TD Race Updates

Tour Divide 2011: Hell and High Water

Welcome to the race updates blog for the memorable 2011 Tour Divide. Lots of interesting developments are at play. Record La Nina conditions fracture the traditional Grand Depart, scattering ITTs across the entire season. Fires again threaten NM. The first ever Antelope Wells Grand Depart is formed; new CDNST singletrack makes it's debut. It will be quite the season for adventure on the GDMBR. Tune in below for periodic commentary from Paul Howard (TD`09), Jon Billman (TD`10) and Matthew Lee, reluctantly sitting Divide racing out for the first time since 2004.

TD Rookies Jake K. and Dejay B wishing readers a Happy Summer Solstice (as seen in Yellowstone doing reconn. en route to the Banff Grand Depart)

That's all, folks...

So, another scintillating edition of the Tour Divide has come to an end. James Hodges becomes the first ever red caboose and has brought the curtain down on the most successful Tour Divide yet – in terms of numbers finishing, at least. Fifty riders from the southbound Grand Depart, six northbounders and four ITTers for a total of 60 successful rides. That’s almost triple last year’s figures.

A perhaps surprising corollary of this surge in popularity is the fall in attrition rates. Overall, out of 82 starters there was an unprecedented success rate of 68% for those participating in the Grand Depart (I haven’t managed to work out figures for ITTers as I’m not sure I’ve kept on top of who started and who didn’t). The success rate for the southbound Grand Depart was even higher at a staggering 75%.

Given this remarkable ratio in an event with historical attrition rates of 50% or more, it would be easy to conclude that increased awareness of the Tour Divide means people have arrived better prepared than in the past. However, the changes of the route due to snow conditions have probably also had an impact, reducing the intensity of the start if not the overall challenge. Read more »

The race is still on...

More finishers in the past couple of days, including southbound:

Kim Raeymaekers (first ever Belgian, I think), Bob Anderson, Norb DeKerchove, Tom Sap, JP Evans, Ray Porter (well done Ray – no arguments with the multitool when boxing your bike up now, in fact I’d let the guys at Gila Hike and Bike do it for you if necessary), Daniel Bayley, Luke Doney, Lee Krumholz, John Umstead, Tori Fahey (second woman), Jon Pettit and David Horton;

ITTers Jeff Tomasetti, Markley Anderson and Rob Colliver (nice one, Rob – more proof that the South Downs is ideal training for the Rockies…); Read more »

The red caboose

An excellent idea from the race discussion forum: re-name the lanterne rouge (too Tour de France) as the red caboose (much more Wild West). It works for me. It’s certainly a healthy battle that’s developing for this coveted prize between Justin Simoni and James Hodges, and possibly Nicholas Kennedy, whose Spot hasn’t updated for a while. Will the fire re-routes have any impact? Will Justin adhere to the original route anyway?

In the engine of the women’s race, Caroline Soong has now finished and gets the Maize jersey, which will presumably sit nicely alongside that won by partner Kurt. Tori Fahey looks on course for second, with Jackie Bonn not far behind in third after roughing it through Brazos Ridge. The two Sheilas and Marian are now also on the final leg having made it to Cuba.

To continue the forum-inspired race-train analogy, the coal wagons of Markus Meier, John Richardson, Lukas Aufschlager, Dylan Taylor, Lance Griffin, David Goldberg, Derek Bentley and Danny Hill have all now made it to the finish (should that be the station, or terminus?). That’s a total of 22 southbound grand depart finishers, plus ITTer Dave Bruno, in less than 23 days.

Northbound, Denis Chazelle really motored over the weekend to finish second in Banff. Craig Dolwin is still a short way out of town, maybe only 30 miles or less, and will hopefully be able to nail the last bit later today. The leaderboard has Ross Delaplane still moving in the early morning, so he should be in Banff today as well, while Roland Sturm has ventured off into the Flathead. He also sent a message from the flanks of Galton Pass remarking at how steep it was and asking for comparisons with the southbound route – how did he do that? And then the northbound caboose, Stephen Moore, is within about a day of the border and another two or three days of the finish. Read more »

Wild fires and wild dogs

A word of warning about the fires that are still burning near Los Alamos (and that even made it into the UK press the other day with a full spread picture in the Independent. The main Tour Divide route from Abiquiu to Cuba over Polvadera Mesa (where the rainbow gathering was in 2009) is closed, with all those riders currently between Cuba and Grants having had to take the paved alternative route along 84 and then 96. Jackie Bonn is about to reach the junction between main route and detour, and I guess watching her SPOT is probably the best way to find out if the traditional route is considered passable yet.

Some, the most recent arrivals to the Cuba-Grants section – David Horton, John Umstead and Markley Anderson, for example – also had to detour round the amazingly beautiful Brazos Ridge Overlook section. I don’t know for sure if that was due to fire warnings/closures (for more info check out the discussion forumand rider call-ins). The next riders to arrive there look set to be Greg Philips and Simon Harling, so that’s another reason to watch their progress closely.

If the route into Abiquiu is closed then they miss out on possibly the most beautiful part of the whole route, if also one of the roughest. They also miss out on the famously bad-tempered dogs near Vallecitos, but those in the reservation shortly out of Cuba are more than enough to make up for this absence – prepare for a sprint. Read more »

The ten egg omelette

So, it was indeed Kurt, Jefe and then Paul, and now Ethan, Robert and Parker have made it to the finish too (well, we must assume Parker has, as he apparently left Silver City with Robert even though his SPOT still has him between Cuba and Grants). I don’t know if there’s that much I can say about such amazing rides. It made for a fabulous spectacle, which was absolutely the last thing that was needed by someone still trying to wean himself off the Tour Divide.

All three front runners have called in now or posted updates. I liked the fact Paul Attalla was reported as asking for an omelette made from 10 eggs. That’s TEN. It sound a bit like that probably apocryphal story from the French revolution, when a nobleman on the run – disguised as a starving peasant – was doing fine until his hunger caught up with him and he ordered an omelette with 12 eggs at a local inn. Old habits die hard, I guess. At least Paul fell asleep during his, rather than having a rendez-vous with Madame Guillotine.

I think the state Paul must have been in to order such a dish – and then doze off while eating it – says it all about how far these guys have pushed themselves. Maybe fans of the TD have experienced something along these lines at some point in their lives (or at least know someone who has). But few of us will ever do so in quite such an extreme setting as the TD. Pro athletes do it regularly, but mostly in the velodrome, or on the track. Or, in the Tour de France, with a whole moving circus of backup to help them recover. Read more »

It's Kurt

Looks like Kurt, followed closely by Jefe and then Paul (in Banff). More details to follow after post race call-ins and reports.



And the winner is...???

Kurt? Jefe? Paul? Jefe? Kurt?...

Less than a couple of hours to go and I guess it looks like Kurt, Jefe, Paul (Molly, my eight year old, agrees, unless they fall off and hurt themselves or their bikes break - I had a puncture with ten miles to go, so she's a wise head on young shoulders). A fantasitc effort and fantastically close race - bang goes doing anything constructive away from the computer for the rest of the day.

While you're all glued to the blue dots, have a think about this message from Eric Bruntjen, posted on the race forum: Read more »

Bear encounters of the close kind

Just read the update on what happened to ITT-er Tony Cervati - it involves, bears, gorges, near freezing water and, most importantly, surviving. Read it here: 

Message for Stephen Huddle, who should just have started on his own ITT - I hope the bear's gone now...



Partners in crime

It’s been difficult to tell exactly where the two southbound leaders – Kurt and Jefe – have been in relation to each other over the past couple of days. The occasional lack of SPOT updates has lead to fevered speculation – here, in my head, and on the race discussion forum – about trackers having possibly been switched off to disguise progress, or the rider behind trying to gauge the freshness of the tyre tracks they’re following to work out how far down they are (sounds like a story-line from a western, doesn’t it?).

It was interesting, then, to read a post from Kurt’s dad saying that Kurt and Jefe weren’t aware of the tracker issues, and had spent a good chunk of yesterday riding together. In particular, I like the idea that two such committed racers continue to be so tolerant of each other’s company.

It’s easy to imagine, especially with the finish line now metaphorically in sight, that they will be thinking about each other and be pre-occupied with notions such as ‘I need to ride ahead’ or ‘If he’s sleeping for X hours I’ll sleep for one fewer’… Yet I think much of the reality of the Tour Divide is that it comes down so much to you and the route that these issues are secondary. I’m not saying they don’t exist – I’m sure they both dearly want to win, and are still lucid enough to realise that will mean having to beat the other – but that the way to win is at least as much about how you deal with the route, how far you can push yourself, as it is about how you deal with your rival. Read more »