Pro bikers and amateur racers alike streamed through Fernie’s Station Square Thursday (Aug. 25) for the conclusion of the inaugural TransRockies Gravel Royale, and according to the top placer, the tour was world class.
Rob Britton of Victoria, who spent twelve years as a world-wide professional bike racer, was the first to cross the finish line following a ride that brought him, and about 200 other racers, from Panorama to downtown Fernie.
He couldn’t pinpoint a single highlight, but said the natural beauty of the region was what made the race stand out.
“I think just the picturesque moments each day, that’s definitely the highlight of this whole tour, is like, incredible,” he said.
Aaron McConnell, president of the TransRockies race series and founder of the Gravel Royale, said that there was an almost perfect gravel route from Panorama to Fernie over four days.
“We wanted to showcase what we thought was some of the best gravel riding in the world,” he said.
Stage four to Fernie was considered the most challenging, with a ride from Canal Flats of about 133 km.
The race itself concluded at the top of Hartley Lake road for the sake of safety coming down the hill and entering town.
McConnell said the race was going really well.
“People seem to be really enjoying it,” he said.
“Lots of smiling faces out there. I think everyone’s excited to get to Fernie.”
Finishing after Britton in the Elite/Pro Male category for stage 4 was Cory Wallace of Jasper (second) Caleb Swartz of Wisconsin (third), Michael van den Ham of Chilliwack (fourth), and Josiah Middaugh of Colorado (fifth).
According to McConnell, there were participants from eight countries, with about 40 states and provinces in North America represented.
He said the gravel cycling community is a little less formal than other genres of cycling.
“It’s a real focus on community, and adventure, and experiencing the landscape in a fun way.”
Swartz (third) said the race was awesome, and that the point-to-point style was really fun.
“It was a first year event for this one, and it was really well put together. TransRockies crushed it.”
McConnell said that Fernie is a long-time venue partner for them, and they have lots of great relationships in town and support from the tourism industry and retailers.
“Fernie’s a great place to ride bikes, so it’s a perfect place to finish this event.”
He said they will be looking at hosting a second Gravel Royale in Fernie around the end of next August.