The Quintessential Canadian MTB Epic
Well what a weekend of riding that was. With the round conditions getting better and better with the warmer weather it was time to dust off the Specialized S – Works Epic and head out for some serious riding. On the Friday evening I finally hooked up with local gun and Kona sponsored rider Brian owner of the Bicycle Cafe in Canmore. Brian invited me to join him and local 24 hour specialist Leighton for a 3 – 4 hour MTB ride over near Banff on the Saturday morning. I was frothing at the opportunity to get out and smash it up so eagerly agreed to meet up at the shop.
8 am came around and we were heading off to Banff with talk of scoping out some unridden gems in and around the Mt Norquay ski hill with a ride back along the Goat Trail and a descent of the Reclaimer back into town for lunch and a soda. The climb up to the ski hill set the tone for the day and we unleashed the fury sussing out each others strengths and weaknesses. I pulled a hard turn to see how the guys were climbing and left it in the dog for good measure.
Big Brian was easily equal to the pace and came through hard putting me into trouble. It did make me smile knowing that it was going to be a very good day of training indeed, as most of you know I love to suffer and smash it up on the bike. What came next was awesome and I cannot for various reasons divulge the exact trails we rode, but it was fully sick. A massive climb that made me realise that only having two chain rings on my MTB was not going to cut it in Canada, with super narrow techo single-track that required full concentration to negotiate was followed by an epic downhill super fast super flowing with rock garden sections and roots the full script.
I was just buzzing at the bottom on the intersection with the Trans Canada. Unfortunately the memories and visions of that ride will only be remembered in my head as it was not the sort of ride where you stop and take photos. The whole ride then opened up into a Hammerfest with Brian and me taking turns to burn each other and ramping up the pace. Brian is a super solid rider and his descent of the Reclaimer was unreal. I couldn’t keep up with the big fella as he let it rip, awesome riding dude!
— Canmore – Jewell Pass – Baldy Pass – Skogan Pass – Canmore —
Well that was about it for day one and the promise of even better on Sunday. After a fantastic BBQ at Leighton’s on Saturday night we hatched plans for what I was told was the Quintessential Rockies Epic Ride.
Sunday morning brought a little rain and cloudy skies, what epic doesn’t have a bit of mud eh? We left Canmore at 9am and rode the Trans Canada out of town towards Calgary. After 20 km’s we turned off the road and headed up the first climb of Jewell Pass. This was a mainly double track rocky loose climb that gained good altitude for about 25 minutes, and then the real fun began. The downhill from Jewell was superb.
The general picture is rocky techo type descents interspersed with off camber roots and drop offs, you need to keep your wits about you to drop them fast and a full suss bike is a must. This is what “All Mountain Bikes” were designed for and the Epic loved it, however and never missed a beat. From the bottom of the pass we crossed the 40 and headed up Baldy Pass. Some serious logging had taken place and Leighton was surprised by the level of devastation as we continued ever upwards the climb got tighter and tighter and increasingly more technical. Pushing only the middle ring made it a little harder but as I would say “Suck it up Princess” I cleared all the sections and really started to find my climbing legs. Finally we reached the top and it was amazing I was faced with a panorama of prettiness in the mountains.
The next downhill was the best yet and the most technical super loose shale with rock drop offs tight boulder lines it had it all and then some. I couldn’t get enough. The bottom had been washed out by flooding and we carefully picked our way through the river rocks to continue the descent on more buffed earth and nearly hit a bloody great Grizzly Bear that ran across the train in front of us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After changing my bibs we were on our way again.
We crossed the 40 again and headed up Skogan Pass from the Nakiska Ski Area. A brutal 40 minute climb that really opened up the lungs, I loved it and I have started to really feel the climbing legs come back. With the summit came the last super fast descent back to Canmore on mostly double track. I had the only fall of the day when the trail went from being solid to 4 inch deep mud and proceeded to endow me over the bars at 40km/h into the stinky mud
:o( Not a happy Fenz I can tell you, only the pride was damaged however and a little scraped knee.
In total the day ended at 5 hours of riding with around 8000ft of climbing and some amazing memories.
This next couple of weekend are Canada Cup National series races so I will give a full race report. The final draft for the Worlds 24 Hour Course is not yet finalised, however I will update as soon as I can with a GPS map of the loops and some power data to go along with it.