TR2011 August 5, 2011, Fernie B.C.
After a fairly uneventful morning with bikeshop repairs completed and the rigs tuned up, we hit the trails. Powerlines to Hyperventilation and Hyperextension via Roots, the route was familiar, the terrain none the easier for having ridden the course the year prior. We flatlanders huffed and puffed our way to the 5000’ viewing point, and joked about the race to come. We scrambled the rooty climbs in the bottom of our granny gear, dabbing on occasion, but happily, though not speedily riding the majority of the climb. The view over Fernie was magnificent, the mountain ranges still hugging some snow in the northern faces, the craggy skyline littered with divots like chunks taken by some gigantic creation-time monster. The switchbacks were challenging, powered down to the granny gear, we hunkered over the front of the bike, struggling to keep the wheel grounded as we spun 180 hairpins off-camber, climbing. More roots, more hairpins. Dennis led and I happily followed his lines, always good, always clean. Then he bobbled on a steeper switchback, and with his bike leaning the wrong direction, he unclipped to try to rectify the turn, stepping down onto the soft switchback edge. It crumbled beneath him, and I watched him slide down the slope, not far, but enough to be worried. As he was coming to his feet, I saw him glance down at his leg, blood already running down his shin. A 2″ diameter rusty steel post had sliced his anterior shin wide open. Damn. I retrieved his bike and helped him over the ledge edge to review the situation. “A few band-aids” he said, “and it’ll be fine”. As I saw the yellow adipose tissue and the shiny white connective tissue gaping though the 3 inch wound, I knew that a band-aid wasn’t going to cut it. And besides, we didn’t even have a band-aid between us. Our so called shake down ride, no first aid, minimal tools, light packs. Marty volunteered his arm-warmers, and with stretchy lycra, I built a nice tourniquet/ compression bandage and the blood stopped running. We were half ways from town, and decided to finish Hyperventilation, returning via Hyperextension instead of doubling back the way we came. We didn’t want to miss the fun downhill, and still needed to test the bikes, and our nerves on this first day. Technical, rooty, rocky, with open scree sections off-camber, we flew down, white knuckles being coaxed to relax, butts sliding past the saddle edges, bike balanced with arses hanging hovering over the rear tires. Shaking, but smiling at the bottom. We coasted onto a mountain access road, turned towards town and headed for the hospital.
Dan and Marty continued their ride to complete the course for Day 1, eventually getting caught in the storm that was brewing with the cumulus clouds coming from the west. We settled into the ER, dirty, sweaty but happy that things weren’t worse. One twenty-something year old kid was back-boarded past us, concussed from a crash on different trails, some broken bones but lucky to be breathing. The ER was quiet but focused, the young female doctor casual but professional, a cute Francophile in t-shirt and combat pants.
Amanda, the ER nurse who steri-stripped Dennis’s gouge after the ten stitches, amused us with tales of housing the entire Kona team. I remembered the piles of food that I saw Barry Wicks pile on his plate last year, and hoped she didn’t have to feed those guys too. Her husband, Roland Green has some serious palmares, with double rainbow stripes as MTB world champion. We loved how small but local the MTB world is, and felt immediately at home with the Newfie Amanda and her ER crew. Dinner, a few local organic brews and several ice packs later, we are planning day two, the final shake down ride before we hit the racecourse. The plan is for a mellow ride to the base of Fernie Alpine resort, to visit a rare stand of hardwoods 1.5m in diameter, one of the few remaining in the country, and the furthest into the Canadian interior. As Dennis’s leg throbs on the hotel bed, we will see what the morning brings. Hopefully no more stitches.