Etherington Creek to Anchor D Ranch
We left most of the
TR3 competitors behind with a chilly, overcast start from the campground. After
a frenetic sprint one kilometer to the first singletrack things began to sort
out. It was a rolling descent that was pretty buff, and super fun even with the
dampness of the morning. Before long we were up onto the highway for a short
stretch until beginning our first climb to Grass Pass.
This portion of the
route was mostly moto and cow trails of varying grade that were generally
ridden with little trouble. Some folks seemed stuck in walking mode after
yesterday, so we were able to work our way up to third place by simply riding
more. A short descent gave way to another climb over Sullivan Pass. This ascent
was more constant, and I was able to stay on the bike and enjoy the sunshine
that was out and quickly burning away the morning gloom.
Jon was climbing well
and we were in pretty good shape until the alder brush closed in halfway up.
This seemed to be a bit of a distraction for him, and we fell back to fourth
place across a rocky, false summit along the ridgeline. We were now in sight of
second as we entered the alpine meadows near the top. The mountains were
beautifully serene, and the weather perfectly calm and temperate. Nice enough
that one could easily stop for picnic and a late morning nap!
There was no resting,
though, as we crested the pass and dove back into the alders. They seemed
solely purposed to remove all flesh from our lower extremities. The brush also
made for some sketchy riding since it more or less camouflaged the trail ahead
leaving some surprisingly large rocks and washes virtually unseen. We had
really begun to lose touch with the front runners in our category by the time
we made checkpoint two near the bottom. The single trail gave way to smooth
gravel road, and I could tell my partner was struggling now regardless of the
terrain or surface.
This was unfortunate
because we still had over 20km to ride and things were about to take a real
turn for miserable. We exited the road and entered cow country full bore. I
won’t elaborate, but imagine boggy meadows punctuated by patches of rooty woods
and numerous streams—then add lots of cows living in the area. Essentially it
was a mess; lots of mud holes, lots of poo, and lots of pushing. I kept myself
mentally occupied by trying to ride through or avoid as much of the mud as
possible, while Jon just seemed focused on putting one foot in front of the
other just to make the finish.
On and on we toiled
even passing a moto stuck in the mire. Luckily it was sunny and warm enough to
be comfortable washing in the creeks while I waited for Jon to catch up.
Finally, after a couple hours of this foolishness, we crossed the river onto a
paved road for a few klicks to the finish at Anchor D Ranch. The camp is in
none other than a muddy cow paddy! Unremarkably, it has been thunder-storming
most of the afternoon so I haven’t spent much time outside the tent. The
scenery is rolling meadow and patchy forests of evergreen and aspen typical of
the Rockies, however the big mountains are out of sight for the moment.
At this point, it
looks like the overall podium was basically a pipe dream regardless of our
issues yesterday so hopefully the weather will give us a break and we can ride
our bikes more than we walk from here to Canmore. It must be a disappointment
for Jon as he is legendary here at TR. Tomorrow he plans to take a day "off”
and ride with his lady. In the meantime, we look forward to some "dude ranch”
eats tonight—hopefully lots of meat and potatoes!
cheerio from the heart of the Canadian Rockies!