my teammate Travis Hauck for being such a beast of a rider. Super positive 100% of the time, always joking around and having fun. Racing with a teammate creates a totally different dynamic. Someone is always hurting and someone is always feeling good which makes for no dull moments. I hope to race with Travis again in the future.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading as I know it was a novel, but a lot goes on in a 7-day race :)