Matthew Lee means business

OK, that’s it, the waiting is finally over. They’re off. The racer’s addiction to adrenaline and endurance has begun again, as has our addiction to the blue dots. And, as might be expected, the race has already split into myriad fragments.


At the front, Matthew Lee has once again taken a flier. Last year he made it about 20 miles past Sparwood on the first night. I now wake up to find him almost at the end of the Flathead/Cabin pass turn – that’s probably the best part of an extra 30 miles, sometimes pretty rough miles.


Kevin Dean and Eric Lobeck, who was on for a 20-ish day finish last year until succumbing to Giardia in New Mexico, have made to where Matthew Lee stopped last time, and then there’s a group in Sparwood who will no doubt be in the US by the end of the day.


Further back, there’s a gaggle of riders making the most of Elkford’s facilities (such as they are) –in fact, there might be more people in Elkford now than there ever have been before (it’s not a big place). Grant Triplow appears to have made the eminently sensible decision to spend the night at Boulton Creek – is the girl at the counter still increasing the size of the whole in her ears? And then there’s the usual SPOT uncertainty. Are Philip Fogg, Brad Perry and Bob Marr really still in Banff, or have they just not figured how to switch on their orange tracker beacons? If so, they wouldn’t be the first.


And what next? For those further back, the section from Elkford to Sparwood is easy riding, give or take a stiff road climb out of the town. After Sparwood there’s another comfortable road section before the beauty, wilderness and sometimes rough trails of the Flathead – not forgetting the three major climbs as well. The last of these brings you down to the border and a flattish section before the climbing begins again in earnest some 30 miles later. The leaders will soon learn – on the next climb, to Red Meadow Lakes, the last climb before Whitefish – how good conditions are this year by the amount of remnant snow they encounter. Last year there were biggish patches for a couple of miles. The year before there was more. That said, last year’s exceptional volumes of rain were a bigger problem than the snow.


Watch this space.


Paul Howard


Two Wheels on My Wagon