Tour Divide Update: Wyoming

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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.