The second day of Ultraman Canada yielded another exciting bout of racing. What started as an unprecedented contest now bodes what may be the toughest fight to the finish in the race’s history.

The 278-kilometer bike leg began with a mass start close to the Day 1 swim start, retracing yesterday’s bike course 55 kilometers to Osoyoos before turning back north through Okanagan Falls. Once there, the athletes faced the first major challenge of the day—the climb up Green Lake Road that reached 20-percent grade at some points, affectionately referred to as “the wall.” The climbing didn’t stop the rest of the day, nor did sporadic rain showers or the winds through the mountain passes.

The men’s race began in the best traditions of a Wild West gunfight, with the leaders eyeing each other intently wondering who would make the first move. The group remained so pensive that drafting warnings were issued as they made their way back from Osoyoos. John Bergen wound up firing first; leaping to the front in a bid to open a gap as the top six men began the ascent up the wall. Race leaders Craig Percival and David Matheson pursued, and the chase was on.

The group finally started to break apart at the 150-kilometer mark, with Matheson pulling away while Percival struggled with nutritional imbalances. He quickly sorted it out and bridged the gap. Neither Bergen nor de la Parra went with him, and the leaders were alone again for the last 90 kilometers. “We’re at 200k, I’m at my limit, and I think ‘holy crap there’s still 70k to go,” said Percival of the ride. “It was just insane.”

“I took the split at the last turnaround and saw that John and Christian were about six minutes back,” said Matheson. “I knew we had to keep the pressure on. I was already thinking about the run.” Though they pushed each other to the brink, neither could make a clean getaway and in the end they rode to the finish hand in hand, a tribute both to each other and the Aloha spirit of Ultraman. They finished the day with 7:53:27. John Bergen followed closely behind, finishing in 8:03:46 after adjustment for a penalty. Christian Isakson prevailed through several mechanical mishaps to get in soon afterward, clocking 8:04:33. That performance moved him into third place from fifth, just 42 minutes off of Matheson going into the double marathon.

In the women’s race, Iona MacKenzie stacked another hour onto her lead over Kathleen Wood with a 10:11:53 ride. Wood, who finished in 11:09:37, finds herself with a narrow margin starting tomorrow’s run. Unsure of what to expect on the final day, the 24-time Ironman finisher and Ultraman rookie says she’s enjoyed just getting to have the Ultraman experience.

“I’m actually quite happy. My legs are pretty tired, but they’re okay. Iona is just rocking it. I don’t know if I can catch her. She’s experienced. I just wish her the best and I’m not going to worry about where everyone else is when the run starts. I like hilly courses and will just focus on doing my best.”

The overall women’s standings after day two are Iona MacKenzie with a cumulative time of 19:40:42, Kathleen Wood with 21:02:53, Stacey Shand with 21:08:47, and Lucy Wood with 21:15:13. The double marathon begins this morning in Princeton and winds its way back into Penticton.