Lael riding along the Salmon River in Idaho. Photo courtesy of Trans Am Bike Race organizer Nathan Jones. Keep up with his images and reports on the Trans Am Bike Race Blog. More race chatter in the Trans Am Bike Race Facebook group.
Lael called while leaving Lolo, MT this morning. She described the ride over Lolo Pass as “long and slow”, not surprising after several days of heat and 200+ mile days, although cloudy skies minimized exposure during most of Tuesday. The actual road grade to the top of Lolo Pass is mild, until it steepens at the top, and ascends just 4000ft in 100 miles. Lael reports being unable to ride fast, although she can still stand and climb in a way that satisfies her. Standing while riding is Lael’s hallmark, and while both unconventional and inefficient, that’s the way she likes to ride. She hopes to regain some spark and some speed in the coming days and weeks.
Just before the top of the pass last night, Lael’s Di2 battery lost power. The battery transmits signals from both shifters and powers both derailleurs, and is meant to be charged from a USB port. The average user might go months without charging, the average ultra racer might go a week or more and several Trans Am racers and one Tour Divide racer report only a single re-charge for the duration of the event. The battery was fully charged in Astoria, which makes this the shortest amount of time I’ve ever heard for a full Di2 battery cycle. Aside from her standing technique, Lael also shifts a lot. She’s neither the fastest nor the most graceful cyclist, but she can ride for a long time. There is a small chance that her battery is otherwise faulty and not holding a full charge, but I wouldn’t immediately suspect that. She is carrying a spare battery, fully charged. To remove it from the inside of the seatpost we installed a piece of string to the battery, which is installed with two rubberized gaskets making a snug fit into the inside diameter of the post. While stopped last night on the pass, Evan Deutsch rode up from behind. Lael was thinking about replacing the battery with the spare, but he suggested continuing with the single gear ratio over the pass and checking the lodge on the other side. They both stayed at the Lolo Hot Springs RV Park last night in a rented cabin, and Lael charged the battery. It seems to be working just fine this morning. While she had planned a little more sleep last night, the incident inadvertently gave her the opportunity to rest well. She likely washed her face— a shower is unlikely— and feels better from the brief time inside. This isn’t her desired MO, but I can see the silver lining.
We’d planned to charge the Di2 battery from the dynamo, but Lael told me the B&M USB-Werk charger has not been working since sometime on the first day. I’ve had one of these devices fail in the past, except in this case I suspect the issue is with the K-Lite system. Her lights are performing flawlessly, and they have since we received them last fall before her Arizona Trail ITT, but I’ve had three separate devices connected to this system and they’ve all failed to provide power, and I now suspect some part of the system has damaged these devices. The first USB-Werk I wired was in Arizona last fall, which was a well used unit that was previously working. I assumed it had failed, Lael used batteries in her GPS on the AZT, and I thought nothing of it. This spring, I ordered a new USB-Werk and installed it, and was never able to receive USB power from it. I tested it directly to my own dynamo hub and couldn’t produce any power, so in this case I assumed a faulty unit. I ordered a third unit immediately, and once I received it I wired it directly to my hub to verify that it worked, which it did. I shipped the new unit to Lael in Portland and she had it installed at River City Bicycles. She claimed it worked (in passing, in a brief conversation while still in Portland), although from her most recent report the USB-Werk has not worked since the first day, so I’m not sure if it worked at all.
What this means is that she will have to recharge the Di2 system at some point along the way. Charging time from a wall outlet is claimed to be 1.5 hours, so the duration of the charge is not a problem, but it will require her to tether herself to an outlet for some time. Presumably, she will do this at night while sleeping, either by finding an outdoor wall outlet (in a park or pavilion), or in a motel. She has already planned service at the Newton Bike Shop in Newton, Kansas, so she will certainly charge it there. Perhaps the battery will last longer this time, perhaps by accident it did not receive a full charge in Astoria, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Wondering about electronics is not the reason she is out there and she is happily pedaling forward, taking it as it comes.
At the time of writing, I received another brief phone call from Lael— the kind where you didn’t say I love you and I miss you enough times in the previous call so you have to call back a few minute later. She was riding into Hamilton, her energy restored, totally enthused about the ride ahead of her, planning to tackle another 200 miles today, and reporting that she felt like she got her energy back! She was so excited, it lifted my spirits to know that she was having fun again. If it isn’t fun, why do it?
Steffen and Sarah are riding strong out front; Lee has dropped back, likely due to dehydration and exhaustion; Kai Edel put in a big day yesterday and has caught Lael and Evan. Several hours ago, Sarah Hammond was the first to ride into Wisdom, MT and continued off route towards Wise River, failing to turn south at the western edge of town. It is not yet clear if this is intentional, or a mistake. She is almost 3 hours from Wisdom. Should she return to the route, she would be required to rejoin the route in Wisdom, and the rules would allow her to seek or accept motorized transit to the point at which she left the track. She has just stopped in Wise River, so hopefully she discovers her mistake. Wise River is a minor resupply on the Great Divide route, although the two routes are meant to meet further south near Polaris, MT. Stefan has continued along the prescribed track, turning south on Hwy 278 toward Bannock and Dillon.
Edit: Sarah Hammond is traveling toward Wisdom at 18mph, indicating that she is riding back to the track.
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