Back in the middle of winter, I entered into a competition by Tourism Golden, to win entry into the Singletrack6 MTB stage race. It was going to be the replacement for the old epic Transrockies bike race from Fernie to Canmore. Just with a lot more sleeping in town, a lot less mud, shorter days, and much much more singletrack. But still six days of bike racing.
Then when we were on holiday down in Bend, I found out I’d won it. And I was a little bit scared, but quite a lot excited.
Day One – West Bragg Creek. 42km, 1500m gain
The event started over on the West Bragg trails. We arrived super early, so I’d have plenty of time to check in. Checking in took 30 seconds. So we spent some time throwing rocks in a creek, and messed around, until all of a sudden it was time to be getting into the starting corale, and I had left it a little late, and crammed in somewhere towards the back of the mid-pack.
The customary ACDC Highway to Hell played over the speakers, and then I spent a lot of the first ten minutes trying to overtake as many people as I could before we hit the singletrack. Where I was stuck. In a slooow slooow singletrack train. It did eventually thin out though – especially once we started climbing up Pneuma!
Things were going pretty smoothly, except I’d started to lose my lower gears – the chain just wouldn’t want to sit in granny gear. I wondered what could be wrong, and whether I’d be able to get my bike seen by a mechanic that afternoon, until somewhere along Strange Brew, my back wheel fell off. Ah. So apparently that’s a thing with the new hollow axles – they can be too dry, and they’ll work their way out, until your wheel will drop out. Fitting my wheel back on fixed the issue with the gears though – hurrah!
I’d lost some time messing around though, and was overtaken by another solo female – although I could out-climb her, she totally outclassed me on the descents, and so as we dropped back down towards the finish line, I didn’t have a hope of catching her. Especially after I ran into a tree with one kilometre to go. Well, the end of my right handlebar ran into a tree. My bike took this as a sign that I wanted to hug the tree. So I did, before picking us both up and continuing.
Day 1 down – that wasn’t so bad! I’d tried to take it as easy as I could – my first real multi-day event, who knows how it would go.
Day Two – Nipika. 42km, 800m gain
Ah, Nipika, my old nemesis. Actually I’d only ridden here once before. Although my memories of it were vague, I was haunted by a sense of not wishing to return. Once we started racing it all came flooding back to me. Nipika is rough! If it’s not rooty it’s rocky. And if there are no roots or rocks, there is constantly uneven ground, so you can never just easily sit and spin to cover distance – you have to fight for Every Single Metre. And for my spinners legs, it’s a challenge. They’re not great at pushing over that kind of terrain.
On the plus side, it is beautiful though.
We started this day in waves of 10, based on the results of the previous day. I was in around the ninth wave, so got to watch some of the fast kids taking off before I set off – and met someone who rode the same awesome bike that I do! She was riding in a mixed pair, and they were the beginning of a collection of riders I ended up getting to know, just because we kept a pretty similar pace each day.
Things got warm, legs kept spinning. I spent most of the last 20km just dreaming of the nice cool pond back at the finish line.
Once I hit the finish line, it was straight to the pond, feeling a little in need of a hug. I’d caught the ST6 bus out to Nipika that morning – just me, my bike and my duffle bag, out to take on the world on our own, while my menfolk stayed home. But it’s a little lonely, doing a big multi-day race on your own. Although I ended up meeting a whole lot of awesome people, it would be really fun to do a race like this with some friends you knew beforehand too.