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Evan Plews' TransRockies Blog - Day 4

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |August 12, 2010 7:19 AM

Stage Four, 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!

Until tomorrow, cheerio from the heart of the Canadian Rockies! 

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