BaseCamp alumnus Nicole Gunton shared her experience at the 2022 TransRockies Singletrack 6 in western Canada.
I’ve been doing this stage race since the first one they put on (previously the TransRockies stage race), this being my 6th iteration of it. It is hard; really hard! Even though it is shorter than most of my races, at around 3 hours per day rather than the 5-10 hours that I prefer, everything about each day is harder. The climbs are steeper, the descents are more technical and steep, and the competition is that much more skilled.
Fernie I backed off my normal short race pace a tad, putting out around 95% of race pace, and it showed in the results, putting me in the last half of the pack (6th of 9). However, I did this on purpose since in the last stage race I did two weeks ago – the Quebec Singletrack Experience – I pushed way too hard on day one and paid for it all week. The timed descent was way over my comfort level, with the grade well over 40% in a loose sandy shoot; I walked several parts of it not wanting to crash myself out the first day.
At Fernie the climbs weren't quite as steep but just as much climbing, and this suits my riding style much better, so I gave a good push up the primary climb and at one point was leading my category; that is, until the main downhill, which was just as steep and gnarly as yesterday, and the first and second place passed me on these and maintained that place. But to my surprise, I ended up 3rd for the day; this was my best finish for any day on any year of the ST6, so you can imagine how stoked I was.
We moved to Kimberly, which is very rocky and even more technical, if you can believe it. The shoots were just as steep and more crumbly with sharper rocks and steeper drop-offs with more consequence. Today I didn't even look at the results, as I was mentally and physically drained from the day.
The second day at Kimberly was the Kimberly I remember from 5 years ago. The climbs were manageable and the descents were actually ridable (on my little xc bike). My body was sore and tired, but I gave everything I could and think I ended up 5th?
After a 3.5-hour drive the night before to Rossland, we started in town for a "short" but climby day. Two big climbs, but thankfully the downhills were less steep and everything rollable. The last trip to Rossland in 2018 was crazy technical, so it was nice to have some more reasonable and fun singletrack to race on. Don't get me wrong, this was not an easy technical course, it was still black diamond "enduro" style, but I wasn't actually scared to ride anything today. Phew… one more day.
In Rossland again, starting up on the mountain resort. There were several climbs of 10-15 minutes, and in typical Canadian fashion, steep but just barely rideable. Like the day before, everything was rollable, and I daresay almost like an XC course, but still with some black diamond runs. I put everything out there and got a 4th for the day, with 3rd passing me on the second to last downhill; I caught up to her on the last climb, but her technical skills on the downhill were far superior to my own.
During the course of the week, I ended up 5th overall, which I am happy with. I have never broken into the top 5 for this race before, and getting a 3rd for a day on day 2 was more than I could have asked for!
Lessons taken away for my attempt next year:
More technical riding! I really needed something on my training schedule to push me to work on downhill speed and not just fitness.
More VO2 work. Getting up the steeps of Canadian singletrack requires more than sweet spot and threshold 8-minute workouts. Sweet spot training is great for general fitness, but for most (if not all) mountain bike climbing courses, some threshold and VO2 work in the mix of that tempo/sweet spot have to be accounted for in my training, I felt pretty unprepared for it this week.
My season is done for the year after this week's TSS of 1497, 149 miles, and almost 27,000 feet of climbing. I'm going to have fun on my bike for a couple months and join you all again in December! Cheers!