By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The inaugural TransRockies Gravel Royale (TRGR) was off to the races last week, setting the stage with the first of the four-stage series. Participants pedalled the pavement with their first kilometres being a neutral start into Invermere before heading into rough terrain and some of the most scenic and challenging gravel routes in British Columbia. This year’s event included participants from eight countries, 22 U.S. states and several provinces, with 37 per cent being women. Leaving Panorama Resort on Aug. 22, riders raced and climbed their hearts out as stage one of four began. With 81 kilometres in distance and 2,100 metres of climbing involved on the first day, TRGR features the toughest climb of the route at Tegart Pass. This toughest part stretches from the 42km to 46km mark, with 1.5 kilometres of single-track at the top. After a descent and some rolling terrain, riders finished in Nipika. From Nipika, eventually made their way to Canal Flats for Stage 3 and ended up in Fernie for the final stage at the end of the four-day journey.
The event was originally set for August 2021 but was rescheduled due to COVID-19 restrictions. This year, athletes arrived at Panorama Mountain Resort before the event officially began. The full course covered more than 400 kilometres and included about 7,500 metres of climbing. Eighty-four per cent of the Royale takes place on gravel roads, with the rest of it made up of 10 per cent pavement, five per cent double-track and one per cent single-track. The TransRockies Race Series was founded in 2002. It includes 10 events over the course of 32 days annually in both the Western U.S. and Canada. With more than 3,500 participants annually, the events specialize in multi-day and endurance events in both cycling and running.
The opening ceremony in the Great Hall of the resort had ?akisq?nuk First Nation Chief Don Sam speak to the athletes about the history of the land they would cycle on, which was followed by the TransRockies team addressing rider safety and protocols all were expected to follow. The end of the event in Station Square in Fernie featured musical acts in several restaurants, while a rider reception was held in the Kodiak Lounge in Raging Elk Adventure Lodge, followed by the final banquet at the Fernie Community Centre.
Stage one performances
The top three women cyclists who finished the first stage that left Panorama Resort were Rach McBride of Vancouver in time of 2:37:15. Lauren Catwell of Reno, Nev., was second in a time of 2:52:38. Lindsay Glassford of Panorama was third in a time of 2:52:03.
“Today was super fun and very exciting,” McBride said after the first stage. “I’ve never done a four-day stage race before with stages this long.”
On the men’s side, Cory Wallace of Jasper, Alberta, was first in stage one with a quick time of 2:09:47. In second was Rob Britton of Victoria, in a time of 2:09:58. Finishing third was Josiah Middaugh, of Vail, Colo., in a time of 2:11:42.
“Typical TransRockies, up a gnarly climb and a bit of hike a bike. It was Rob, an American, and me battling it out, but they dropped me at the top of the climb,” Wallace said. “I went pretty hard during the single-track and caught them on the descent. I kind of knew the finish from previous a TransRockies race in Nipika 10 years ago, so I was able to put in an effort with about 1k out and took the win for today.”
For information on how the rest of Royale week went, visit transrockiesgraveroyale.com.