If you don't laugh you'll cry...

Here’s one of the wonders of the Tour Divide. In spite of the rigours and risks involved, humour is never far below the surface and, once the routine of ‘Eat, Sleep, Ride – Great Divide’ has set in, the call-ins begin to reveal the importance of maintaining a sense of humour as some sort of coping strategy.


David Goldberg has already baffled us with his HAFEs (still don’t know what they are) and Stephen Huddle has now confirmed that his mascot – Henry the green engine from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories – is bringing him good luck and good cheer (don’t worry, it’s to do with the old rail trail section they’ll encounter in Idaho that we rode together last year).


Then there are the pearls of wisdom and humour from the Mountain Turtle, Kent Peterson. ‘My strategy of starting out slow, and then backing off, is working our perfectly. I’m pretty sure I’ve lulled Matthew Lee into a false sense of security.’ I feel a new parable coming on – the Turtle and the Hare.


Back on the trail, it sounds like Richmond Peak is indeed an even more significant challenge this year due to the amount of snow. Dave Blumenthal described about two miles of intermittent snow on the climb, including a sketchy traverse across steep ground and some very annoying trees – I remember them well. In fact, the air might still be blue given the volume and quantity of the expletives they inspired when I passed through. ‘Kind of annoying,’ said Dave. He’s obviously not a man to be provoked easily.


Blaine Nester also appears to be a sanguine chap. His first call-in, from Lincoln (demonstrating that two-time TD finisher Alan Goldsmith’s suggestion that he’s a good bet for a podium is looking pretty accurate) reveals he’s seen five bears already. And a wolf. That’s a WOLF. ‘It was pretty cool,’ said Blaine. And the rest. Does a wolf top the mountain lion that the Petervarys saw on the run-in to Ovando last year? On a par, I’d say.


The best part of a day further ahead, at the very sharp end of proceedings, Matthew Lee has once again performed a minor miracle in making it into Basin last night. In spite of being within a mile or two of each other yesterday morning, Erik Lobeck is now some four hours back in Helena, where I think Matthew stopped last year (the lady in the Bargain Motel kindly pointed out that he’d been through three days before me – a wonderful morale boost). Even with Matthew’s reputed photographic memory and considerable experience, passing through Lava Mountain at dusk, or maybe even in the dark, is some feat. I was lost there last year, and wasted the best part of a couple of hours, and that was in glorious sunshine.


Talking of being lost, Blue Dot junkies will by now have noticed that’s it’s possible to see your favourite riders occasionally wondering off route. Sometimes, in fact, you’ll be aware of them having taken a wrong turn before they are. All being well, the realisation that an error has been made will set in early and steps will be retraced until the correct route can be followed. Either that or try ESP.


Other times, it might just be a brief sortie off route to find some supplies or a bed for the night. Heather Dawe, after her rapid start, appears to have sought refuge in Swan Lake. Similarly, the claustrophobic trees of the Swan Valley drove me to an early stop there on what for me was day 5, where I was soothed by the cottage garden and hummingbirds at the Laughing Horse Lodge, not to mention a wine tasting at the only diner in town. After hearing red wine being described as tasting like Victoria’s Secrets, my faith was restored and I was once again ready for anything.


It’s already clear, though, that some riders have left the route and then rejoined it some considerable distance later without retracing their steps. In fact, husband and wife pairing Simon Temple and Christina Domecq skipped the whole Flathead re-route section and followed the old main road route to Roosville, where they then rejoined the official route, presumably explaining the ease with which they seemed to make up lost ground after a slow first day.


Last year, several riders called in to disqualify themselves after similar diversions (some taken intentionally, others mistaken) but continued on the route and continued to be tracked – and supported – on the website. Bruce Giroux even made it all the way to Antelope Wells. Since then, however, Christina and Simon’s SPOTS have not moved from their position just north of Whitefish for the past 18 hours, which does not bode well. Nor does the fact their apparent team mate, Grant Triplow, seems to have dropped out at Boulton Creek after suffering a bad knee (that’s what their website says, anyway). Perhaps a call-in or two could clarify the situation?


Whether they’re out of the race or not, the tally of those who’ll not make it to the end this time continues to mount. Jim Helms has pulled the plug, and Chauncey Matthews’ bad day in the Flathead seems to have taken it’s toll with his SPOT having arrived in Whitefish via the main road from Eureka. Maybe he’s just had a lift to receive bike repairs – or moral reinforcements – and will be back to join the fray later?


Certainly, it’s about now that the riders will be becoming fully aware of what it is they’ve let themselves in for and just how hard it can seem at times, so follow Jeff Potter’s sage advice as to how to keep up with proceedings and then give them all the encouragement you can. If they’re feeling blue, tell them to eat at Trixie’s in Ovando and knock-up Nord who’ll put you up for the night. That’s enough to make anyone feel better.


Paul Howard


Two Wheels on My Wagon



Hey Paul,
Nice commentary! I'm still working so watching from the sidelines...but someday...
Watching the dots in topo mode I try to get a feel of what the riders are experiencing, but on Matthew's call-ins, he's talking about snow, therefore it is impossible to fully understand the riders are enduring. Hats off to all.
Hope to see riders going through Silver City by the 27th or so.

Yellow Flags on the Field


So, Master Howard ran the race one measly time and now sits back comfortably at his desk (up two flights of stairs should anyone care to know) tossing out bon mots and aged I remember when lines, while this year's contestants risk life and limb on snow bound passes and and ledges above treachourous ravines. What's up with that?

Talk about a race with no rules. Color commentators at least need to win a championship, don't they? Where's the union steward when we need one?

Don't tell the union...

... but they couldn't afford anyone better qualified.

Glad Topanga are still wannabes.


Watching the race as we try to track Shawn Sheppard and caught the question regarding David mentioning HAFE's. That is likely HAPE.

High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), an advanced form of acute altitude sickness

Thanks for all the great work on keeping us current.


HAPE sounds more serious than the HAFE I know: High Altitude FlatulencE. That's OK unless you're on the second half of a tandem - just ask T-Race.

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