Single Track 6 Mountain Bike Stage Race
by Paul Wojciak • September 20, 2022
Single Track 6 Mountain Bike Stage Race
British Columbia’s Kootenays
My five year delay to compete in the Single Track 6 (ST6) proved worth the wait in every way. Circumstances beyond my control conspired to have me defer participation in 2018 and 2019 only to endure two outright cancellations in 2020 and 2021. However, 2022 was the year it all came together, and oh my goodness, what a massive stoke! The Single Track 6 serves up daily doses of British Columbia mountain bike racing across three different venues in the Kootenay mountain range. Fernie, BC plays host to the first two days encompassing trails across Montane, Ridgemont and Castle Mountain, Fernie Alpine Resort, and Mount Fernie Provincial Park. Two days in Kimberly, BC span the trail network surrounding Kimberly Ski Resort. Finishing up in Rossland, BC, the final two days take in Monte Cristo, Malde Creek and Red Mountain Resort trail systems. After riding the trails, I testify that every venue was chock full of challenging, flowy, purpose built single track and trying to pick a favorite is, quite honestly, my kind of problem.
The ST6 race is promoted by Trans Rockies out of Calgary, Alberta. There’s the premier six day race and also a three day version. The vibe is energetic, while being low-key, and oh so friendly. The race staff makes things easy for us racers before, during, and after each day’s stage. Well-marked courses, amply stocked aid stations, unambiguous daily briefings and fast-pace awards presentations are but a few features of the experience.
There were 16 of us registered in the men’s 50+ field. Regardless of category, the majority of racers were from Canada. We in America were well represented plus there were participants from continents across the globe. The ST6 terrain is all rideable with XC rigs, though you really ought to have full suspension. Longer travel will help on the descents, but there are some tough climbs on a few stages. Each stage is around 18-25 miles with about 4000 feet of climbing. Cool and dry weather made for some very dusty trails. Wet conditions would significantly increase the degree of difficulty of these trails. We did experience haze from wildfires burning hundreds of miles away in Oregon and Washington. Not enough to affect your lungs, but the particles did obscure some views while also making for amazing sunrises and sunsets.
I chose to fly in/out of Spokane, WA since logistically that was less driving than flying into Calgary, AB. Cranbrook, BC would have been another, higher priced alternative for flights. Everyone arrived Monday, September 5, raced Tuesday, September 6 - Sunday, September 11, and departed Monday, September 12. I paid for the lodging package and was rewarded with spacious accommodations in all three venues. Travelling with my bike, in the Rüster hen house on Southwest airlines was no hassle at all.
Let me hit you with some of the best trails from each day and my thoughts as to why. You can see all the stages on RideWithGps, use keyword “st622”. On day one Polar Bottle stage in Fernie, the Kushier, TR3, Coal Discovery – Big Trouble, and Eco Terrorist trails were super-fast and flowy single track though pine forests. The climb up Hyperventilation really lived up to the name. We were rewarded by a hair-raising descent down South Castle and Today’s Special where the A-line option was not for the first timer. Our second day Racks Unlimited stage in Fernie featured three climbs and three descents: TNT-lower, Verboten, and Top Gun. Verboten was my favorite, a steep, rooty romp through dense pine forest with many technical trail features.
After the transfer to Kimberly on day three Thule stage, we climbed to the ski area top and descended off the back down Mussers Plateau, filed with sharp rocks, roots, hairpins, slabs, steeps, scree field crossings, and of course, more rocks. The day’s highlight was the enduro down Mr Toad which was steep without all the gnar. Unfortunately, the second half of Mr Toad was a series of rock gardens alternating abruptly up and down. A good night’s rest and day four brought the Gu Energy stage and some of the best single track yet. A seven mile trail called Round the Mountain that literally took us all the way round the Kimberly ski resort. This led to the Upper Thunder Turkey enduro, a high speed, swirling, screaming single track ride that was the most fun on the day.
We transitioned to Rossland for the final two race days. Day five Sombrio stage had us doing two big climbs with you guessed it, two big descents! The first climb up Tamarack single track led us to the incredible Super Mega Awesome trails, four miles of nearly continuous downhill that was fast, flowy, with just a touch of technical features and steepness. We circled around into the King George VI Provincial Park and the climb up Doukhobor Draw and Tamarack to the final descent of the day, Whiskey which was also the enduro. Now, Whiskey really required some scouting in order to rock the A-lines. That said, the B-lines were great and the whole trail dropped almost 900 feet in a mile, white knuckler all the way. The sixth and final day Wi-comm Solutions stage had some nice surprises in store. Each climb earned you another great descent. In order, Paydirt, Stardust, Redhead, and Gold Digger, each with, what by now had become recognizable as, superlative Kootenay single track shred.
As it turns out, the three different venues covered by the racecourses gave just a taste of the mountain bike terrain waiting to be explored across interior British Columbia. At least a dozen major venues all have lift accessible terrain at their ski areas. Additional trail networks require you to do some work. In all cases, your investment pays you back many times over. I am very satisfied finishing sixth in the men’s 50+ six day field with a combined race time of 15 hours and 54 minutes. The remarkable people, whether racers, support crews, or townsfolk, made my week extra special. (Shout out to Dave and Kat and Dave A. from Calgary!) Acquaintances made and friendships renewed, in a setting unlike any other, create a feeling, a magnetism, that beckons me to return… sooner rather than later.