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Trans Rockies Race 2005

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These are some of the many thoughts, experiences and feelings that I had during the TransRockies 7 day, (approx.) 670km mountain bike race, from Fernie BC to Canmore Alberta. The race ran from 7th to the 13th August 2005 and featured over 12,000 metres of climbing, and temperatures ranging from 35C to –1C.


It was my brother that started the whole thing for me. He had seen the first race (2002) when it passed through the town of Blairemore (Alta) and decided to sign up for the second Tran Rockies mountain bike race in 2003.

The year 2003 was a little different—very high temperature, and the largest forest fire in the areas history. This was the year that my brother and his family were evacuated from their home (in Blairemore) 1 week prior to the race, and where, on the 7th day of the race, with 60kms to go, he crashed and broke his collar bone, dislocated his other shoulder, broke his jaw, and received 16 stitches to his face (and still managed to finish).

So given all these reasons not to race, I decided it was too much of an opportunity to miss, and we both signed up for the 2005 race.

The Training

It was in November (2004) that I made my decision and started the work of training for the race. Little did I know what I was in for. The training was not complicated—ride for long hours (up to 6 hours in the saddle), and then go out and do it again and again and again and again…., Get home, eat, nap, eat some more, sleep, get up and do it again. And all this wrapped around the necessity of working for a living. Fortunately (or unfortunately) my own circumstances enabled me to find plenty of time to ride without incurring the ‘usual’ relationship issues (you need an accepting spouse and family), and I was fortunate not to incur any major injuries during this time (touch wood).

Day 1 - Fernie BC to Sparwood BC (46 km)

Excitement / nervous / music playing / riders everywhere / party atmosphere

Start late (11am) / 34° C – hot / energy high / photo ops everywhere

The gun / ceremonial ride through town then onto the gravel road heading upwards

Stuart leads / adrenaline is high / speed high / everyone looking for a good position for the single track / passing people

Redlining / heart rate at max / too fast / too hard (too late)

Uphill/down hill/amazing single track / ride / hike a bike / riders jockeying for position / everyone going too fast / nerves + excitement + adrenaline + too fast+ altitude = throwing up (so much for the Gatorade)


Get into rhythm (but it’s such a shock)/ continue single track (40km) / flowing / too fast to check scenery / drafting Stuart / down up / down up / don’t forget to eat / drink / everything working ok on bike / 25k to go / 20k / 10k / 5k / onto Highway 3 and Sparwood / the crowd noise / cheers / finish line (4hrs 08mins) / too hot/try to eat and drink / wasted / lay down / family all around / filthy bike & clothes / riders shower

Day over / back to Stuarts and more fluids food and rest and rest and rest, stretch, relax and to bed at 9:30pm (can I do it again tomorrow?)

Day 2 – Sparwood BC to Elkford BC (126km)

Early awake (5:30am) / drive to start by 7:15am / meet and greet other riders / music playing / energy high / yesterday just a memory / friends and family / 8am-the start

Easier start along gravel roads, then up power line roads / up and up and up / double track / slower pace than yesterday / Stuart leads way / drafting along rolling dirt roads (for 95k) / food stops / hectic / grab food / drink and go again / Hartley Pass (2200 metres) dirt road / what’s the gradient 8% / 10%? / hike a bike for 2km (death march) / hot (30° C) /single speed guy goes by (again)/ Stuarts encouragement / drafting at 24k/h

Stay under the red line / heart rate high but ok / legs tiring / turning to blocks of wood / eat / drink / eat / drink / dust dirt / eating dirt / drinking dirt

Hit the peak and down we go / fast descent / rock gardens everywhere / crashes/hiking downhill / people riding / people crashing / pushing hard

Thunder storms around / rain / slick rock / slick descent but no one cares / what’s the scenery like? -Stuarts butt

Hit the dirt road into Elkford / redlining again / 25k/hr but who cares – only 5k to go – finish line / music / crowds / applause / Team SORCE finishes again (7 hrs 35mins) longest mtn bike ride for me / support crew (family) / have to lie down / wasted / feeling sick then euphoric – shower / food / drink and back to Stuarts for more food and drink and rest and rest and rest and sleep

- Ready for tomorrow.

Day 3 – Elkford BC to Etherington Creek (137km) (highest elevation 2300m)

Low key pre-race / everyone tired / cooler temperatures (max 22° F) / thunderstorms overnight/very wet

Start fast / too fast / paceline 30km/hr / gravel roads / rolling / beautiful scenery (Elk Valley) / riding north along Rockies / steep climbs / very tired legs / concrete (no more lactic acid) / climb, then climb some more / everyone tired / saddle sores & sore ass

Fast gravel roads downhill / into sweet singletrack / climb again into Kananaskis country / double track / onto road, up highest road pass in Canada (Highwood pass) / grind it out / cranks turning by themselves / mountain sheep everywhere-have to ride round them (they don’t care)/fast down (60Km/hr)/ drafting behind Stu / 13k of headwinds / onto gravel / 6k of climbing then onto finish at remote campsite/helicopters/music/finish area (7hrs 48mins)/ exhausted (how can we do it again tomorrow?) / support crew / food / drink / nap / eat /drink / ceremonies / quiet – peace – sleep.

Day 4 – Etherington to Sandy McNabb


Overnight thunderstorms / 10° C / torrential rain / axle deep sticky mud /

Start slow but redline due to mud/ double track out of campsite/ immediate granny-gear climb out of start / mud / onto road / fast downhill / paceline fast down hill/ onto hike a bike / 1hr of hike a bike / mud / fast downhill double track / rider with dislocated shoulder (wants to keep going)—any one a doctor?/ hike a bike for 2 ½hrs / into the clouds and no views/cold / slow downhill (mud) / creek crossings / exhaustion / why? /conversation with others / single speed /granny gear (do they make an 18x36?) eat / drink / ridge ride above clouds / no view / Syncros special activity/ naked riders dancing in the meadow (surreal or what?) /freezing temp / cold/downhill / saddle sore causing problems / no rear brakes / front wheel slide crash (into muddy creek) who cares / need extra clothing / still cold / stopped for racer with hypothermia (Medivac units around) / cow paths / mud baths / back wheel stops rolling / cow shit everywhere / SRAM stuff working like a charm / peddling downhill to get through mud / river crossing with rope / raging torrent/ hold on to the rope / up to thighs/ don’t let go (bike and rope)/uphill drag to finish / pouring rain / 3 spectators (7hrs 20mins/ lineup for bike wash / shivering / hot tea / shower/ food / check results (we beat Keith Bontrager today) / 5th place in age group / clean bike / service / wash and dry clothes / prepare food and drink for tomorrow / eat / hydrate / lights out at 9pm / ready for another day.

Day 5 – Sandy McNabb to Bragg Creek (110k)

Up at 6:30 am / morning is crisp and clear /no rain, joy of joys/ extended day from 105km due to 110km due to muddy route (count our mixed blessings)

Great news- we’re seeded (top 5 in each age group get front of start line) / fast road start / paceline along asphalt for 10k / onto gravel / Kananaskis country / beautiful morning / beautiful country / start climbs / dead legs from yesterday / everyone tired / river crossings (carrying bike) / wet feet (who cares) wet clothes (who cares) / try to find comfortable rhythm / fast downhill onto river valley / eat / drink (the usual) / start the first big climb / then singletrack with hike a bike (f***k) / downhill / food station / granny gear / saddle sores/blisters/pain/mud/river crossings

20 tooth front ring for 80% of day (just keeps chugging along (thanks Race Face/Chad) / climb and climb / downhill (too short) / cranks turning themselves on uphills / back up next mountain (tight single track) – hike a bike for 45mins (barely moving) / short steep downhills / back up hill for 1 ½ hr hike a bike / fast down / bonking (keep eating and drinking) / valley floor / muddy singletrack (never ending) / hit road / pick up pace / draft into Bragg Creek (8hrs 59mins) / exhausted but need to clean bike / eat/ and back to campsite for showers / food etc / longest mtn bike ride ever / hardest day yet / everyone suffering

Campsite: food/shower/crash for an hour / then get ready for tomorrow (horrendous climbs followed by an amazing ridge ride) / tired / lights out at 9om / to sleep, perchance to dream.

Day 6 – Bragg Creek to Rafter 6 dude ranch (80km)

Woke to a rainstorm – packing up camper in rain / wet – rain slows for start / 10° C / put every piece of warm clothing on or in Camelback / slow wet start / no one wants to go


/gravel road onto muddy double track / Alberta mud like glue / 10k in we find a friend with broken bike derailleur and middle ring / stopped to help /change to single speed/ help the ladies for while (2hrs?) racer gives Christine her bike / Stu and I continue ahead but we’re dead last / pass lots / heavy mud everywhere / hard work (again)/whole day in granny gear fighting mud and rain / long climb up to Jumping Pound ridge at 6000ft+ / tough climb / 1hr hike a bike / amazing ridge ride overlooking foothills / 1° C and hail / fast downhill / v. slick in rain and cold / climb back up to Cox Hill on single track (mud like glue) / 13 teams lose derailleurs (Shimano?) / cold / hard/ in the moment/ legs like concrete / pedal grinding / r. brakes gone again (2nd set of pads for rear) / ride/eat / drink / little concentration / aid station / people frozen / everyone struggling today / fast single track into finish @ dude ranch (8hrs 47mins)/ sun comes out / beautiful location / chance to shower and dry out outside / awards ceremony (would have been 3rd today but for the delays) / 4th in age group / quiet campsite / late rise tomorrow (10am start) whoopee!/ lights out at 9:30pm / lots of excitement/ ready for another (last) day

Day 7 – Rafter 6 to Canmore (48km)

Beautiful night / taking a leak with the Milky Way lighting up the sky-amazing / morning is cold but sunny only 2°C – frost everywhere but clear – short day today/48k to downtown Canmore / race course change at start due to Grizzly family on race course?/ started fast / everyone wants to get to the finish ASAP / dry day / fast singletrack to start / onto Trans Canada Highway for 30 mins / 40 person pace line @ 30k into singletrack climbs / rocky short fast climbs / dry rock (drop offs) / last aid station(cookies- stud muffins?) / bananas / watermelon / energy bars (7 days of it) / eat / drink / warming up / everyone in good mood / into Canmore Nordic center (lots of people)- Main Street/music/cheering/ finish line (3hrs 25mins)/ 3rd place in category (alright!) The end / medal (finishing)/hugs/tears/lot’s of emotions/exuberant/can’t stop smiling/tired/family / support team everywhere / hit the restaurant for a cheeseburger fries and a pint of Guinness (first beer in 2 weeks) / back to campsite / shower change (bike clean? – who cares) saddle sore area feels better / euphoria / everyone happy

Awards Ceremony

Evenings gathering of athletes for beers dinner awards thank you’s – sitting with 1st/2nd place men’s team (Hestler & Messingher), and the ladies winners (too cute) – lots of beer/food/music – 3rd place today in 100+ group (on the podium and a bottle of wine) Came 4th overall in age group – conversations with everyone/Hestler and Simon, and Bontrager and Stu – photos of the day + videos of the week –cheering/party’s great but time to go (hard to leave) – bed/thoughts about the day/quiet/peace/sleep (no need to get up early!) – The End.


Amazing / incredible / hardest thing I’ve ever done / euphoria / misery / pain (mental, physical, and emotional) / where do we all get the energy each day? /balls to the wall each day / the human machine (food in / energy expended / waste out, and do it again each day) / friendships / support / camaraderie / emotional highs and lows / do it again next year? /no mechanicals / no flats / mud sucks


Recommendations for Trans Rockies racers

Personal: need supportive family / compatible partner in many ways (personality /fitness/ objectives should be similar). Highly recommend not tenting but use a camper/teams of 2 for safety, support and encouragement/ support personnel needed (really helps when you’re spaced out each evening)/if you don’t have a support crew, buy the meals that are offered (it’s less hassle than having to cook)/take lot’s of warm clothing (both for during and post race) and plenty of cycling gear (wear lycra stuff not baggy shorts—they get in the way)

During Race

Ride together / work together (clean bikes/ride/eat/laundry etc). /faster rider pulls more/fill up with food and water at all aid stations/carry as much food as possible (incredible number of calories consumed)/recommend gels for short bursts of energy towards end of each days race/recommend liquid food replacement drinks for quick energy e.g. Ensure)/encourage each other (and other riders)/help others/find groups to draft with along fast roads (gravel and asphalt)

Equipment: Bike: light and strong / full suspension / take spare parts (on Camelback and for after race fixes) / for heavier maintenance share race tools and have strongest rider carry most weight / take own food and energy drink/tow bars and cables-maybe or maybe not, it all depends/no SPD’s (don’t clear mud well)/recommend riser bar with bar ends (for extra hand position)

Training: Long hours in saddle (8-9hrs 2-3days) / hike-a-bike for up to 2hrs / ride in every weather / practice pace line/drafting/huge difference / practice fast downhills / train to exhaustion / then do it the next day / eat and drink continuously / solid food where possible / ride in the mountains (not hills)

That’s it for now---any additional information will require numerous beers to help in the remembrance of the high lights and the low lights of such an amazing experience.

So please call me any time.

Barry Dalziel (and Stuart Dalziel) TransRockies August 2005

Alternative Story and Photo’s

For a different and maybe more lucid description and photos check the following web site for an alternative description of each of the day’s stages:

pdf 2005 Trans Rockies Race Results 131.57 Kb

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