Ride Report – Trans Rockies Gravel Royale - The endless forest

When you put into the mixer the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia, gravel bikes and a stage race, it’s almost sure you are going to get an incredible adventure. The team from Trans Rockies who organise other cycling events have made that mix and created the Trans Rockies Gravel Royale, a unique race due to the nature and the environment in which it happens.

On my way from Calgary to Panorama, where the race begins, I started to see the type of landscape we will be cruising the following days. For somebody like me coming from Spain it was pretty striking those endless forests, turquoise rivers and lakes. As I used to joke in the evening camp sites, this is like gravel racing in a postcard!

"When you put into the mixer the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia, gravel bikes and a stage race, it’s almost sure you are going to get an incredible adventure."

The race started from a ski resort right in the mountains and had a brutal climb as first stage appetizer. At the top of the climb we had a fun, very tight single track on which suddenly the view opened up and a magnificent valley appeared. I could not do anything other than shout as I was pretty stoked with the view. 

Talking about shouting and talking loudly, I learnt this is something we should do in this area while biking as it is bear territory and seems the bears don’t like company and the best way to avoid an undesired encounter is to speak loudly or make loud noise so they just move away - I guess this is more true if you sign as badly as I do.

"This is like gravel racing in a postcard!"

The course had a lot of variety, long and gradual climbs, steep climbs, nice rolling gravel roads in which you could develop all the gravel bike power and have that special feeling of flying on the bike off road. There were also long and fast descents and technical single tracks. I would say the course was a bit like a cocktail in which you have to mix the ingredients with the perfect measure so to have the perfect flavour, that’s what happen with a nicely curated course.

Oh! And rivers, lots of pristine and cold rivers and streams. We crossed some of them on bridges and some of them riding through or even wading through the water.  The average stage was between 80 and 120 kms with 1500 to 2000 meters of accumulated elevation. You can look at my komoot collection to have more details on the course statistics:

"It seems the bears don’t like company and the best way to avoid an undesired encounter is to speak loudly or make loud noise" 

Camp life is for me one of the highlights of this type of races. There you have the opportunity to meet other fellow riders and it is especially interesting when you come from a different continent. I have found the atmosphere in the gravel races is very open and it’s easy to socialise and enjoy having the gravel alternative stamp on it.

The camp was very well kitted out with a shower block, portable toilets, chill-out zone, mechanics, physio, charging points and a tent with snacks to keep the hunger away until dinner time.

Views are nice, camp life very enjoyable but don’t get me wrong, if competing is your thing, the competition at Trans Rockies Gravel Royale was big. We experienced several cyclocross-style starts, with competitors sprinting flat-out from the same starting line. Given the presence of cyclists experienced in this genre of cycling this wasn’t at all surprising! In the women's classification, multi-time ironman champion Rach McBride won. The men’s race was won by Canadian ex-pro Rob Britton, followed by 22-year-old Caleb Swartz who currently rides the cyclocross world cup. Also present was Cory Wallace, the current five-time MTB 24hour world champion, as well as the winner of multiple races who was only separated from victory due to an unfortunate series of punctures. 

"If you like stage races, gravel and love unspoiled nature, this is without any doubt your race"

We could feel the organisation had extensive experience putting other events together and despite the fact this was the first edition of this race, the overall impression was very satisfactory. We had a fantastic experience and always felt part of a well-organised and nice event. Even at the after-race party (or stage number five) we could see people sprinting after 4 days of competition.

If you like stage races, gravel and love unspoiled nature, this is without any doubt your race. You can find out more details about the event here

All images courtesy of Trans Rockies Gravel Royale/John Gibson

Cory Wallace’s impressions

“It is a nice race in Canada backcountry in ​​the Rocky Mountains area where there's a wide variety of terrain and it's pretty tough. It is a matter of setting your own pace to endure the stages. The choice of tyres and pressures is very important, the pressures on these changing terrains and surfaces can be the key. A great experience and a very well-organised race that no gravel lover should miss.”

My personal experience

My personal experience in this race was highly positive. I had won one stage, I was leading my category and I was fighting for a top 15 overall when a drainage ditch appeared in my path when I was going very fast down a track. I lost control of the bike and flew over the bars with the misfortune of breaking my collarbone. The treatment from the event organisation was exquisite, evacuating me and staying by my side while they evaluated me in the nearest hospital, although I do recommend you have good travel insurance since going to the emergency room in a clinic cost around 1,400 euros!

Despite having done races all over the world, I have to say that the landscape has had a long-term impact on me. Riding my gravel bike through those forests and tracks was a lot of fun, without a doubt I will have to return next year to finish the stage and peak that I could not do. I would like to thank my traveling companions Antonio Ortiz and Mario Roma for their help and care. Also thanks to Arturo Valls and Carlos Ortet from Imparables for being with me when I just fell until I was evacuated.

On-trend gravel 

Imparables (Unstoppables) are a group of people who so far have been mountain bike racing once or twice a year around the world with the objective of making a documentary out of their experience and helping to spread the story of mountain biking and MTB races across the planet. On this occasion they have been present in the Trans Rockies Gravel Royale with the same objective of making gravel racing more known and accessible to the masses. Also in their group was Arturo Valls, one of the most talented and successful Spanish actors and tv presenters, who is a cycling lover and who will transmit to the Spanish public their impressions on his first gravel experience. This will probably make a difference given the influence their documentaries have in the public - we are sure gravel riding will now become even more popular in Spain. You can find examples of their work here

Jorge has put together a video overview of the event, including an interview with pro-gravel rider Cory Wallace and some his top tips for anyone considering taking part in next year's event:

jorge padrones

Jorge Padrones reports back from the recent Trans Rockies Gravel Royale event, a multi-day gravel extravaganza held in the breathtaking scenery of Canada’s Rocky Mountains.

Jorge Padrones

Jorge is based in Spain and is a regular on the start-line of different gravel events across Europe and further afield too.

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