Biggest-ever TransRockies MTB race heads south

600km, 12,000m epic starts Sunday. 600-rider mobile village traverses Kootenay Rockies.

This year's edition of Canada's TransRockies mountain bike stage race will take a different direction from the previous five years. Starting 12 August at Panorama Mountain Resort in the Purcell Ranges of the Rockies, the race will go south instead of north this year and finish in its traditional start town Fernie on 18 August.

Six hundred riders from 25 countries have signed up for the 2007 TransRockies, up from 450 in 2006. Over seven days of racing they face 600km of distinctly lumpy terrain with 12,000m of climbing as the route wends its way through among the 3000m peaks and steep valleys of the spectacular Kootenay Rockies.

Whether racing for the win or aiming to simply complete the challenging distance, riders in TransRockies compete in teams of two. The remote venues mean the race is a mobile town with racers together for the whole week, whether on their bikes, or eating, sleeping and recuperating.

For TransRockies event director Aaron McConnell, bringing the finish to Fernie is a special occasion. "We're really excited to have the finish line in Fernie this year," he said. "They were one of the first, and have been one of the greatest, supporters of the race."

This year's race will also be special for a number of riders who'll be eligible for the event's '5 Finishes' belt buckle. Three-time winner and defending champion Andreas Hestler of Team Rocky Mountain/Haywood is one of those looking to pick up the rare award, and is also a favourite to repeat his 2006 victory.

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