First stage race of the season, and first multiple days in a row or riding hard for the season! Nothing like a little stage race to whip myself back into some kind of shape....Furious3 Fernie. Fernie trails are bar non some of the best designed, fastest, flowiest (is that even a word), funnest and most technical trails that I've ever ridden......and I love these trails.
Being compared to the floods of '87, this was by far the wettest that I've ever seen Fernie trails, making an already very challenging race just that much more difficult. Day 1 was the driest overall of the 3 days, starting with an 8km road section to drag us far out of town before starting the first climb. Like I've said many times before mountain bikers on the road is a scary thing! First climb was a measley 5 km of switchbacks..OUCH..that brought us to the newish really fun and very steep and technical "48 Hours". Fantastic Trail!! Definitely used up a lot of my descending karma here, I railed this descent, passing bodies shooting off the trail every which way. Next on tap was the really steep and aptly names climb "Hyperventalation". I've done this climb a couple of times before and each time its pretty daunting, but very rewarding. If you survive the tight switchbacks, down the backside is another great technical descent. Like I said, I used up most of my dh karma on the first downhill and was flopping all over the place on this one. Trees, roots, water, everything was getting in my way and I fought with my bike the whole way down. Still ENOURMOUSLY fun....yes I did say that too.
Then we were sent out to the more familiar lower Fernie trails just above the downtown. Just when I thought we were finishing up, cruising back on the typical finishing trail to most days, we were sent up one more challenging climb for the day. I finished first female on the day, and managed to put 4 minutes into Kate Aardal....knowing she'd just get fast the longer the race I set out to put as much time into her today as I could.
Day 2, after a night of constant rain, started up at the Fernie Ski hill and ended up back in town. Any day that has more descending then climbing is a great day in my books. Due to a very low snow line and the mass amounts of rain this spring, the course was altered to avoid a lot of the really high trails that would have been snow bound....but we still did a lot of climbing for the day, 1700m...and more mud then I though Fernie could have. I was ready for the trails to be bad, but I wasn't expecting this, and I was soooo glad I had made a last minute decision to go shopping for a tire with more tread then I had....I'd still be out there flailing otherwise.
I had a strong start, as per usual, with some steep climbs up the ski hill and some of my old favorite Canada Cup course trails. As we started moving away from the ski hill and into some of the tough singletrack climbing I noticed that Kate had moved in behind me. We road together through the first feed station, stopping to wash an lube our drivetrains....not a happy bike today....sand, clay and lots of muddy water are never a good combination for a finely tuned machine! I lost contact with Kate up the super steep and really long climb "Session 9". I was really missing my Sidi toe spikes here as I had to do the duck walk just to make it up a couple of the really steep muddy sections. Flashbacks to my very first mountain bike race...throwing my bike up and crawling up after it, then repeat. This climb seemed to go on forever....I'm really not kidding, turn a corner and it's still going up!
Just as I said out loud, "I could really use some downhill now...PLEASE!!", I popped out on a powerline decsent..phew! However, this was really short lived as I looked left and started to climb again up "Mushroom Head". The downhill once I finally made it to the top was very rewarding, and fast, taking us all the way down back into Fernie. Again, at this point I would have been very happy finishing the day, but we cruised through town and up the other side to tackle more of the lower Fernie trails. I grabbed a wheel flying by me and managed to hang on for a couple of mins before being shot out the back to continue my lone slog. All in all, I managed to keep Kate to in with 2 and a half mins on the day, and maintain my lead by only 90 seconds...and of course the sun came out and it stopped raining once we were finished. Needed an ice cream reward after this day!!!
Final day, Day 3 started back in Fernie, and after the rain of the day before I happily decided to keep my mud tires on. My initial plan was to sit on Kate's wheel and just try to match her pace, but when I pre-road the start of the stage and saw we hit singletrack after only 1.2 km, racer brain kicked in. Hammering off the start with the guys I entered the bottlenecked singletrack in about 20th position. Maybe pushing a little too hard off along the soul sucking "Coal Discovery Trail" that just seemed to drag on forever!! I was pretty cooked by the time we hit the gravel road and was told Kate was less then min behind me...YIKES.
Grabbing a wheel I held on as long as I could...thanks John!!!...but was quickly punched off the back as Mike Vine came steaming past me. A little more singletrack and a lot more climbing later we entered "Hyperventaliation" again. I've always done climb near the start of the stage, so hitting it near the end was a shock to the body...easiest gear spinning at about 50 rpm the whole way up. At the top we traverse/climbed (a lot more climbing then I was expecting) along "Castle Rocks" to "Southern Comfort". I cracked pretty good here and was sooooo thankful to finally see the end of the climb :-)
This is a really fast open and rocky descent, "Please don't flat, please don't flat". After stopping quickly to see if I could with a mechanical, sorry dude, no extra chain or derallieur, I noticed that Kate was right with me again, and we proceeded to hammer each other all the way to the bottom. Out on the last couple km....and what the..CHAIN SUCK!! BAD!! We were still far enough from the finish that if I ripped my derallieur off I wouldn't be able to run to the finish in time. Quick fix, then I hammered to catch back up...nothing like a head to head sprint on Day 3 to finish off a great weekend of racing.
Kate took the day by about 3 seconds, but I managed to hold the lead by just over a measley minute. Proud of my dad for coming out and conquering his first stage race ever....even after a nasty Day 2 crash..tough old guy :-)
Thank you Bruce Dickman for all the much needed ProGold bike support!! The bike wash and new Extreme lube was a life saver and a drive train saver on a weekend like this. Thank you Mark for the great, well organized race...it's definitely on my to do list again. Furious3 Moab anyone???