The Transrockies racing series is something that most mountain bikers have always wanted to race or have raced in the past and regales about it to other cyclists. It¹s one of the most popular multi-day stage races involving long grueling days in the saddle testing every racer¹s mettle.
When I looked at the racing schedule for this season, I was slightly dismayed when I noticed that the Transrockies races took place one week after the 24 hours of adrenaline race in Canmore. I would have preferred to have at least two weeks of physical and mental recovery to take on a challenge as prodigious as the TR3, so the plan was for me and some teammates to have a relaxing weekend of casual trail riding in Jasper for a respite to the racing.
As it turned out, Kokanee Redbike team manager and totalitarian leader, Mike Sarnecki suggested/commanded us to join him and Josh in Fernie to have a team building weekend. It did make sense that instead of heading out to Jasper, Shanny and I should drive to Fernie and ride some of the amazing trails surrounding the lovely little mountain town. After we confirmed with Mike that we were heading to Fernie, he promptly made some phone calls and emails and secured us positions as race Ambassadors. To be honest, I was not totally certain that I knew what a race Ambassador does or what contractual obligations it entails. Naively, Shanny and I accepted the roll and packed up the BMW and started the long drive to Fernie Friday afternoon.
After six hours of DJ Mark Jung¹s Iphone shuffle tunes, we arrived at the condo in plenty of time to make the Transrockies staff meeting at 7:00pm. Meekly, we walked into this metal hanger that was the Fernie community center where the Transrockies headquarters was located. We found our Ambassador team leader, Peter, quite quickly where he provided us a rundown of the basic Ambassador role, which was to carry a heavy pack full of gear and ride with the racers and provide help whenever needed. Sweet deal. Shanny and I gave each over a devious look of atisfaction, but then it got even sweeter. They gave us ³Crew² T-shirts so we can do whatever the hell we wanted. Not really, but it was the closest I¹ve ever got to being a security guard or anyone with a modicum of power in any event. They even gave us Transrockies riding jerseys in my eye reflecting white and baby blue colors and Kicking Horse coffee. As staff, we were told that we would be provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner all three days of racing, which at that point, I started to cry because of the notion of free food and the possibility that I would actually gain weight over the weekend.
The medical staff was lead by Drew, whose cowboy swagger reminded me of a Coen brother¹s movie character, and Ken King. Both men had a wonderful sense of friendliness mixed in with solid proficiency that reflected the staff¹s overall professionalism and obvious experience. They talked; we listened.
When we arrived back at the condo, we were quite appreciative to Mike for getting the gig and we gloated to Josh about how we got to ride the race for free and we still got a bag full of swag. Then, Shanny and I amused ourselves by using the race sticker as a tattoo and posted photos online. Our giddiness was soon extinguished by the news that on Stage 1, we had to climb Hyperventilation twice. With that news, we decided to settle to bed to get rest.
We woke up Saturday to blue skies and cool mountain air, and ate breakfast with the staff joined by young Raf from Hardcore who joined us as an Ambassador. We filled our packs with a radio, satellite phone, tubes, first aid kit, pumps, tools and any other conceivable item that could be found to be useful to racers on the trail. After getting final instructions from Peter, Drew and Ken, Shanny and I fell into the mix of racers and started riding up into the trails. As expected, the day was full of incidents like racers breaking chains, having flats and cleats coming off of shoes where we stopped to help out. It was very satisfying to help fellow cyclists out on the course where you know they are not there to win or mollify their sponsors, but to just finish and have fun racing an endurance mountain bike race.
On the second day, Shanny and I were on full sweep duty which meant that we just sat back behind the last rider and make sure we communicate with the staff to the whereabouts of our location. At first, we were just spinning at the back having a conversation, but we quickly noticed that we were alone with just one rider. She was a single racer and laboring up the climb. I rode up ahead to judge how much of a gap there was between her and the next group of racers. As it turned out, it was significant. Shanny with her unwavering patience, stayed with the last racer till Check Point 1. Surprisingly, she wanted to continue on to Check Point 2, showing her determination in finishing the stage. Unfortunately, She did not make it to Check Point 2 before the cutoff point, and I was the person to relay that information to her. She started to cry which I¹m sure was a mixture of disappointment or relief. It was a tough day for veryone, but I found the day to be cathartic as I realized how important it is for a lot of people to just finish this race.
Day Three started with light rain and a loose moose on the course, literally. The course to Check Point 2 was absolutely fantastic with challenging climbs and fun technical descents with some smooth singletrack traversing. Then came a series of soul destroying steep climbs. If it wasn¹t for Crazy Larry encouraging you at a climb turn up, I¹m sure half the field would have quit. By the time we got to the final descent, it started to rain, making the trail much more slick. That is where I caught up to a racer, who sprained her ankle quite badly and convinced her that she should not continue and just ride down the fire road down to the mobile hospital. It was a fitting way for an Ambassador to finish the race.
My experience as an Ambassador for the TR3 was quite edifying as I learned the logistics and coordination it takes to run a multi-day race. Personally, I generally had a great time working with the medic crew, hanging out with my teammates and other racers and riding the trails in Fernie. Considering how well the staff treat you and the fact that you got to ride the race course for free, the Ambassador role is something I highly recommend to anyone who wants to work and ride hard and feel like you accomplished more that just finishing a race.