Elk Valley athletes proved they had what it took to compete against the best, with several earning podium finishes in the 2019 TransRockies Classic.
The race, which took place July 22 to 28, saw athletes from 12 different countries test their endurance and mental strength. The TransRockies Classic is a 550 kilometer, seven day, mixed-terrain mountain bike race that spans from Panorama to Fernie.
It is organized bi-annually by the TransRockies Race Series and the Fernie Trails Alliance.
Mark Elson and Krista Turcasso of Fernie took first in the Mixed 80+ category, Jennifer King of Sparwood took second in Solo Women 40+, and Troy Nixon of Fernie came second in the 40+ Mens category for the TransRockies 3 (third day race).
While the course lends some of the most unseen and scenic B.C. backcountry views from 2500 meters high, the natural beauty aside; bikers describe the course as brutal and unforgiving at times. Participants are challenged by eight to 10 hour days often riding rough terrain for hours on end, crossing deep creeks, making their way through thick mud, while also bracing the elements like wildlife and the extreme weather.
Canadians ranked high against international competition, and two of the top three men racers were on home soil. Hardware was handed too; Matthieu Belonger-Barrette, of Quebec was the winner of the Solo men’s open with a time of 24:06:23.4 and Travis Hauck of British Columbia, and Nick Gould of team Boarder Budz were next across the finish line with a time of 24:34:48.3. Despite being in competition against the clock, the leading solo rider and the leading pair moved on as a pack out in the wild for most of the week.
Belanger-Barrette the Men’s Solo lead has been a competitive mountain biker for 15 years, and at the end of the race, he says he was pushed to the limit.
“Today was the hardest day ever,” he said. “Racing day after day is intense and (the course) is challenging; under the sun, with the heat, biking all day and getting in so late at night; I can honestly say it was harder than most of the races that I’ve ever done, which is awesome.”
A highlight of the race for him was in sharing the experience and crossing the finish line with a pair of riders that he befriended in the wilderness.
“We are riding as a pair and Matt was solo, (while in the lead) and yet we pushed on together… I guess early on as a team we decided that it was a good plan to stay together; considering all that we are going through out there; you could say that was a risk. He was the biggest star or challenger, aside from the course itself; it was so hard and sometimes it was like extreme puddle or dodging and bushwhacking combined,” said Belanger-Barrette.
“Today’s biggest challenge was the heat, but everything is challenging on this course; it’s like this intense journey,” said Hauck, who first participated in the race in 2011. He gave kudos to other racers; the ones who don’t hit the finish line first.
“The real props goes out to those who are going to come in after us. Those guys are true competitors because their level of endurance is so strong because they are pushing ahead for longer; these racers carry on without as much rest or down time as those in the lead,” explained Hauck.
Bikers are not the only ones stretched thin during the week-long event; a race of this magnitude takes years of planning, and has many logistics, moving parts and it requires many people, equipment set up and resources. The road show comprises of a crew of 65 staff and volunteers and costs upwards of $300k dollars to put on.
“The event is fortunate enough to attract sponsorship and support at all levels but we definitely couldn’t have done it without the long standing support of the local trails association,” says Aaron McConnell, the President TransRockies Race Series.
McConnell further explained that Elk Valley trail builders Pat Gilmar and Rick Weiss were instrumental in the route planning and preparation, and the Fernie TransRockies Society did a lot of work behind the scenes to make the day memorable.