words – Sean Cameron
photos – Morgan Taylor
Cramp! My right quad and I have now entered a vicious argument with each other. If this angry muscle could talk, it would be spraying profanity. As I slowly turn the cranks of my Chromag Rootdown and try to survive this uphill ordeal, a guy on an 8” travel bike with Whistler bike park gearing passes me like I’m going backwards. Welcome to riding in Nelson.
Rewind a few weeks…
The decision to make the move to Nelson at the end of the summer was an easy one. Anyone who has spent time in this small but very alive town knows where I’m coming from. Surrounded by mountains that hold some of the best mountain biking in BC – from fast and flowy alpine descents to old growth cedar forests peppered with tacky granite rock slabs.
As the dust settled from my pilgrimage to the Kootenays, a buzz starting to form in the local riding community. The words Triple Crown began to float around in between the plaid shirts and trucker hats. The equation quickly became apparent to me: three big climbs + three classic Nelson descents = one huge and amazing day. I could not pass it up.
Eagerness to explore Nelson’s mountain bike mecca, mixed with some newly found peer pressure, found me at NRG HQ at 6:45am. Being greeted by fresh Oso Negro coffee and a warm fire was a treat, having not slept well the night before (like a kid about to leave on a trip to Disneyland). By 7 a crowd of close to 60 riders had formed along with a broad range of bicycles, including a solid hardtail contingency and a Surly Ice Cream truck fat bike! Mike Seniuk gave the rider’s meeting and the mood quickly went from mellow to fired up as people slammed their coffees, hopped on their bikes, and the day officially began.
The first climb consisted of many introductions and conversations. Everyone seemed to be old friends, even if they had never met. It quickly became evident that camaraderie is a key element to the Nelson riding scene. The conversations became shorter as heart rates rose and heavy breathing took priority. After all, the first section is known to locals as the “5km puker.” Right when I was beginning to question my choice of climbing pace, the road rounded a corner and we were greeted with a fire, coffee, baileys, doughnuts and plenty of high fives.
While chatting with a local shredder prior to the event, he told me that the Triple Crown is all about the descents. He was right on point. Powerslave, Mr. Slave, Illuminati, Rise and Fry, Pulmonary…all for the first time. For those that don’t know, that’s about 45 minutes of giggling good times. I had my first chance to contribute to the Nelson riding camaraderie and help a guy change a flat on the way down. The favor was quickly returned as some riders waited for me at the next trail junction, knowing that I was a first timer.
The sections you don’t mentally plan for are the worst. Pedaling back up the hill through town to the bottom of stage 2 (Mountain Station parking lot) was painful. Thankfully I found myself with local legend and NRG member Chris George, NRG rep Mitch Forbes, and some others who helped encourage me up.
After some well deserved snacks, we headed off to conquer stage 2: The Vein. This climb saw much less conversations and for me was the toughest. This would be where my right quad and I had our disagreement. Thankfully in true Nelson style another Chromag rider and all around good guy Morgan Taylor found me on the climb, and we co-suffered our way up.
Just like the first stage, the pain from the second climb was quickly forgotten as our tires pointed downhill. The Vein is steep, gnarly, and on this day, extremely loose. Dirt surfing at its finest. Being another first time descent for me, I was guided by dust clouds and the smell of hot brakes. Meeting some locals on the way down, they kindly showed me a few sneaky lines to make the gnar even more…gnar.
2/3 of the day done and I felt 100% done. A cold can of Kootenay Ale and some BBQ sausage at the aid station brought me back to life and we were off again. The third climb was a blur. I was happy to find local ripper Renan on his Devinci Wilson DH rig climbing at my preferred pace. Time for another classic Nelson descent: the Paper Bag. Slabs upon slabs mixed with loose steep sections made this the ultimate finale. It felt like a victory lap knowing I had completed the Triple Crown climbs.
Just as I thought this experience couldn’t become any more Nelson, Renan suggested a pit-stop at a beach on Kootenay lake. The cold, glacier fed water was exactly what my aching body needed. To top things off, an earth loving woman in a boat graciously shared her home-made Pad Thai! Proving that the friendliness around here stretched far beyond the riding community.
Finally arriving back at the NRG headquarters we were greeted with cheers, more high fives, beers, and grilled burgers. As I stuffed my face, other riders rolled in and I too took part in welcoming them with some hollers. I began the day feeling like a tourist, and ended the day feeling like a local. Lots of friends and memories made on this epic day.
The NRG Triple Crown is a perfect showcase of the riding scene here in Nelson -kinda like the Burning Man of mountain biking – except this festival runs all year long. The culture here is something you cannot pass up, so be sure to pencil the Triple Crown into your schedules for next year!