Podium complete

A busy afternoon on the lonely highway down to Antelope Wells yesterday, with Erik Lobeck and Blaine Nester both finishing and apparently settling for an honourable draw in their own battle for second place. Joint second – hats off. Good racing and good sportsmanship too.
Their time of 18 days, 11 hours and 38 minutes was just under half an hour slower than that recorded by Kurt Refsnider, last year’s second-place finisher, and a bit more than an hour faster than the Petervarys’ love-shack tandem, so a very handy performance. It was also nearly two full days quicker than Blaine recorded last year, while Erik Lobeck made it as far as Pie Town in 2009 at a similar pace before succumbing to giardia. Hopefully the satisfaction of making it all the way to Antelope Wells this time will offset his frustration at the mechanical issues that cost him his chance to challenge Matthew more closely as looked set to be the case.
The next finisher looks likely to be Aidan Harding. He’s stopped for the night a touch behind where Erik and Blaine were 24 hours ago, so should finish tonight, though I guess it depends partly on the ground conditions in the Gila and how well his singlespeed gearing copes with the last 120 miles from Silver City which are pretty much flat. And surprisingly gruelling – Trevor Browne had to resort to his I-pod for only the second time in the whole trip; I didn’t have such luxuries so had to resort to children’s songs to wile away the miles – ‘59 green bottles, standing on a wall…’ That used up nine miles and reaffirmed the sense of achievement that comes from completing even the most apparently futile task which, after all, is a fairly apt description for the whole Tour Divide.
Not much more than four or five hours further back are Aidan’s erstwhile travelling companions Forest Baker and Eric Nelson, just past the intimidatingly barren Plains of San Agustin (its the kind of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to bump into Clint Eastwood, with his trademark thousand yard stare and week-old beard – just like your average TD racer, in fact). They all have until 10am tomorrow morning New Mexico time to beat the 20 day barrier; impressive stuff from three rookies. Chris Plesko’s 2009 singlespeed record of 19 days and 21 minutes looks safe, though it should be remembered that Aidan lost a day up in Montana effecting repairs to his bike so he’ll have ended up cycling at pretty much the same speed.
Eleswhere, Mike Prochaska called in from Abiquiu to say he was Cuba-bound with John Foster, though the SPOTS suggest John has continued to Pueblo Pintado on the Chaco Alternate. Marshal Bird also called in from Abiquiu to record his joy at having at last overcome his saddlesore problems and now being able to enjoy the riding again. He and Matthew Arnold are also both in Cuba.
The group of five – Grant Crosby, Tom Moriarty, Derek Richert, David Goldberg and Jacob Johnsrud – are in and around Abiquiu with the re-route just ahead of them. Dave Preston is now solo behind them in El Rito. Still in Colorado – I say still, they’re also still ahead of my schedule from last year – Stephen Huddle has found some company again, in the form of Jon Billman and Nicolas Senie, though he also bemoaned the absence of a karaoke birthday party at the Tomichi Creek Trading Post in Sargents. It certainly was a highlight of last year’s ride, at least for us, if not for those who had to listen when we required to join in the singing. David Tremblay, Brad Perry and Cricket Butler are only an hour or so further back, and all should enjoy cycling through the dramatic rock formations into Del Norte for breakfast before heading over Indiana Pass, maybe making it to Platoro – home of the best peach cobbler I’ve ever tasted – for nightfall.
And lanterne rouge Patrick Tsai appears to be running the risk of succumbing to the temptation to buy unnecessary souvenirs by staying the night in Breckenridge. Boreas Pass is on the agenda tomorrow morning, then perhaps a late breakfast under the copper ceiling of the café in Hartsel before enjoying the rest of South Park’s increasingly impressive flower meadows prior to the final ascent and descent into Salida.

Paul Howard

PS: Attached are some pictures taken of Matthew at the finish by Barin Beard. Apparently Matthew will today be back in the Chihuahuan desert being filmed by a BBC TV crew, who are set to return in August to make a documentary of James Cracknell and Ben Fogle’s ITT, which is due to start on August 15th.

Two Wheels on My Wagon


Shawn Sheppard

I met Shawn on the road to Abiquiu tonight. He's the one without a Spot, but is still in the race - add one more to that group of five! He is staying at the Abiquiu Inn tonight and plans to find a bike shop in the morning for a minor repair. Hopes he won't have to deviate far from the route.

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