Day 1 racing @ Fernie: check the course out… Gnarly climbing followed by gnarly descents. I am loving my GF Superfly 100, the “100” stands for a hundred mm of travel in the front end (and more in the tail..), and with drop offs and 40degree declines, I was using every little bit of it. The climbs were tough, full concentration over roots and logs, in the granny gear, chest low, chin high (thanks Gene!) The air was thin at 5000 feet, and when gasping for oxygen, I still managed to giggle at Marty’s comments when pre-riding this stage. Geared down, tongue hanging on the front tire, our Ozzie friend was lamenting that he was “sucking the koalas out of the trees”. Heaving, he had trouble deciding whether to breathe, or to drink, and lacking a tracheostomy tube to breathe through while drinking from his camelback hose, opted for the air. I found comfort in funny thoughts as I struggled today, but kept a steady though painful pace through Hyperventilation and cleared the whole first section, no dabs. Dennis was a bit behind on the climbs, with a couple of gears less than me and a few pounds more. We switched places at the top of the climb, having caught our friends Danny and Marty,
and the 4 of us bombed the downhill, clearing sections that we were tentative on previously, race day adrenalin assisting with flipping the fear switch”off” (more thanks to Gene Hamilton @ www.Betterride.net, for skills that I am using every minute here..). The second section was no easier, though the climbs were less brutally long. Dennis snapped his chain at a critical climb, so we saw the lads off as we hunkered down for a trail-side repair. Wipperman links to the rescue, we only lost about 3 minutes or so in the stop. The break in rhythm was not helpful, it took another hour of pounding it to settle in again, catching the boys at the aid station. No stops for us, we blew past as Marty was chugging some Ultima drink, they dumped that quickly and hopped back on our tails, the 4 of us whooping it up through the rooty, twisty, off camber tight course back into Fernie. As we came through town, our paceline effort was for naught, a train was coming through town, and we had to take a mandatory stop at the track, an official noting the time, and giving us a “pass” for the 3 minutes it took the train to pull through. Fernie is a mining town, and these coal trains are about a mile or so long, it created an interesting local flavor pause in the race, before we bombed it to the finish line, all four of us charging together just like at Sunday “Mass” in Montauk! 5th in our group, 2:54:44, we are only 10′ off the second placed group, a pretty competitive group this year. It will be an interesting week. The singlespeeders Clint and Karen won the day, with 2:36, totally hard to believe, until you see that she weighs 90lbs and has the most power-to-weight that I have seen on a MTB. They are a great couple and will be getting married on Stage 6, at Rafter 6 ranch, in the Kananaskis wilderness.. Marty and Dan were only a bit back at 2:56:50. The 5th place woman in the solo categoryTR3 was 2:52, so I am happy with our time, always nice to check on the other categories to see how I stand with the power houses in the MTB world. Reality check with Melanie McQuaid, threepeater Xterra world champion coming in 2nd @ 2;21, to Mical Dyck at 2:17.. these women rock! MD raced this whole race with 2 gears having trashed her shifter cable somehow in the first section..OMG. Stay tuned..it is going to be a fun week..