July 22nd through 26th, 2012, the BC Randonneurs Cycling Club hosted the 8th Rocky Mountain 1200km brevet. The 2012 edition was in the words of one rider, “an epic journey”.
The 90 hour start group left Kamloops in the midst of a torrential downpour complete with thunder, lightening and a horrendous headwind that continued unabated for most of the next 450 km. In all, it rained for 24 of the first 26 hours the 90 hour group was on the road. The unrelenting rain, wind and cold had a catastrophic effect with 50% of the 90 hour start riders abandoning due to hypothermia or hypothermia aggravated injury or illness, most between Valemount and Jasper.
Conditions for the 84 hour start group were only slightly better and although this group was spared the headwinds out of Kamloops, they cycled the first 2 hours in steady rain, followed by 4 hours of relatively dry weather. Between Blue River and Valemount, the rain started again and continued through Jasper dogging the fastest riders as far as Beauty Creek. 30% of the riders in this start also abandoned, most at Jasper or Beauty Creek. Again, hypothermia and hypothermia aggravated injury took a heavy toll.
For the riders who made it as far as Beauty Creek, the weather improved steadily with most seeing sunshine and no wind from the Icefields Parkway all the way to the finish in Kamloops. Several of the fastest finishers however did hit a rain squall on the last leg in and the final rider crossed the line just minutes ahead of a thunder shower.
Traditionally, the Rocky Mountain 1200 is memorable for its spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife. While some of the scenery was obscured by clouds, rain and mist, the bulk of the magnificent vistas of the Icefields Parkway and the Rogers Pass were dazzlingly visible. Some riders reported seeing bears, moose and lynx on the approach to Jasper however most sightings of bear, mountain goat or elk were reported on the section between Beauty Creek and Revelstoke. Deer were sighted all along the route from Jasper through almost to Kamloops.
While the ride itself was remarkable both for the challenge of the weather and the beauty of the scenery, in 2012, it was the wonderful volunteers that were most memorable. Every rider, whether a finisher or an abandonnee had a story of a volunteer that had helped them along the way with a unique food request, the loan of clothing, much needed bike maintenance, a ride back to the finish or any of dozens of other special favours. A huge thank you goes out to the superb volunteers who made the event possible, their generous donation of time and expertise was deeply appreciated by every rider.
The Rocky Mountain 1200 is a challenging ride in normal conditions with 5 major mountain passes to climb. In the devastatingly wet, windy and cold weather conditions that occurred over the first 500 km of the 2012 route it became a test of each rider’s ability to endure suffering. There were many who did not finish, but none who quit, only those who were unable to continue.
Congratulations to all who participated in the 2012 Rocky Mountain 1200. Whatever the distance completed, it was an incredible challenge and an unforgettable ride.