June 2011 – 2012 – 2018
June 2011 – 2012 – 2018
June 2011 – 2012 – 2018
On Your Marks
We started in Banff Canada. As usual I missed the start because I was in Subway getting food for the road. I realized that I kind of like missing the start of races, because I get to ride near the back and get to cruise through the pack, meeting people along the way. Skipping the start moderates my pace.
For the beginning, I felt really strong, it was a really fun single track section. The route took a new path, which was a great single track, but I wondered if I should have kept my suspension fork, because the trail was rough straight away. I hadn’t really prepared a lot since my last race, and I knew they had changed the course considerably. It was up to me to just go for it and see what the big ride had in store.
Towards the middle of the first day we got to a new part of the ride which is a steep hike up a hill. Then there were snow fields, where I ended up carrying my bike on my back. I saw this technique in a downhill movie, and that actually worked really well. Then on the other side it was a pretty easy dirt road. Unfortunately for the next part I had listened to other people…they said it was easy 30-40 miles downhill, so I went for it. All of the sudden we took a left, and it was a huge climb. I was already at 150 miles that day, running out of food and tired. I shouldn’t listen to other people! I was exhausted, struggling up the hill so I stopped, cooked some food and decided to set up camp and stay the night. I put my tent up and ate a boil in a bag meal. As I climbed in the tent, I was ready to sleep and then I heard a CRACK. I knew I was in bear country, and then I was WIDE AWAKE. I made the executive decision to get back on my bike and ride again. It was easy after that with my adrenaline pumping. With just a few more miles to the top, then downhill to Furnnie, I got a hotel. I considered it a very successful first day of 158 miles.
The next morning was slow, as I had thrown everything out of my bag after arriving to the hotel and I needed to reorganize. I was hoping for a shorter day, as I didn’t plan on doing that many miles on day one…I got a little carried away with the group and wanted to take it at a better pace.
The road got very remote as I followed the river out of town. The ride became difficult, and I had to and carry my bike again. I remembered the route as I crossed the border into the USA around 10 PM. I had 10 more miles of road to Ureka, Montana to find a rest stop. When I rolled into town the shop had just closed, but I ran into another rider who said he’d share space with me. I knew there was a casino in town that served late-night pizza, so I headed over there. I had been there years before, and the bartender remembered me, having let me sleep on the floor on my last attempt. It was great to reconnect with someone who knew me, and it was nice to be hooked up for free for a place to stay.
Snowy Northern USA
Not a great start to the day as I headed south. My phone was dying…even though it’s waterproof, the phone charger is not…not so awesome. I was super busy leading up to the trip, so my planning wasn’t up to scratch. I hadn’t really downloaded the new paper maps even though the routes had changed quite a bit. I had to guess where to stop and find food and this messed with my efforts. The adventure was fun, but I should have prepared quite a bit more.
It was also a tough day because of the weather. I felt like I spent all day putting on and off my waterproofs because of the constantly changing weather between hot, cold and rainy. There was a big pass toward the end of the day, with snow on top and then a big hill all the way down to White Fish. I got some food in the tavern and then decided I would carry-on to Columbia Falls, 10 miles down a paved road. When I rolled into the Falls, I was debating whether to stop or keep going when another rider shouted at me, “I’ve got a room, want to share?” That made my decision for me, and I stayed the night.
The next day my new friend and roommate, Craig, got up early and left while I went to breakfast and took my time leaving. It was another random weather day, and the roads were dirt, and it was cold and windy. I ended up at Holland Lake Lodge in the late afternoon. Craig was there again and we were gonna get food and keep riding, but the hotel guy said we’d get a 5 course meal and a killer deal on the hotel, so we stayed. It was the most romantic lodge ever, and we agreed that if we came there again, Craig would bring his wife and I’d bring a girlfriend.
The next morning, the staff put out a to-go breakfast for us, and we headed out early. We stayed together for most of the morning for another big climb, and then a lot of snow to hike through. On the way down we ran into other people coming up the Tour from the south to the north, and they told us it was the end of the snow for the duration. This made us excited and we moved forward. As usual, Craig and I got split-up, but ended up in the same town again, and shared a room with a Czech rider named Matej at a Lodge that advertised for bikers to stay there.
The next morning the others left and I rode with Matej for a few hours before we split up. It was a long day, but we made it Helena. I went to a great bike shop and had a pasta dinner. Then I carried on to the town of Basin, where I had some pizza with John the Australian. Then the route changed on me again. In the past I remember the ride going along the train track along the side of the highway, a fairly easy ride. I went out riding really hard, but it ended up being a lot tougher, zig-zag route. I would see Butte from above and think I was close, then zig zag again. I was desperate for rest, but had to keep going, in and out of single track and housing until I finally made it. I got a hotel in town and stayed by myself. It was good to get past Butte because that’s where I quit the last time (I had twisted my ankled and broken my bike) for my own health and safety.
The hardest day became even worse. I had every piece of clothes on, was hungry and dehydrated, and was freezing but couldn’t stop to refuel. Finally at the end of the dirt road I saw a sign for a lodge, but it was abandoned. I kept trying to stop but couldn’t find anything or any place to rest.
Leaving Butte is weird, you do a big climb, then descend down to the highway, then go up again. It’s a super steep, loose grassy bank that is really unsafe to do at high speeds. I didn’t know this as I went down at full force. As my speed increased I was holding on for dear life during this steep slope, and I wanted to get off and walk but I had no way to stop. It’s a miracle I didn’t crash, but I made it in one piece.
Back to riding 4×4 road for a while, the day turned into a long night. I got in late and hoped to get a room but everything was closed when I got there. I ended up camping right next to town. I didn’t sleep well, as I had pushed it too hard. I couldn’t breathe all night and I knew that I had over-done it. It also rained all night so I was soaked throughout my tent and all of my clothes. It was quite miserable. I woke up at 5:45, sat outside the only early opening store shivering, waiting for it to open to warm up with a coffee. During the day I caught up with Mike, and rode with him and a friend for a while. They were going to stay at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge, and it was getting late. I thought they’d close at 10PM and I hustled to get there in time for a warm meal. I missed dinner by 3 minutes, but did get a good deal on a room. We got a beer and ate all the snacks in the bar.
The next day I woke up by myself late again, and took my time out of town. It was another rough and uncomfortable day. It was a rainy, muddy and really horrible. I would ride 50 feet, then have to stop and remove cakes of mud from my bike. Although I tried I couldn’t carry the bike because the mud made the bike too heavy. It was miserable. After all of that, I made it to the Lava Mountain Lodge, had lunch and debated stated. I decided to push on even though it was not fun and I was tired; the rain made the road sticky and tough to ride. I carried on 30 more miles hoping to find another lodge, but completely missed it and by the time I realized it, I was way past it. I was thinking I would make it to Pine Dale at around 3 AM, so I pressed on. I struggled over the peak and then the torrential downpours began. The hardest day became even worse. I had every piece of clothes on, was hungry and dehydrated, and was freezing but couldn’t stop to refuel. Finally at the end of the dirt road I saw a sign for a lodge, but it was abandoned. I kept trying to stop but couldn’t find anything or any place to rest. I decided to just push through to town. As I was riding I saw a bar called The Place, and Mike’s bike was outside. He and Jason were outside on the balcony, yelling at me to come in. This was the best gift I could have hoped for. IIt turns out they had gotten there right as they closed, and the bartender was the coolest guy. He let us sleep on the couch and floor there for free.
The next day we did a short 30 mile ride to Pine Dale. The ride was wet and miserable again. I was feeling bad, and worried about my health, we stopped had breakfast there. The boys were headed to the Great Basin, which is what killed my last attempt. I knew it was difficult mentally and physically. It was going to be a wet dirt road, and a really tough ride, I wasn’t psychologically prepared. I decided to get a room in Pine Dale and get recovered and ready for what was next. I went to a brewery, got a big pasta dinner and did all of my laundry. I ordered pizza to my room and went to bed early, totally prepared for the Great Basin. I am so glad I took care of myself for the next phase.
The Great Basin and Beyond
I got up early and the manager woman of the Best Western was so kind. Even though the breakfast bar wasn’t open, she let me eat early so I could get a good start. The weather was damp but the roads had dried out and I got a tail wind which was unusual. I felt strong and had an incredible day. I feel like I crushed it. The Great Basin was easily conquered.
I did 100 miles by lunch time, stopping in Atlantic City and I carried on riding, having a great afternoon. The ride got harder along the edge of a canyon for a bit; then the road got tough and very bumpy. Eventually it smoothed out and I thought I’d make it to Warmsmutter. I got there after a great day of 180 miles and ran into Matej again, having Subway. I’d called ahead to reserve a room in the town, and he joined me. We checked into the room and chilled for the evening.
The next day we had a nice ride through Wyoming, then into Colorado. After only riding 90 miles, I felt I should carry on to Steamboat. However, the hospitality was awesome at the Brush Mountain Lodge, so I stayed. I planned to get up early, but waited until the 6 AM breakfast. I made it to Steamboat Springs for lunch, and it was incredibly nice to be seeing familiar names knowing where I was. I ended up in Kremlin for the night. I was so happy to be back in my home state of Colorado again.
Leaving Kremlin, riding towards Silverthorne, was a tough morning with some headwinds. It was still fun to ride through towns I knew well, stopping in Breckenridge for lunch. On the way down to Como, I was getting tired. I really wanted to stop and I knew my friends Andrew and Kaitlyn might be waving at me from somewhere along the way…not far off I did indeed see them. They asked me where I was staying for the night and I said I was hoping for Hastel. I found a great bar, and met with Andrew and Kaitlin for a quick beer before camping out back for the night. I saw Matej’s tent, so I saw him in the morning. We waved and he left early as I slept in to get ready for the next phase.
Into Southwest Colorado
I got some work done on my bike the next day in Salida. I wasn’t feeling that great…I managed to feel a bit better until Sargents, where the headwinds were intense and rough. It was a struggle getting in, but I made it. At the bar there I met 3 fellows riding north, so we chatted and hung out. Jessie showed up and he seemed exhausted. I offered to share my room with him and he agreed.
The next day I called ahead to stay in Platoro, knowing it was a little town with no signal. The owner put out a key for the cabin and I stayed, late at night. There was a great sign on the wall that said, “Platoro is a special place that turns your mobile phones into cameras.” There were no signals at all. Nothing much forward but tough sections and no restaurants. The days without food are always rough as it’s hard to maintain energy and hard to refuel with what you have. I arrived Abiquiu with no hotel room, so I camped behind the Welcome Center. The weather was nice to camp, so I didn’t mind. I woke up early to face the big road detour that ended up throwing me off course for a bit. From here on it was paved until Cuba, where I got food and carried onto the dirt, then paved road. It was flat and hot, such a different extreme from Canada. The day was long but I wanted to make it to a hotel. I made a wrong turn and took a 20 mile detour, then, too tired to find the hotel, I camped. The next day I was low on water and food, so I carried on to Grants for food and water. I knew I was headed into a hot section with no water, so I had to prepare my mind. I got Pie Town too late and missed the stores. Luckily there’s a bike/hike hostel where i could stay for free. I stayed the night and was planning to sleep the next day too. I was feeling horrible, with a metallic taste in my mouth. I knew that wasn’t good so I decided to sleep most of the next day, planning to ride through the night to avoid the heat.
I left the hostel at 5 PM and rode for a while. Then I found a gift for riders left out by people in the community. This is a common thing that is really awesome when you’re so tired, they had left out a cooler with snacks and water for cyclist passing through. While I was refueling, Craig, Alan and Mitchel and Jessie showed up. We carried on riding together. They were coming off a long day and didn’t want to join me to ride all night, so they left and I carried on. I rode until pretty late until Beaverhead. My plan of riding all through the night was not working, I had no energy and was exhausted, so I pulled over and slept. I didn’t have enough food or water to continue the next day, and this was definitely the worst part of the trip. I had no energy and walked anything that wasn’t flat. It was really difficult and I was honestly thinking of giving up. I had barely anything left to give to this race, but I pushed on. I finally managed to get going when I got onto paved road. I rode through the town of Pinto Altas and down to Silver City. I finally felt better and was planning on pushing for the finish after a tough couple of days.
Finishing in Mexico
When I road into Silver City I saw Matej’s bike outside of the Denny’s. I joined him for a meal and he warned me of a storm, which I usually ignore. However, we decided to wait it out, then get up early to finish out the last day together. We checked on the race tracker and realized Jessie, Mitchell and Craig were also in town. We ended up riding in early morning and saw them in Separ. Mitchel went on without us as he had a goal in mind, but the rest of us waited and went to ride together. It was nice to not be in a hurry, to finish at a decent time a a group.
Hatchia is the last town on the route. We had paved roads until the end, but it was a bitch of a ride. We were riding strong, hoping to finish, trying not to draft each other, riding 5 across empty roads toward the border. It was so cool to arrive together, Mitchell meeting us at the finish. It was awesome to finish together, with a group, to celebrate and enjoy together. It was me, from England, Craig from New Zealand, Jessie from New England, Alan from the US and Matej who is Czech. Fun fact: we all weighed ourselves at the end…everyone lost 20-30 lbs. I had lost nothing.
The ride was great, but really tough in the stretches where I didn’t plan well enough. I could have gone quicker, but truly enjoyed the ride. I had as much fun as I could, having a strong ride and taking time to really enjoy it. Perhaps I should have camped more, but it was too cold. Next time I’ll camp more in warmer weather. I feel that I maintained myself well. Maybe someday I’ll go back and try to go quicker, but this time was perfect because I finished and made friends along the way.