The Fernie Furious 3 is a three day staged mountain bike race through the well maintained trails surrounding (you guessed it) Fernie, BC. Each day the race maked use of a different combination of trails finishing in the centre of town. With the finish line conveniently located near the best post race snacks ever – everything on the menu at Big Bang Bagels. Judging from all the muddy faces surrounding the order line, I wasn’t the only one trying to knock off every item on their menu. Anyhow; the Furious 3 was very family friendly, riders started and ended in the same place (downtown) with most rides wrapping up around noon. This was a great setup allowing participants to get their ride in, grab lunch with friends / family, then check out what Fernie has to offer for the rest of the day. Onto the race report…
Day one, the zombie apocalypse. I’d never raced a mountain bike and have never ridden three consecutive days. Day one would be my first bike race ever. I ride every chance I can recreationally, but I really had no idea what to expect. I seeded myself about mid pack and the gun went off. We went screaming down a gravel road which quickly lead into a double track (fire road) that climbed for about 6km to break up the pack. The double track lead into the lower half of “48 hours” (a steep technical trail skirting closer to Downhill riding than XC riding) and “48 hours” was pure carnage. This trail was rooty, wet, and most riders didn’t realize how steep the trail was – myself included. The entrance to “48 hours” started with a comfortable slope with great flow, then out of nowhere the ground beneath let loose – became significantly steeper. My front tire got caught on the wrong side of a root and I was offline heading straight into the rhubarb with a rider bearing down on my tail. Thankfully a tree stopped me – or rather my face and handlebars ran right into a tree which brought me to a quick stop and left me a bit stunned. The tree was small (3” in diameter) and my face was intact. I untangled myself, checked my helmet, made sure my handlebars were on straight and headed down the trail. As I continued to descend other riders were reassembling bikes and climbing out of the trees like zombies. The rest of the day wasn’t nearly as exciting and was spent on well manicured flowing single track connected by jeep roads with a solid climb up Hyperventilation. At the end of the day, I managed to secure a position in the first wave for the next day’s start. Aside from a couple scrapes I was feeling alright. Off to Big Bang Bagel for a wholewheat everything bagel! Day one’s ride had been 40 kilometers with about 1500m of elevation.
Day two, lost in the cabbage. Day two started on the ski hill. It was raining and had been raining through the night. I was concerned with how my legs would hold out on the second day (a bigger day) of riding. The gun went off and we were sent up the Fernie Resort XC ski trails to break apart the group, soon after, we were riding up access roads, then dropping into single track, then regaining our elevation on access roads, then back down single track. Conditions were reasonable within the resort and the descents were interesting, but as we made our way towards Mt Fernie Provincial Park conditions got muddier and the terrain got steeper. The rain was falling harder, the mud getting deeper, and somewhere out there I got lost. Yes, I took the wrong turn. I’m not sure how it happened, I suspect the mud in my eyes had something to do with it, but the rest of the course was marked really well. About 3km into my detour I met a surprised race marshal on their way home from their morning duties. Luckily they directed me back to the course which was “just around the corner”. Unfortunately that corner was followed by a hill, a descent, a hill, and a descent. I was re-riding the course. Finally I was back on track, but with additional distance and elevation under my belt. I’ll be honest. I was a bit frustrated and the rain didn’t help. Upon reaching the first aid station I decided to yell at the volunteers and eat all their energy bars. Ok… I did neither, getting lost wasn’t their fault, but I did jam as many energy bars in my face as I could – they had really well stocked aid stations by the way. After the quick snack, it was back on the bike and back on the course. From here we headed up the access road of Project 9 which was unrideable and nearly impossible to walk up without doing the duck walk. The rain, clay and previous trafic had bombed out this trail, but the reward of a descent was motivating. After Project 9 and a couple more climbs, descents, and wipe outs. I finally pulled through the finish in just over 5 hours. It was great to be greeted by the smile of Steph (my wonderful wife). Then off to Big Bang Bagels for a Mr. Fernie! Day two was supposed to be 46 kilometres with about 1700m of elevation. With my reroute I managed 50 something kilometers with over 2000m of elevation. Apparently last year a bunch of riders got lost too.
Day three, is this thing done yet?! Today the sun was out, spirits were high, and most riders were sporting some nice bruises and scratches on unprotected extremities. My mantra for the day was stay out of the rubarb, race smart, and don’t get lost! Thankfully today’s ascents were more gradual than the previous two days, the single track was tacky (not too sloppy) and the climbs up the access roads were offering great opportunities to try to chip away at yesterdays lost time. Although, with 11km left and nearing the 3 hour mark I was starting to get concerned – I didn’t want another another long day. My concerns vanished as an 11km downhill stretch brought us screaming into the finish line. Time for a smoothy at Big Bang Bagels! Day three was 41kms with about 1700m elevation.
I’ve never been so sore, nor had so many bruises and scrapes from participating in a race event. Furious 3 Fernie was a fun introduction to mountain bike racing. I’d happily go back and do it again, but next time I’d do some course reconnaissance beforehand to avoid getting lost.