Tour Divide Update: Wyoming

Screen Shot 2015 06 19 at 10 10 55 PM

Updated10:54AM MT, Saturday 6/20:  I have been in contact with Scott Morris about the situation and have been assured that Lael can proceed along her track through Rawlins if needed, although there may be road construction on the route which could inhibit progress and force her to find a new route around the route, or into a pilot car.  However, in his opinion, that route would count for a record as it is the same route as Eszter Horanyi rode to set the current female record in 2012.  However, I’ve made contact with the Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale, WY where one of the owners, named Josh, has agreed to download the Tour Divide 2015 track and upload it to Lael’s Garmin eTrex 20.  Josh and the staff at the Great Outdoor Shop have been super supportive.  Thanks!  Hoping the new upload is successful. 

Lael has ridden two very strong days.  I spoke with her yesterday in Lima when she was still unsure about her health, but without imminent threat of respiratory distress she chose to proceed.  It seems to have been a worthwhile gamble.  She ended the day yesterday at 182.5 miles, opening a gap of 50 miles ahead of the next female competitor.  This was her first healthy day on the bike since the start of the Tour Divide.  Today, she rode more than 190 miles across Idaho and into Wyoming.  But this evening, she appears to have ridden off route and is camped along US 26.  I’ll clarify the situation to the best of my ability.  

The Tour Divide has followed the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route as published by the Adventure Cycling Association since the race began over a decade ago.  The TD is an unofficial event which claims only to suggest a start place and time, and accepts no liability for the competitors.  There is no entry fee (save for a tracking fee), nor prize money  Officially, there are no organizers, but there are two people who do a lot to support the event and keep it alive.  A great thanks to Matthew Lee and Scott Morris for being the wizards behind the TD.  There is a lot of work involved in not being an organizer of an event.

The basic details are that Scott and Matthew are partners in the Trackleaders.com service, a for-profit venture which is growing into dog-sled races, a variety of human-powered endurance events, long-distance sailing races, and even the Baja 1000.  Scott operates Bikepacking.net, a long-time resource and inspiration for bikepackers.  Scott also owns the website Topofusion.com, which promotes his Topofusion GPS mapping software, available for sale to Windows users.  Topofusion.com hosts the official GPS data for the Tour Divide, as well as a series of other useful files and basemaps for a passage of the Great Divide Route.  Matthew is a veteran of the tour Divide, with multiple victories.  His stunning ride and relaxed charm were famously featured in the Ride the Divide documentary.  Matthew was essential to the creation of the Tour Divide, a variant of the older Great Divide Race.  That is a story best left for another time  

There is a Tour Divide website, officially, and I think Matthew operates the site.  At least, Lael had to send an e-mail to Matthew via the contact form on the TD site to sign up for the tracking service.  Nowhere else was this procedure described.  I only learned this after sending Lael’s SPOT details directly to Scott, who referred her to Matthew via the TD site.  The TD site is mostly inactive, last updated with LOIs, results, and resources in 2011-2012.  The home page lists the start date for the 2014 TD.  The Rules page indicates activity in 2014-2014. There is a TD Facebook page with some rider photos from years past, which has been inactive during the subsequent year and does not appear to be a significant resource.  There are various discussions on the forums at Bikepacking.net, but none claim to be official resources for the TD.

Back in 2004, GPS devices were far less common; today, they are ubiquitous.  The Adventure Cycling Association has modified and augmented the Great Divide Route in successive map editions to benefit their target audience, cycletourists.  The Tour Divide accepts most, if not all of these changes to the Main Route, as they are published.  The Tour Divide accepts two paved Alternates from the Main Route described on the ACA maps in New Mexico as the de facto race route, as the chance and risk of wheel-sucking mud is so high it would regularly interrupt the event.  In recent years, the Tour Divide elected to use a new ACA Alternate along the actual Continental Divide Trail outside of Silver CIty.  In 2012, the Tour Divide included a section of the Gold Rush Trail from Boreas Pass to Como, just outside of Breckenridge, CO.  The Gold Rush Trail has never been shown on the ACA maps, and is the first deviation of the TD from ACA material.  Such diversions to the broad dirt roads of the Divide are welcomed.  Turn-by turn cues were provided for this new section, written in the style of the ACA maps.  The change was also included in the GPS file available that year and the reroute was explicitly included on the “Rules” page of the TD website.

This year, changes were made to the Tour Divide route, published on 5/22 as a GPX file only, without mention of the changes on the TD “Rules” page, and without written cues.  One of the two changes– both are in Wyoming– is listed on the ACA maps but the other is said to be an original creation by Matthew Lee.  The second is not written as cues or printed as a map anywhere.   

Lael left Anchorage on 5/14.  We uploaded GPS tracks and maps to her Garmin eTrex 20 on that morning, the last task before leaving town.  We sourced the file from the Riding the Great Divide page on Scott’s Topofusion.com site.  Listed below a file labeled GDMBR_2011_v2.gpx we downloaded a file labeled TourDivide2014_v2.gpx.  This was the most recent file listed, and the subtext indicated that it was the “official” route.  Lael proceeded to Banff, riding 2140 miles in 19 days.  In Banff and Canmore, she rested, exchanged gear, and prepared the bike for the race.

It was not until this evening (6/19) when Lael continued down US 26 while descending Togwotee Pass that I discovered her route differs from the route shown on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.  I revisited the Riding the Great Divide page at Topofusion.com and discovered a new route had been published on 5/22.  The TD website does not indicate the new file nor the changes, and the “Rules” page indicates details relating to the 2013 and 2014 TD route only.

I believe that the route Lael is currently riding up to Union Pass has been the TD route for all years past.  Currently, the historical data on Trackleaders.com for Jay Petervary’s record-setting ride appears to be off-course, as it rides along the old route through the Great Basin to Rawlins, which continues to be the ACA Main Route.  The Wamsutter diversion is not listed on any ACA publications.    

Lael is following the latest Tour Divide track that was available on 5/14, and has not had access to a computer to update her files, not that either of us knew a new track had quietly been published.  She is aware of all the changes made to the route prior to 5/22/15, as detailed on the TD website, and is dutifully following the route to the best of her knowledge.  She is following a route which has been recognized for past victories and records.  She has camped for the night and will reconnect with the red line on Trackleaders in the morning, after a short-steep climb back toward Union Pass.  She will– without further instruction– continue along the ACA Main Route through the Great Basin and Rawlins.  She will, however, follow the Gold Rush Trail, the CDT near Silver City, and both paved sections between Cuba and Pie Town in NM.  

Now that it appears her health has returned, Lael has rejoined her intended pace.  I hope this confusion does not challenge her standing with the “officials” of the Tour Divide.  Again, your contributions to the bikepacking community are essential and are greatly valued.  Thank you. 

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18 thoughts on “Tour Divide Update: Wyoming

  1. When I just logged in and saw her position, I feared that she was heading to Dubois for health reasons. Your explanation was a relief to hear. I hope her detour counts to the officials. I don’t see why not. One person coming from the south had to detour on the bike paths near Breckenridge because the usual route was flooded. Ride, Lael, ride!

    • Some of her family and friends thought she was really sick, her Israeli fans all thought she was delusional from riding long days (they still do think women can’t hack it), others thought she was genuinely lost. Thanks for keeping an eye on her. She is traveling with a basic cell phone, but does not have access to e-mail, Trackleaders, or any other live mapping. Just the Garmin and the GD maps.

  2. Great to hear Lael’s health is improving. What an adventure! I hope the routing issues are resolved positively and quickly. They clearly ought to be from what you say. 🙂

  3. Hi – this is resolvable with Matt Lee. Email him and he’ll work out what is an equitable solution.

    Example from the 2014 TD:

    Look at the TD 2014 race on the replay function at trackleaders (http://trackleaders.com/tourdivide14) and go to 17th June and watch the place 3/4/5 guys come into Butte …. yep …, WB and ED took the old route along the highway as one of them had not received a route change email. Matt dealt with it in a fair manner that allowed both to continue without being disqualified and without their faster route giving them an advantage on the others. I am sure he’ll find a similar solution here.

    • Thanks. I found Matthew’s address and have sent him a message to clarify the situation. This post above is largely meant to clarify to those that are following, including her friends and family. Some people were concerned that she was in need of medical attention, given that she has been battling bronchitis and resultant asthmatic attacks since Day 1. Further, it isn’t easy for those at home to understand how this can happen. She is not lost nor confused. She is exactly on track.

  4. I cannot imagine anyone who has met Lael thinking she can’t hack it. I only spent about 15 minutes getting her sorted here in Jasper and it seems painfully apparent that she can hack it far better than I can, no matter the testosterone differences 😉

    And the route should count. Her reason is amazing – I didn’t know there was a new route, cause I biked 4000+ miles to the start line.

    • Jeff, it is a jab at the way people speak about the accomplishments of women in sports. They know she’s amazing, but I’ve heard some Israelis call her a “genetic mutation” or “alien”. JayP and Matthew Lee fit their mold of a conventionally strong, heroic male. If a woman does something amazing physically, there is always an excuse.

      Thanks for the words, and for helping Lael in Jasper on her ride south (just a quick 3500km pedal from AK).

  5. We, the Israelis, love her (&U) and call her Leal (the amazing) Wilcox.
    I thinל the D tour should be counted as the TD. Her mental and physical strength are amazing and the achievement is already being written in the pages of Cycling history.

  6. Pursuant to our previous conversations I would have been amazed if Lael’s “diversion” was for health reasons. She had too good of a day. I adore the actual reason she’s where she is. As one of the last humans without a cell phone I can only admire Lael more for her current effort. Furthermore, as she drew closer to wonderful EZ’s ghost I wondered how her time this year would have been received if it was on a different course. Now it’s more comparable.

    Go Lael!

  7. We’ve been watching with concern for Lael’s health, yet confident in her unmatched strength and determination. It’s great to hear that she’s feeling better, and awe inspiring to see how quickly she’s moving her pink dot down the map. Lael has a small but fervent fan base in our part of Colorado. Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful race reporting, Nick!

      • They’re both pretty excited to see pics of Lael riding in exotic places, and Stella still equates Lael’s hand-me-down sunglasses with speed. She’ll wear them for a week-long mountain bike day camp in Waterton canyon in a couple weeks. Piper rides as many dirt trails on her Strider as she can find. Who knows what the next decade or two may hold, but for now, they have a great example in Lael of how far hard work and imagination might take them.

  8. Thanks for you great explanation of the nuances of the TD. This is my first year to really track it from Day 1 because of following you and Lael travel the world for a couple years.
    She’s just crushing the ride and seeing her pics with her trademark beaming smile are inspiring.
    Watching the last couple days seems like she’s hit her stride again. Here’s to hoping she continues to ride as she wants.
    Thanks again for your updates Nick. I avidly await the latest.

    • I did speak with her for a moment in Pinedale and she sounded like she was still fighting some cold symptoms. No reports of serious breathing issues since Polaris, MT. Obviously, from the mileage, she is feeling much better. Thanks for the support! Hope you run into her down in NM after the race.

  9. You wrote that well. I bet it was hard to put in such a way. It is hard for me to only write this… conversation for other places, maybe. Congrats Lael and kudos to all who make it happen, support it, and ride it.
    Both of you keep being awesome.

  10. It really upsets me that her ride doesn’t officially count in the overall results because of the map snafu. I think she should file a formal protest since (-if true) the one post above says Matthew Lee has counted other riders’ times that were off route. I am sure she will go down in TD history, no matter the outcome. She is #1 in my book!

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