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Transrockies Challenge Stage 3 (of 7)

Transrockies Challenge Stage 3, 90k, 1522m elevation, 43% single/double track.

The Nipika Mountain Resort is situated in a beautiful alpine meadow surrounded by the majestic Rockies. Under the haze of nearby forest fires, we rolled out of Nipika for a circular route that would lead us back to Nipika. Within 5 minutes of the start we would be waiting in line to cross the natural bridge due to number of riders. I tried to look down – a couple foot drop was waiting for us if you wiped out…

After about 10k, I got a flat. The first of many flats to come. In fact, it was not unusual to see riders on the side of the road with mechanicals of some sort. After about 21k of rolling forest roads and river crossings we hit Miller pass a stunning ride up what appeared to be a mix of ATV trail and “goat track”. The views were stunning but I could not really enjoy them as I gasped for air. What goes up must come down. The descent was the first extremely technical descent with rocky, off-camber surface punctuated by water-bars – divots dug into the trail to prevent erosion. At high speeds, the water-bars proved to be extremely hazardous. Unfortunately, 3 riders were heli-evacuated out that day due to accidents.

Bill and I negotiated the descent with care, not willing to jeopradize our race. However, having forced Bill to wait for me on the climbs, I was hoping to make up the time on the descents so I took a few more risks than Bill. On the second major descent, this would come back and haunt me. On the wheel of the team in front of me, I could barely make out the trail due to the dust and the speed we were going at. Out of nowhere appeared a big root in the middle of the trail. I slammed on the brakes and tried to avoid it but it was too late…

I hit the root at full speed and flew over the bars. To my horror, as I cartwheeled in the air, I saw the edge of the cliff and nothing but air. This was it. I was going to bite it in a mountain bike race. By some miracle, I landed in a patch of bushes, my bike landing nearly on top of me. I rolled down the cliff and soon found myself roughly 20-25ft down the cliff. It was a classic Tour de France highlight. Too bad the cameras weren’t around. I am sure I would have made the evening’s video…

I lay paralyzed for what seemed like hours. Everything was intact – no broken collarbone, no broken limbs, no broken helmet. I screamed for Bill. Bill’s head above me and he was shocked. Meanwhile, the noise of disc brakes screeching could be heard with shouts of “Are you all right?”, “can we help?”. Bill swung his leg over the cliff and I scrambled up losing my footing several times. I dared not look down. I was lucky to be alive and even luckier to escape unscathed (I was dreading the next day as I knew I would be sore as heck – I downed two Advils at the next TA and hoped for the best).

What a relief to get the big wipe out out of the way!

Some other riders weren’t as lucky. While descending at full speed over uneven terrain, water-bars would cut across the trail, creating a “divet” into the trail. Some bunny-hopping or lifting the wheel quickly would assist in avoiding disaster. But for a couple of folks we saw on the side of the road, injured and banged up, it was not meant to be…

Another day in the rockies…

(sorry guys for the multiple chapters – just haven’t had the time to write it all in one shot!)

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  • Holy Smokes! Sounds like quite the race. Glad to hear that you are still in one piece & able to continue. Good Luck & safe riding the rest of the way!

  • Great reports John. I wasn’t there for your spill but I can just imagine what it could have been like knowing what we were riding. Glad you made it through!

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