Stage Five, Anchor D Ranch to Little Elbow Campground
After the brutally muddy stage yesterday, followed by the downpour and hideous mire that was the camp, we could only hope for some reprieve today. With my partner playing tour guide for a guest rider, I was free to roam, but uncomfortable teaming up with another duo. It seemed like it would either be a case of helping a team or hindering them and frankly, I had no idea how I would be riding anyway.
I checked in to the back of the first start block and rolled up the initial climb well back of any of the leaders. My objective was to simply ride as much as possible and make it to the finish quickly and in one piece before the afternoon weather started. Within five minutes we were in a downpour on cow trails that deteriorated into significant hike-a-bike. These steep slogs were immediately followed even steeper chutes where all of the elevation was lost in one frantic, downhill slide.
After a couple of these, we descended into another seemingly endless series of bogs and mud holes through streams and aspen clones. I was able to motor through the bulk of it overhauling rider after rider in what seemed like and even longer and harder plow than yesterday’s epic cow trail. Finally, we reached the checkpoint at 25km after what was like poop purgatory. Not even half way through the stage, but luckily the majority of the muck was behind us and we began to climb away from the wet meadows.
Two climbs and two fun descents were followed by a thigh deep wade through the Elbow River. We rode for a few more kilometers on roads both gravel and paved before entering the campground and the finish. I had passed all but three teams and felt pretty good about finishing so quickly without ever digging deep. It is nice to feel a little more effective on the bike after my April stack-up and resulting injury downtime.
I hammered some food and headed for the car to grab my stuff and shower. Not so fast—the keys were locked inside as were all my clothes and gear. Luckily I was able to borrow a towel and clothing and get a shower and bike wash before the afternoon deluge set in. Deluge it was, too, with torrential rain and hail for a couple hours. The temps plummeted and those still out on course must have been ruined by it all. Riders continued to trickle in even after the official nine hour cut-off, easily making this the longest stage of the race far in time despite being the second shortest in distance!
Tomorrow is the queen stage through the highest alpine trails of this year’s event—72km and 2250m of climbing. As we look up at the freshly snow-capped mountains we can only wonder what lies in store for us. Five down, two to go, and Canmore is becoming more than a light at the end of the proverbial stage race tunnel, so we can only rest up before tomorrow is upon us.
Thanks for reading and goodnight from high in the Rockies…