Once more the time difference between here in the UK and New Mexico has worked well, and I have the chance to write something just as Nicolas Senie arrives at the border. It’s a little after 1am local time and it looks like he has about two miles still to go. Judging by his last call in he’ll be delighted to have concluded the last desert section in the cool of the night. It definitely takes some getting used to if you come from North European climes.

Nicolas will also hopefully derive some pleasure form having become the first Frenchman to complete the Tour Divide, as well as from a finish time of around 25 days and 16 hours.

And that’s it, he’s made it. Felicitations Nico. I’m sorry the podium girls have been otherwise engaged, not far from your home, in Lille, at yesterday’s Tour de France stage finish. The border guards just don’t have the same ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Next to receive all the attention associated with completing the Tour Divide will be Cricket Butler, set to win this year’s women’s race, David Tremblay, Brad Perry, Jon Billman and Stephen Huddle. They put in a long day yesterday to reach Silver City late last night. They should be at the border late tomorrow afternoon.

Meanwhile, Patrick Tsai’s sense of adventure knows no bounds. Yesterday he took the ‘official’ Great Divide route from Cuba to Grants, rather than the paved alternate used by all racers so far. In fact, the paved alternate has been used by pretty much all racers since at least 2007, when Bruce Dinsmore, from the UK, followed the official route.

I must admit to having been a bit concerned initially when I saw Patrick’s tracker apparently off route. It wasn’t so much that he seemed lost – last year the official route was marked on the google map, so it’s easy enough to follow – but that this section of the official route is now supposed to be closed due a dispute with a landowner. In Banff last year I met a Welshman who said he and his companions had been stopped by a rancher who made clear his displeasure at their presence on ‘his’ land, and there has been an ACA note advising people to use the alternate since before last year’s TD. Nevertheless, it looks like that was yet more water of a duck’s back for Patrick.


Paul Howard


Two Wheels on My Wagon


Bravo Lantern Rouge!

I believe that there is just one short section where ranchhand John Wool can bother you on the Lee Ranch. I was accosted by Mr. Wool prior to Bruce Dinesmore's crossing, and offered two other routes. Later I explored the other routes "suggested" to me by Mr. Wool and actually one of them is slightly shorter and more direct. The other propose route is over the high country and closed to motor traffic about half the year. The more immediate alternate route ends on the pavement within a few feet of the "official route." At that time I discussed the situation with the law enforcement officier for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) who controls the public land in that part of the state. Mr. Wool is well know to him, and to anyone else who travels out there.

However, I found if I was very polite he let me pass. I showed him my maps and my GPS that showed I was exactly where I was suppost to be. I extended the truth a bit and also told him I was being tracked by satelite and that if I deviated from the established route that my wife would be contacting law enforcement immediately. That was pre-SPOT and actually I was completely out of contact with anyone except Mr. Wool.

I called Adventure Cycling Association (ACA), and they said that they would look in to it. In my blog I suggested that ACA did not revise their map to accomodate the Lee Ranch because it might mess up their mapping donations. (They list the names of people who donate at least $100 for evey mile of the route.) I received a rapid reply from ACA that that was not true. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, nothing has changed even though a very reasonable solution was proposed.

The short section in question is where you make the left onto the wide mining road. A mile later you turn right and head out to a paved road. Instead, just go straight and you will end up at the same place at the paved road. Apparently the former is private property and the later is a county road. What could be easier to fix? Plus, you get some nice views of the old volcanic activity that you cannot see as well from the official route.

In any case, unless ACA fixes their map, the TD racers are stuck with possibly dealing with Mr. Wool. It is a shame, because as Mr. Dinesmore reported several years ago it is amazing country that very few people even know about, and even fewer ever see it. Apparently Mr. Lee wants to lock all the gates, and deny access to BLM public lands. The other ranchers do not want the gates locked because they have friends who come visit. Most of them carry guns, so they are not too worried about poachers and rustlers. In fact, one of them told me that he is surprised that Mr. Wool has not been hurt. However, bicyclists are a pretty safe targets. He told me a lot a foreigners "tresspass" and get lost. So, just pretend you do not speak much English.

Failing all of that, and you are not racing, there is another route over the high country. From Hunter's Camp (BLM) you go straight up to the Ignacio Chavez Special Management Area. A series of Forest Service roads eventually (about 40-50 miles later) bring you out just above the San Mateo Spring. That would be an interesting route too. Unfortunately, since only one racer travels the official route between Cuba and Grants once about every three years, there probably is not going to be any route changes, major or minor.

Nevertheless, I was thrilled when I checked the SPOT tracker yesterday afternoon to see that Patrick had taken the official route. Water off a duck's back indeed. Bravo Lantern Rouge! BRAVO!!!

General observations and questions

Is there a summary of HOW the finishers got the job done? We hear where they are and when, but what equipment, food and general strategy did they follow? For example, the Mountain Turtle said he'd ride dawn to dusk, avoiding riding in the dark. I'm interested in challenging the divide route perhaps next year, and I'd like to gather as much info as possible to improve my odds of getting to Mexico within a time window of 2X of the leader.

Another general observation

I sent a number of friends, mostly ultramarathon runners, to the site to follow the race. Almost all comments came back: "They all sound so normal on the podcasts." I explained it's a matter of pace and distance. Do a criterium, or cyclocross, you race for an hour on fluids only at 90 percent effort and there's nothing left. Do a 24 hour enduro you go on fluids and some solids at 60-80 percent and there's nothing left. In a 24 hour one might stop for food and fluids. If you go for 2745 miles, you better go at a recovery pace most of the time and also have something left for the next day, or you're in trouble, so real food, rest breaks and a sensible pace, which makes it all seem so normal, in spite of the fact that 150+ offroad miles/day is far from normal (well, it depends on one's peer group).

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