Lael Wilcox completes Tour Divide ITT in 15:10:59

Nicholas Carman1 4921

Lael takes her helmet off at the finish.  She arrived in Antelope Wells at 4:59 PM MT, for a time of 15:10:59.  Below, pushing to Antelope Wells.

Lael Wilcox raced the Tour Divide in June.  Arriving home in May from an extended period of bicycle travel, she prepared a bike for the race and rode from her home in Alaska to the start in Banff, over 2100 miles away.  She finished the Tour Divide in 17:01:51, setting a new women’s record despite battling bronchitis for the first week, with lingering symptoms to the finish.  The previous women’s record of 19:03:35 was set by Eszter Horanyi in 2012.

Returning home to Alaska in July, Lael decided that she had the time, energy, and equipment for another fast ride down the Divide, in the same summer.  Again, she prepared her bike and body and left Anchorage for Banff, taking a ferry from Whittier, AK to Bellingham, WA to shorten the distance to the start, this time only about 850 miles of riding.

Following a few days of rest and preparation in Banff, Lael departed on an individual time trial (ITT) of the 2015 Tour Divide route on the morning of August 8, at 6AM.  She finished in Antelope Wells, NM on August 23 at 4:59PM for a total time of 15:10:59.  This establishes a new female course record and the fifth fastest time down the Great Divide Route (Mike Hall’s asterisked 2013 ride notwithstanding). To provide some context, this is five hours faster than Jay Petervary’s 2012 record time of 15:16:04, which stood for three years until the latest record-breaking rides earlier this summer by Josh Kato (14:11:37), Jay Petervary (14:12:03), Neil Beltchenko (14:12:23), Dylan Taylor (15:03:01), and Alex Harris (15:12:09). The six fastest times on the Divide were all recorded this summer.

Naturally, for a race which takes two weeks and covers over 2700 miles of mountainous terrain, comparing rides which happened at different times is not easy, or fair.  But records are kept, and the spirit of an ITT is to achieve a personal goal on the route, and if desired, to record a time which relates to other riders or an overall record. 

Lael reports the biggest challenges of the most recent ride were wheel-clogging mud north of Lima, MT, regular rain showers and thunderstorms all along the route, longer nights, and staying motivated while out on the course alone.

For both rides this summer Lael rode a Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon World Cup with carbon Chisel fork, with Revelate Designs luggage, SRAM XX1/XO1 gearing with 36T chainring, and an SP PD-8X dynamo hub with Supernova lighting.

The details of her ride are recorded on the 2015 Tour Divide Trackleaders page, or link to her personal ride history on the LW ITT page

Nicholas Carman1 4920

LW ITT Update: Silver City, NM

  
Pushing out of the Gila back in July, under clear skies.  Photo courtesy of Mitchell Clinton, a local Silver City photographer.

Lael pushed hard yesterday to get to Pie Town early, to get through the Gila, over the 8 mile section of the CDT, and into Silver City.  But the weather had a different plan when a day with barely a 10% chance of rain  turned dark and stormy late in the day, sounded the public warning system via cell networks, television, and radio.  I received an automated message to my phone– the first ever– warning of heavy rain and hail, flash floods, winds up to 60 mph, and lightning.  The warning area reached up into the Gila and south toward the border.  The storm arrived to obscure a classic NM sunset, continuing until about 11PM and turning local roadways into rivers.

I watched Lael continue through the Gila roller coaster at night, knowing that most of those roads through the pines are underlain with granite, rocky and sandy, and generally well drained.  Lael reached the pavement and turned up the CDT about midnight, presumably in continuing rain showers.  Her progress was predictably slow, she camped late, woke early and descended the pavement from Pinos Altos to Silver City at about 6AM.  

The airport in Silver City reported just under 3 inches of rain on Saturday evening.  Regular lightning strikes persisted for hours.

I passed Lael on the paved road south of Silver City on my way to I-10 and the border, slowing to take a photo out of the window of my rented Hyundai.  She was riding a series of rollers in the aero position, the back of her black t-shirt faded to a dirty blonde.

I have a cooler full of drinks, a big sandwich, two gallons of water, a bag of grapes, bananas, nectarines, and a box of cookies from the grocery store in Silver City.  I will meet Lael at Antelope Wells later today.  She will finish in less than 16 days, as long as the Separ Road– the final stretch of dirt– doesn’t hold any surprises from the monsoon.

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

LW ITT Update: Pie Town, NM

20111116 015309

Lael stopped at the Toaster House this morning in Pie Town.  I spent a night there with three CDT hikers back in 2011

Lael camped on the climb out of Abiquiu two nights ago, reporting that as she pushed up the steep technical climb in the dark she fell a few times, once landing on he rib without injury.  Shaken, she stopped for the night and resumed at a faster pace in the AM.  Once descending to Cuba, she hammered the pavement for the rest of the day, covering a total of 220 miles to camp just before midnight.  She began riding at 4AM today along a wide gravel road to Pie Town.  

Daytime temperatures are warm in southern New Mexico, and nights are warm.  Seasonal monsoons– manifest as afternoon thunderstorms– are still in force, although they ebb and flow on a daily and weekly basis.  There may be several clear days followed by several stormy afternoons.  Lael reported minor precipitation on the last few days in NM.  In fact, I think she has seen some precipitation on more than half of her riding days since Banff.  There continues to be a low risk of thunderstorms today, Saturday, while the threat of afternoon rain returns in force on Sunday and Monday.  Lael mentioned several freezing nights in Colorado, including one night when her water froze outside Doyleville and she shivered through several hours of sleep.  That morning she began riding before 4AM to warm up.  I suspect last night was more pleasant, with forecast low temperatures around 50F now that she has left the high mountains.  Daytime temperatures are forecast in the mid-80’s today.

Lael just checked out of Pie Town, arriving 32 hours ahead of the pink LW bubble, and over and hour faster than the male record set by Jay Petervary in 2012.  She has been behind this pace since stuck in the mud before Lima.  If she pushes hard to the border she may stay on pace with this time, finishing sometime on Sunday night.  If she pushes hard, she may be into the Gila by this afternoon if and when any rain falls.  The roads around Pie Town present a high risk of clogging when wet due to the nature of the soils.  The Gila is rocky and sandy, underlain by granite.  If she pushes hard to the border she may stay ahead of Sunday thunderstorms as well.  There is one final section of dirt south of Silver City that could get messy when wet.  From Pie Town, Lael is just over 300 miles to the border.

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

LW ITT Update: Jemez Mountains, NM

10570wp

Lost in a burn on the south side of the Jemez Mountains with Joe and Cass, October 2012.  

Lael pushed 3000 ft up from Abiquiu last night, climbing fast to catch the final light of day. She continued on the increasingly technical track in the dark, recording similar speeds to many less technical climbs from days past.  She camped early around 11PM after a long day which began at 4:30AM.  Rising at 3:45AM, she finished the climb even faster than she had been moving the night before– still in the dark– eventually connecting to higher quality Forest Service roads on the north side of the Valles Caldera towards NM 126, and Cuba.  Over a hundred miles of pavement extend beyond Cuba toward Grants, an authorized paved alternate to the official Great Divide Route and the de facto Tour Divide route for many years.  From Cuba, there are only 500 miles left to the border.

The climb out of Abiquiu is the tallest single ascent on the entire Great Divide Route, and marks the final major mountain section on the way to the border.  The Gila and a brief section of CDT singletrack near Silver City are notable challenges in the remaining miles.

Lael called very briefly while riding into Abiquiu, the rushing wind of 20mph obscuring most of our conversation.  She said she was feeling good, ready to be finished, and still carrying enough food from Del Norte to get to Cuba, augmented with a few bags of Cheetos from the snack shack in Vallecitos (notably, not much of a town in the middle of nowhere).  Buying cheese flavored puffed corn from tiny roadside shops will always remind me of Lesotho and South Africa.

I’m in Salt Lake City en route to Tucson and Silver City.  I’ll be at the border when Lael finishes.

Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

LW ITT Update: Brazos Ridge, NM

20111104 043015

Cruising through the Land of Enchantment, circa October 2011 on the Great Divide Route in El Rito, NM.  Lael was riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker at the time, recently converted from drop bars to an On-One Mary handlebar in Santa Fe at The Broken Spoke.  

Lael camped just short of the NM border yesterday, reaching up and over Indiana Pass from Del Norte as daylight faded, and descending to Platoro and beyond into the night.  She woke early this morning to begin riding up Cumbres Pass, then onto dirt and into NM.  We spent a winter living in Albuquerque and like everyone who has heard the jokes about the “Land of Entrapment”, we love New Mexico.  As the miles pile up, I know that Lael is reaching deeper and deeper to find the physical energy and motivation to continue.  Crossing into New Mexico is a homecoming, and also the begging of the end of this ride.  I watched her crawl up to Brazos Ridge this morning on Trackleaders, knowing the kind of chunky New Mexico roads she was riding, and knowing that she was still warming up for the day, in a sense.  But she has found her stride this morning as she descends from the second to last big mountain on the route.  The last big climb and the tallest total ascent on the route is south of Abiquiu en route to Cuba.

I leave tonight at midnight to arrive in Tucson on Friday morning and Silver City by Friday evening.  Lael should be passing through Silver City on Sunday, most likely.  Any ABQ or Santa Fe people want to visit Silver City for the weekend?  My friends Tim and Chloe are playing music in town on Saturday afternoon, I should have a bike to ride, and we can sleep outside.  John, Jeremy, Nancy, Cass, Rusty, Melissa, Wyatt?

 Follow the yellow LW bubble on the Tour Divide 2015 Trackleaders page.

Tour Divide Update: Silver City, NM

Nicholas Carman1 4755

Tour Divide AK command center at The Bicycle Shop, Anchorage, AK.  At the moment, Lael is pushing to the border at Antelope Wells, NM.  She hasn’t stopped pedaling since Sunday morning and should finish before noon, Mountain Time.  

She called several miles out of Silver City.  I’m holding the saddle rails of a donated 12″ wheel Magna, recently unpacked and assembled by a 13 year old and a three year old on the front lawn.  Joshua has been ripping around on a 12″ Specialized Hotwalk since last summer, a pedal-less walking bike designed to instill the basic mechanics of velocipeding.  The chance donation of a pedal bike by another family, who never found use for it, is well timed.  As soon as we set the training wheel height and the saddle, we set out to ride.  Even before I arrive, he is calling it a mountain bike.

Pedaling is hard.  The motion is challenging.  The leg strength is not there, or at least not the coordination, and the combination of plastic pedals and cowboy boots is not ideal.  The bike only steers to the right as Joshua looks all around shouting orders to everyone.  “I’m in charge.  Let’s go the ‘kishla Park.”  We follow, and I assist from the left end of the handlebar to keep course.  In time, small realizations lead to riding.  Within the hour we are riding around an asphalt ice rink.  Jada piles feathery cottonwood droppings, instructing Josh to aim his tires at them.  He does, and the moment of focus is a victory.  He’s riding a bike, and is in control.

Lael immediately tells me, like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar, or in trouble with the principal.  “I fell.”  

She landed on her knee and shoulder.  It was stupid, less than 100 ft from the pavement coming down off a technical section of the CDT.  It was getting dark and she didn’t see some rocks in the road.  She’s mad, embarrassed, aching.  She doesn’t want to see anybody.  It’s not serious.  I can understand her feeling, but I don’t share the emotion exactly.  The thing that she is doing is deeply real for her, chasing miles down dirt roads into the night.  Falling is disappointing, yet it also shakes her brain into a sense of hyper reality.  She’s talking like it doesn’t matter any more.  Who cares about this thing.  I agree, but I remind her that she’s chased this thing since June 12 in Banff, since May 15 in Anchorage, and since the HLC in Israel.  It all started with that three day solo ride from Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat on the Israel Bike Trail, a manicured backcountry singletrack route across the Negev Desrt.  If that ride went well, she would race the HLC.  If the HLC went well, and she enjoyed it, she would race the Divide.  After her three day ride to Eilat she was flying high.  She hasn’t descended since then, and my fear that she has been flying too close to the sun grows more real.  Her spirits are back on the ground, covered in blood and dust.   

Joshua continues his never-ending right hand turn, bumping into the boards of the Scotty Gomez neighborhood ice rink.  The first time we sat him on a pedal bike at The Bicycle Shop last summer, he said, “I can’t do this”, which no one in the family had ever heard from him before.  We decided on a walking bike, but not the pink one to which he was so attached.  There were tears, everyone had a different idea of how to herd this opinionated two year old, and we left the store.  But I selected a red Hotwalk and we took it home along with Jada’s XS Specialized Myka.  The next day, the red bike was his favorite color, he decided.  He began walking from the saddle that day.

While tightening the axle nuts on the Magna this evening, sitting in the grass out front of the house, Joshua asks me, “Do you miss Aunt Lael?”  

Yes.

“Me too” he says.

Follow the Tour Divide 2015 at Trackleaders.com.

Nicholas Carman1 4763

Nicholas Carman1 4758

Nicholas Carman1 4761  

Nicholas Carman1 4762

Nicholas Carman1 4757

Tour Divide Update: The Gila, NM

Nicholas Carman1 4753

Lael and Kathy at the Pie-o-neer Cafe, 8000ft, Pie Town, NM.  Photo courtesy Pie-o-Neer Cafe.

Lael is gaining ground on the women.  Even on a short day– only 156 miles– she has stretched her lead to the point that she is over 300 miles ahead of the next female competitor.  Two riders, Joe Fox and Andres Bonelli, have gained some ground and are riding steadily behind her by about 17 miles.  If they all continue pace they may never see each other.  If their paths cross, we may have a race to the border for sixth place.  Lael slept early last night and started on the bike at about 3:30AM.  She only rode about six miles before stopping for another three hours.  Either she decided that a little more sleep would be necessary, or was disturbed by something or someone in her original location.  Perhaps she suffered a mechanical in the dark, fumbling with cold hands.  These things are hard to say from cold digital data, and a solid reminder that the even 9.4mph pace that every rider seems to keep, exists outside the digital vacuum in which we read it.  It hails, it is hot and dusty, there are headwinds, broken forks, saddle sores, and frequent stops to eat, resupply, refill water, lube the chain, lower tire pressures, talk to people, navigate the route, plan the day ahead, eat pie, and sleep.  Yet, the strongest riders in this event seem to be set to autopilot, pedaling a consistent trajectory for up to 20 hours a day.  I know for certain that at least three of those things happened yesterday for Lael.  Steady headwinds and sidewinds slowed much of the ride into Grants.  The Pie-o-neer Cafe in Pie Town reports 36 seconds of hail yesterday, amid thunderstorms.  And, Lael seems to have gotten her pie.

Kathy Knapp, from the Pie-o-neer Cafe, reports: “I spied her our the window– leaving town- and yelled at her to come back.  GOOD LUCK Lael!!!”  

Lael got a glimpse of the Pie-o-neer where I spent a magical evening back in 2011.  I rolled into town on the bike in November.  On the same day three southbound CDT hikers occupied the Toaster House, the local free guesthouse for thru hikers and bikers.  The Toaster House is the gift of Nita to the community of self-propelled travelers through this corner of New Mexico.  Catron Country, NM reportedly has no traffic lights.  But there is a house adorned with toasters, full of beds and couches and old magazines and a wood stove– and most importantly, a shower and a freezer full of frozen pizzas and pies.  Nita has moved a few miles down the road and has left something very special for us.  She accepts donations to keep the freezer stocked.  One day years ago when her kids were young, she invited a lone hiker into her home.  This is how she learned about the CDT, which passes on the dirt street in front of the house  She has made an effort to invite weary travelers to her home ever since.

Back on that day in 2011, I enjoyed a few slices of pie and free wifi for several hours as a customer at the Pie-o-neer.  I was was invited to return later that evening with the others, after hours, to a private gathering.  Some friends of Kathy’s were coming from out of town.  A table of food was presented, red wine, and at the right time, there were pies.  Several small tables of friends, including our now-showered group of hikers and bikers, enjoyed the dimly lit space, sitting close to the wood stove on this cold November evening at 8000ft.  The dishwasher plays the guitar, Kathy and Nita sing, and a few other friends join with instruments and voices.  The set list is Arlo Guthrie Guthrie and Joan Baez, and other hits from the era.  These hippies didn’t go to California.  They found a better place on the Continental Divide in remote southwestern New Mexico.  Near the end of the evening, Nita and Kathy lead the group in the Kate Wolf classic “Across the Great Divide”.  I’d ridden my 1985 Schwinn High Sierra from Maryland to New York and Ontario, out to Banff, Alberta and down the Divide to Pie Town.  Nearing the end of my five month odyssey, there couldn’t have been a more perfect song for the moment.  I will always be grateful for that song in that place at that time.  Of the three hikers I’d shared that time with, I was sad to learn this past year that one of them, Benjamin Newkirk, was killed in a climbing accident in the Sisters Wilderness near Bend, Oregon.  Ben and I stayed in contact.  I helped him prepare for his first bike tour.  After countless miles in the backcountry on foot , he transitioned well to cycle touring aboard a Salsa Vaya.  But his place out there was on foot.

Salsa Cycles provided Tour Divide racers with commemorative Pie Town top caps at the Grand Depart in Banff.  The stem top cap, a small part on the bicycle, could be used as a token worth two free slices of pie in Pie Town.  Thanks Salsa Cycles!

Dylan Taylor and Alex Harris both finished yesterday ahead of 2012 record pace.  Congrats on the strong ride!  Lael and her group will be next to Antelope Wells, sometime tomorrow.

Follow the Tour Divide 2015 at Trackleaders.com.

Nicholas Carman1 4750

Nicholas Carman1 4754

Tour Divide Update: Grants, NM

Nicholas Carman1 4749

I’ll will never understand how Tour Divide riders pedal from Canada to Mexico with those cumbersome colored dots.  They really should consider a digital version.  Goofing off on FR 70 near NM 126, Santa Fe National Forest, NM.  Photos courtesy Elizabeth Quinley.

Lael crushed the 4000ft climb from Abiquiu yesterday, which I interpreted from Trackleaders data, verified by her account over the phone while riding out of Cuba.  She rode fast through the entire section from Abiquiu to Cuba, except for the time when a high school friend from Alaska, now living in New Mexico, dropped by for an impromptu photo shoot in the woods.  Some things never change with these girls.

The big news today is that the top three men have finished, smashing Jay Petervary’s official record from 2012 by more than a full day.  There are some fascinating details to the newest record.  Jay’s 2012 ride finished in 15:16:14.  In 2013 Mike Hall blazed the course in 14:11:55, but a necessary detour around a wildfire in New Mexico voided his claim to the record, although it was more than a day faster than Jay’s performance.  There are plenty of people that recognize Mike’s ride for what it was– the fastest Tour Divide ride ever– but lacking official record status has left that footnote to wither in favor of Jay’s official record.  But we knew it could be done, thanks to Mike.  He posted the first sub-15 day time on the Divide.  Until this year.

Jay and Neil battled all the way from Banff, with Seb Dunne, Josh Kato, Alex Harris, and Dylan Taylor in tow for much of the race.  Alex and Dylan dropped back in Colorado and New Mexico; rather, they got dropped.  Seb busted his fork.  Josh was trailing most of the way, never far behind, but always at a deficit.  In New Mexico, Josh attacked the course and caught Jay and Neil in Abiquiu, only to be left at the store as soon as he arrived.  This continued for some time, all the way to Pie Town, where Josh would catch the leaders, ride with or near them, and get left in town or on the course.  He was coming from behind. On the last night, Jay and Neil bedded down in the Gila together.  Josh– presumably unaware of where his competitors were exactly, as we know from Trackleaders data– continued into the night just long enough to pass the two sleeping dogs.  He camped not much further down the road.  It is reported that he knew they were sleeping along the route, and that he was afraid his light would wake them.  By morning, all three riders were together, pushing over the 8 miles section of the actual Continental Divide Trail to Silver City.  All three riders stopped at McDonalds’s in Silver City.  They all left about the same time.  Then Josh dropped the hammer.  Jay and Neil chased.  Josh won.  

There are more details unfolding on the Bikepacking.net forums, and the stories will soon come from the racers themselves, but Josh simply rode faster from Silver City to the border.  He pedaled faster, he stopped less.  It is reported that he ran out of water with 25 miles to go and for fear of cramping, pulled some water out of a culvert.  Even if it had made him sick, he would have made it to the finish in front.  The water was “nasty tasting” according to a follower who was present on the route to the finish.

Josh finished in 14:11:37, faster than Jay’s 2012 run by more than a day and 18 minutes faster than Mike Hall’s 2013 run.  Jay finished in 14:12:03 and Neil finished in 14:12:23.  The top three finishers all improved upon Jay’s 2012 record by more than a day.  Dylan Taylor and Alex Harris are both ahead of that same record pace.  Dylan has hardly slept in days, across most of New Mexico, and will finish in the around noon on Saturday.  

In a distant sixth place, Lael is battling headwinds on her way into Grants, NM this morning.  She is about 250 miles ahead of Eszter Horanyi’s 2012 record pace, and 270 miles ahead of Bethany Dunne, the next female competitor in this race.  She reports from Grants that she tore a large hole in her sleeping bag last night, as she camped near a barbed wire fence in the night.  We’ve already replaced the slider on the zipper once before, and she’s repaired numerous large tears in the bag.  After four solid years with the Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag, the fabric is weathered, faded, and weak.  She will leave it in Grants in a place where someone may find it.  Unsure if she will reach Pie Town before the two pie shops close, she will use the extra luggage capacity for the 240mi push to Silver City.  Lael pedaled 184 miles yesterday.

I am excited to report that Seb Dunne, who had left the route due to a damaged fork, managed to secure a carbon Niner fork with assistance from Andy Peirce, a framebuilder in Del Norte, CO.  The fork shipped overnight express.  Seb rejoined his wife Bethany on the route near Horca and will continue with her to the finish.  Bethany is tracking about 20 miles behind Eszter’s record pace.  

Thanks to Elizabeth Quinley for the photos and the LW bubble.

Follow the Tour Divide 2015 at Trackleaders.com.

Nicholas Carman1 4747

Nicholas Carman1 4748

  

Tour Divide Update: Abiquiu, NM

 Wp 7 7

Looking back toward Abiquiu on a weekend Jemez Loop with Jeremy on the Velo Orange Campeur, in 2012.  Cerro Pedernal stands in the distance.  Our route from Santa Fe to ABQ around the north side of the Valles Caldera via the San Antonio Hot Springs intersected a section of the Great Divide Route.

Lael climbs Polvadera Mesa this morning out of Abiquiu, the last big topographic obstacle before the horizon clears toward the border.  Thereafter, she rides over a hundred miles of pavement beyond Cuba, sandy roads to Pie Town, and the relentlessly rolling drainages of the Gila– and 8 miles of the actual CDT– to Silver City.  She ascends the chunky 4000ft climb alone, forty miles ahead of her one-time competitors.  We rode here very late in the season back in 2011, experiencing snowy, muddy roads and very cold nights.  This is the north side of the Jemez Mountains, where we used to play when we lived in Albuquerque for a season.  She has less than 500 miles to the border.  

Heat and afternoon thunderstorms are forecast every day, beginning yesterday on her ride over Brazos Ridge.  I spoke with her this morning from Abiquiu and she said the mud slowed her down a bit.  She pedaled 156mi yesterday from her campsite halfway up Indiana Pass to Platoro, Horca, La Manga Pass, up Brazos Ridge, across NM 64, and through Vallecitos.  There is a bit of chunky stuff in there, and a lot of topography.  She camped just short of El Rito and began riding at 4:30AM.  She will arrive in Cuba later today, and will begin the long paved ride to Grants, and to the Pie Town turnoff.  Daily thunderstorms are exactly the reason why the paved alternate between Cuba and Grants is allowed during the race.  The caliche mud in this area would stop the race.  She also reported that new owners at the store in Horca equate to prepared foods only, no store.  She said it took forever to get her food for the ride ahead.

Jay and Neil rode close toward the end of the day and camped together for several hours in the night.  Josh Kato rode late to catch them, unknowingly passing them in the night to camp less than a mile or two away.  All three are riding together into the 8 mile CDT Alternate, which is the official TD route to Piños Altos and Silver City.  The race continues.

Listen to “Columbine” by Townes Van Zandt, a song about setting free, about reaching and falling, and throwing the pedals to the wind.  It is a song about a girl, through the symbol of a flower, but it might as well be about Lael riding a bike 170 miles a day.  It took me by surprise when I heard it for the first time in months, earlier this week.  Petals and pedals are the same when sung.  Keep those pedals dancin’ Lael!

 

Cut yourself a columbine, tear it from the stem

Now breathe upon the petals fine, and throw ’em to the wind

Watch the petals dancing, see ’em twirl and sing

Now all your pride and prancing, how much does it mean

 

Watch the petals start to fly, and then come falling down

Aw, hear the wind begin to cry, as she sees ’em touch the ground

All lady like and flower fair, some day you’ll have to fall

And you can find me standing there, to catch you if you call

 

“Columbine”, Townes Van Zandt, 1969

 

Follow the Tour Divide 2015 at Trackleaders.com.

 10581wp 

Tour Divide Update: Indiana Pass, CO

Nicholas Carman1 4738

Greg, a cousin of a bike friend from Anchorage, AK intercepted Lael at the top of Marshall Pass yesterday morning.  They’ve only met once, so when Lael saw him she said “Hey, I recognize you.”  He tried to give her sandwiches, which she declined.  Greg reports, “she looks good/strong, but sounds horrible with a lingering cough”.  Photo via Nathan Bosch.

Arriving in Poncha Springs later than the boys, Lael stopped at a corner store for food and camped across the street under a tree.  She was on the bike by 4:30AM, pedaling the 3400ft up Marshall Pass at a brisk pace, alone, ahead of the others.  For the rest of the day, she fought off the group at her heels, gained some distance while riding, lost some of that distance in the final miles to Del Norte, but still arrived about a half hour ahead.  She stopped in Del Norte for about a half hour and pressed on up Indiana Pass, one of the single greatest climbs on the Divide.  The top of the pass also marks the high point on the route at 11,920ft.  The other riders stayed in Del Norte.  

Lael called while riding the bike path out of town.  She still has a lingering cough, although she reports no respiratory distress.  When I rattled off questions about her physical condition– butt, knees, Achilles, hands?– she admitted her knees felt a little creaky in the early morning, that’s it.  As far as I know, she has not slept indoors or showered since Banff.  She’ll be due for a long hot soak in a few days.  The border is less than 700 miles away.  She rode 176 miles yesterday over Marshall Pass, Cochetopa Pass, Carnero Pass, and then about half of Indiana Pass before laying down to sleep.  She will cross into New Mexico this morning and may reach as far as El Rito or Abiquiu tonight.  

The lead group has splintered.  Alex Harris is riding well behind the other riders now.  Dylan Taylor has ridden through the night to put down some miles.  Josh Kato, who caught the two leaders in Abiqui, has made chase and stayed close.  That is, until Jay and Neil each arrived near Grants last night, and each of them rolled out with just over 3 hours of sleep.  This is the race to the finish.

Jay rolled out a few minutes ahead of Neil and has been hammering the pedals, opening a 16mi gap going into Pie Town.  Neil is riding strong, and is chased by Josh Kato 23 miles back.  Dylan is 54 miles behind Josh.  The race for the record is between the top three, although gaining 39 miles on Jay in the last 200 miles won’t be easy for Josh.  In fact, staying in the lead won’t be easy.  Riding long days, repeatedly, is a challenge for all of the riders.  But to finish a long battle with a gloves-off boxing match to the finish is going to hurt.  

Jay Petervary celebrated his birthday yesterday.

Seb Dunne, the sixth component of the lead group of men, has walked and hitched back to the San Luis Valley of Colorado, and is searching for a new fork between Alamosa and Del Norte.  His current fork, damaged beyond repair, has a tapered steerer and accepts a 9mm QR.  I chatted with him this morning and it sounds like framebuilder Andy Peirce might have a workable solution for him in a used Salsa fork (which has a straight steerer, so would require another headset) .  He also mentioned ordering a Whisky carbon fork from QBP via expedited shipping, which is available for 15mm thru-axle only (he may have an SP/Exposure hub with an adaptor).  Alternatively, Del Norte is only 80 miles from Salida, which may present a solution.  BTI is located in Santa Fe, NM and may be able to ship quickly.  His fork folded at the crown.  Thankfully, he was uninjured.  

Seb hopes to get back on the route as soon as possible to continue his ride, even if at a “touring pace”.  However, it sounded like he would be happy to get back on route and hammer a few long days to the finish to post a strong time.  If so, he and Lael may cross paths.  Can Seb and Lael hunt down Alex Harris to collect the $1M prize from The Munga?  The South African Divide-style race, which was first scheduled in December 2014, promised a $1M prize purse built from $10,000 entry fees and corporate sponsorship.  Failure to procure sponsorship and budget the event forced organizers to cancel The Munga.  The website for the event describes the proposed 1000km race along a marked course across the interior of South Africa as “The Toughest Race on Earth”.  It further states, “Being tough is not a right or a privilege.  It is a choice”.  The history of racing along the Great Divide Route is about 15 years old.  Entry to the event has always been free.  There are no prizes.    

Both the men’s and women’s records are set to fall this year, set at 15:16:04 and 19:03:35, respectively.  Jay is riding about 230 miles ahead of his record pace from 2012, with four others ahead of the historical data for that ride.  Lael is about 140 miles ahead of Eszter’s pace from 2012, and if Bethany Dunne can put in a strong ride through New Mexico she may also improve upon the current record.  Eszter Horanyi, the most decorated female bikepacker ever (by a long shot), has written a thoughtful post on her blog Zen on Dirt titled Watching Tour Divide Records Fall.    Elsewhere she writes, “If there’s someone who’s going to take my record down, there is absolutely no one else in the world who I’d rather it be than [Lael]“.  Thanks for being awesome Eszter!  A record 18 women started the Tour Divide 2015.    

Follow the Tour Divide 2015 at Trackleaders.com.

Nicholas Carman1 4739