By: Cary Smith
The Trans BC 6 day enduro stage race started today in Fernie, BC, Canada. I’m up here with Aaron Grutzmacher, Andrew Sherman and Mike Master doing battle against 120 other shredders. It’s a very international field with the majority of entrants from Canada and the US but a smattering of Europeans, Kiwis and Aussies.
If you don’t know what enduro racing is, it’s several timed, mostly descending, stages spread throughout a day of riding. The times of each stage are added together to give you a total time for the day. In the case of a stage race, each day’s times will be added together to give a total time for the week. So, you can pace yourself on the climbing transfers to get to the top of the next stage and drill it as fast as you can to the bottom. Obviously, some stages will be steeper, rougher and favor the racers with a DH background, while others will be flatter, require more pedaling and favor the fitter racer.
This particular race is referred to as “blind racing.” This means that we don’t know the trails we’re racing until the night before. This will hopefully prevent people from pre-riding but it also favors the locals because they will obviously have ridden these trails before.
Aaron and I arrived in Fernie on Saturday in time to spend the afternoon riding the lifts at Fernie Alpine Resort. The first 50 feet of trail was more technical than anything I’ve ridden all year. Welcome to BC! Once we got in the groove, the trails were awesome. Challenging but well-built in such a way as to let you gain confidence and go faster without wondering if a surprise was waiting for you on the other side of a blind drop or switchback.
The day before a race, I normally do a short ride to open my systems. That was my intention this time as well. I went for a ride while Aaron went to yoga, and rode two of the best trails I’ve ever ridden in my life. Needless to say, when I got back to the hotel, Aaron dragged me out to do it again. 7500’ of climbing the day before starting six days of racing is not in any training handbooks but it was too fun to pass up!
As soon as today’s course was posted, I knew we were not racing in the States. 25 miles with 5500’ of climbing is about three times what we did over two days of racing at Targhee last year. Although we rode a lift to the first stage, it wasn’t the lift that went to the top of the stage. They took us to the other side of resort and had us pedal up to the start. Which makes sense from a racer’s perspective as it’s easier to warm up by pedaling than by riding a lift.
The first stage was nearly 2000’ of descending on a BC Cup DH course. Nothing like getting thrown into the deep end! The average gradient was -22% for the whole thing. It’s uncanny how the trail builder found a root to drop off right before every switch back to keep us on our toes.
We then had a long transfer down, through town and up the other side of the valley. Again, we were shown how they do things in BC as the “easy” climbing trail was eerily similar to climbing Josie’s Ridge, not quite as steep, but twice as long, with switchbacks that required a lollipop built so you could spin around to make the turn. This delivered us to another 1500’ descent.
Then it got real. We started out climbing a logging road for a few miles, then turned onto a trail that was steep enough to force most people to push their bikes. People pushed for close to an hour before topping out on this beautiful ridge overlooking the town of Fernie while huge granite faces towered over us. This descent was the longest of the day at nearly 2500’. During that time I probably pedaled 20 times but my HR was pinned, my forearms and hands were pumped and my brake fluid was boiling. This descent averaged -23%, with a max of -48%. I’ve never ridden anything so steep. And the promoter told us that it is flat compared to what we’ll see on Wednesday! From there it was an easy cruise to the last stage, which was more “pedally” but still more technical than all but probably two trails in JH.
Now it’s off to dinner and the meeting to find out what tomorrow holds. The bad news is that we were scheduled to get a helicopter ride from Panorama Ski Resort, but the heli was called out to help fight a fire. Oh well, guess we’re pushing!
Check out Aaron Grutzmacher's file from the stage here: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1847438579