TD Race Updates

What they're riding through

If start and stop times are any indication of a rider's state of mind - as opposed to more objective circumstances, such as weather, or availability of food or accommodation - then it's interesting to note the following: Kurt rode latest on the 21st, but then Jefe got the jump on him in the morning; Ethan was a little slower getting going (he has reported suffering from a sore knee, which may be the reason). The Silverthorne posse had a bit of a lie-in; now it's Josh Shifferly out front of Roberto and Parker after Aidan Harding had to return to Steamboat to fix a bust frame.

Perhaps also suffering from the drag-effect of staying in town, the Eurotrain in Steamboat took a while to get rolling yesterday, similarly those in Rawlins. Elsewhere, David Horton, Kevin Cunniffe and Mark Erhart were up with the lark but Kevin and Mark don't appear to have been able to close the gap on Tori Fahey's peloton, which is now in Atlantic City.

Northbound, needless to say Paul Attalla was off before sun-up and is now in Lima, having swapped notes with Justin Simoni about snow conditions in passing. Now is the crux for Justin in terms of completing the original route. If he fancies Togwotee and, probably worse, Union Pass in the snow he'll have to turn east very soon. Union Pass in particular felt a lonely place to me, even when I had the comfort blanket of being able to cover the ground between me and civilisation quickly on a bike. Still, Justin's clearly made of stern stuff. Read more »

Reports from the pack

Time for a look at the overall nature of the race, rather than just focussing on the leaders. Indeed, apologies for the almost exclusive focus on the front runners, in particular the front three southbound. Time constraints and the compelling nature of the racing are my excuses (and apologies for overlooking the sterling efforts of ITT-er Dave Bruno, who’s managed to more or less keep pace with the front runners for several days now – chapeau).

So, to everyone else. After all, the defining nature of TD, in my opinion, is that it manages to combine top end racing with an event that, for most of those participating, is as much a challenge to finish as it is to beat others. In this light, TD 11 is proving something of a revelation, with a fairly staggering 72 racers still active out of 89 who started (68 southbound in the grand depart, 15 northbound in the grand depart, and six ITT-ers who started at or around the same time). In previous editions of the event, no more than half the field has finished (even including those relegated).

The most likely reason for this is that the southbound route has had some of its teeth pulled through the re-routes brought about by the vast snow pack. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this doesn’t necessarily make riding the TD this year any less of an undertaking – it’s still an awfully long way – but riders have perhaps had a slightly gentler introduction. In fact, 59 out of 68 southbound racers are still active, with almost all now having made it out of Montana, which has traditionally been the first goal for many would be finishers – only after you’ve done with Big Sky Country can you begin to think of pushing yourself to the finish. Read more »

Happy Fathers' Day

Didn't realise it was fathers' day in North America as well, but the heartwarming messages on the discussion forum make it clear that it is, so, Happy Fathers' Day to one and all - and that includes those minding the kids back home while the mothers are out racing. Being able to have a cream tea (scones, clotted cream and jam) at the guide hut (to raise money) with the family is one of the few joys of not riding the TD, but now I need something like trying to post-hole through the snow into Steamboat to burn it off...


Northbound at last



Sorry it’s taken so long to post a few thoughts about the progress of the northbound racers. I guess the volume of riders and the excitement of the racing southbound – plus all the detours that have had to be factored into account – has stolen most of the race watching time (you almost need three weeks off work just to watch the TD).

Anyway, Paul Attala has established what looks to be – barring major incident – an insurmountable lead in the race to Banff. He’s over BoreasPass– which he says is clear – and now in Steamboat. The speed with which he dispensed with New Mexicowas breathtaking. It’s only a handful of miles shorter than the traditional route through Montanaand on a par in terms of difficulty – certainly in the very north and in the Gila. In the context of this year’s TD, that would lead you to think he’s broken the back of the ride as Montanahas had some of its major difficulties circumvented (though a post on the race discussion forum suggests he’s planning not to take the snow re-routes…). Also, he’s not just heading to the finish, he’s also heading home, being a Fernie resident, which you’d think would provide extra motivation were any needed. Maybe his rivals will hope he’ll get distracted by calling in for a cuppa. Fracnk and Russ were in Comolast I saw, though reports suggested Russ had an injury of some sort (severity unknown).

Rob Colliver, from the UKand riding a southbound ITT (now just into Idaho) knows Paul well and he told me Paul would be a strong contender. He pointed to the fact he’s successfully rowed across the Atlanticand, in what’s becoming a recurring theme for this year’s race in either direction, can get by with very little sleep. It seems he’s not going to tire as he heads into Wyomingtomorrow and starts passing the first southbound riders. Read more »

Night attack

Wow. What a move. From at least three, possibly four or five hours behind Jefe, Kurt has overhauled the erstwhile leader and created his own buffer of several hours at the front of the race. It’s a real statement of intent, and took me – and possibly Jefe and Ethan as well – by surprise. In fact, it took me several looks to work out what had happened after having briefly checked in this morning (UK time – late last night, race time). I blame the time difference.


The price of this ‘attack’ – real Tour de France parlance, perhaps showing the evolution of the TD as a race, rather than a war of attrition – is that it’s come at the expense of a night’s sleep. Presumably Kurt will have to catch up on that – if not the whole night at least have a decent kip – before too long. Will he stop in Pinedale for a few hours and then hit the road again before nightfall.


He certainly chose a good spot to ride through the night, as all the re-route that avoids Togwotee and Union passes seems to have been on paved roads. That makes a big difference. Ahead lies good ground as well – another 20 or so paved miles past Pinedale, then good ground right the way to Rawlins a further 200+ miles ahead. It could be a crucial time to see if the push Kurt has made will stick.


More later when the day’s done – assuming there aren’t other nocturnal attacks to report on.



Degrees of separation

Racers have just embarked on their sixth day of the Tour Divide, and already significant gaps are beginning to develop between distinct groups of racers. The distance between the front runners, though, remains indecisive – maybe half a day between the front four.

Having established a lead of a few hours, current leader Jefe stopped for around six hours last night a good way past Lima. Back in town, Kurt and Ethan stopped for maybe half an hour longer, though appeared to take a little longer to get rolling again this morning. Clearly the pace hasn’t got to Jefe yet, though the benefits of an extra half hour in Lima for his nearest chasers might be even greater than otherwise if it meant they could eat an extra portion of the fantastic pies at Jan’s café. Good for the soul as well as the body.

More significant, perhaps, was fourth-placed Mike Hall’s little-more-then four hour stop about three hours shy of town. Given how late he rode last night, did he underestimate the distance to Lima, or just push on regardless, safe in the knowledge that a good breakfast was only a short way away?

In 2009, Ray Porter bivvyed in a similar spot and then had to pull out after a near hypothermic night in the worst conditions imaginable (so far he’s making a good fist of this current attempt – go Ray, and don’t pick any more fights with screwdrivers). 24 hours later, Pete Basinger breezed through on the Great Divide race, stopping at Lima only long enough to eat his fill before taking advantage of favourable night-time conditions and maintaining near record-breaking pace. Presumably Mike’s condition resembles that of Pete more than Ray - he got off to an early start this morning, which could well suggest he’s not burnt out yet. Read more »

To sleep or not to sleep

OK, so I've now recovered from the weekend's efforts enough to have read through the    race discussion and have caught up somewhat on all that's happening on the route and in the race. The number of detours is even greater than I'd realised, all the way down into Wyoming, and there are still questions about the amount of snow in Colorado. Then there are the forest fires affecting New Mexico, with at least one rider having to drop out of the race due to the effect of the smoke, and flooding at various points on the route. It sure is a tricky year, and that's before the impact of two grand departs and multiple ITT racers is considered.

Anyway, from the comfort of home it only adds to the race's appeal. As does listening to the call-ins. Hearing what riders sound like is a great insight into their state of mind.

Here are some answers to general questions that have cropped on the discussion forum so far.

SPOT trackers: they can be temperamental. When trees, or steep valley sides, get in the way of a clear line of sight up to the satellite the Trackers tend to stop sending signals and riders have to re-set them. This is particularly the case in Canada and Montana. After the first few days though the tree cover diminishes and signal coverage improves. Things are also helped by the fact riders will have had time to work out how best to mount them, to remember to check to reset them, and just generally get used to using them (and, if they've been in touch with home, to appreciate how important they are for followers). Read more »

They're off..

Well, they've been off for a while now - three days to be precise, plenty of time to have come to terms with the fact that they've now finally begun what for most will probably be the biggest adventure of their lives. It's a shame about the race having had to be re-routed - no Flathead, after having already established itself as one of the highlights of the route, no Whitefish Divide or Red Meadow Lakes (by the looks of it), no Richmond Peak either, and there seem to be plenty more detours that most of the riders haven't reached yet - but I think it's worth trying to avoid the trap of thinking it might be a lot easier than in previous years.

It will certainly change the complexion of the race and, sure, a bit of rough ground, bear country and post-holing through snow will have been lost. But a lot of the challenge of the TD is in the sheer scale of the event - the distance, the commitment - and that hasn't changed. Besides, riding a long way on a bike can be tough in even the most benign surroundings. I've just finished a 600km audax event, my final qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris in August. I actually passed within 2 miles of home, but that didn't make my left knee any less painful when something happened to it with 100 miles to go. Then there's the need to be adaptable in the face of whatever conditions come your way, and arguably the uncertainty surrounding the re-routes this year will make that an even more important attribute. Read more »