6/22/17 – 9:00am
Leaders through Cuba, New Mexico:
In 2015, I remember finishing up my McDonalds and packing my bike for the push toward Grants. All was going well, I was hydrated, fueled up, and ready for the road ahead, but then I saw Josh Kato as we were rolling out of Cuba. I like Josh, he is an awesome guy, but I was not so stoked to see him at that moment. So Jay and I hammered it out of town, trying to create a gap on him, it didn’t work. About halfway through that road section, and just after the sun set, he caught us while Jay and I had stopped for a snack on the side of the road. we briefly chatted with Josh, and he pushed on. Both Jay and I eventually caught him, and passed him but he knew he was in this race, and that was a mental boost. So let’s take a look at Cuba this year.
Brian made it to cuba at 8pm and left just before 3am with a good night’s rest. Josh made it later in the morning, after sleeping east of Cuba, he arrived at 7am and left at 8am. Not only did Josh not see brian, he was roughly 5 hours behind him. So this situation is certainly a little different from the 2015 race. There is still plenty of race left, and josh also has had plenty of good sleep, so I would not be surprised if he makes a big push at the end, I mean what else does he have to lose?
It now looks like Stefan and Ben are riding together. I got word from Stefan directly that his bearings are shot. So if that is the case, both of the Belgians will attempt to limp into Antelope Wells with bikes that are not functioning properly. Good on them for pushing on.
HOT HOT HOT:
Oh, and it’s going to be wicked hot today in Grants, nearing 100 degrees.
6/21/17 – 9:00am
Think about riding the spine of the Rocky Mountains for 2700+ miles, now think about doing so on one speed. Yeah, pretty crazy huh? Singlespeeding adds simplicity to a ride like this, there is less to break down, less to go wrong, and it’s easy on the hands and mind. This year we have 6 singlespeed racers and all but one are still churning their pedals. Ty Domin is currently sitting comfortably in first place with a 100+ mile lead. We know our buddy, Brett Stepanik, is having a blast out there, he is currently getting into Clark and Steamboat Springs as we speak. Behind them is Roberto Gazzoli from Italy, and the the only female Singlespeeder in the racer, Colleen O Neil. Rounding up the rear is Eric Sime from Wisconson. These individuals have a different type of suffer to deal with, and I give them a lot of credit for being out there. Good on you guys, keep on pedaling. Here is a photo of Brett up in Canada, he seems to be having a blast…
Although I have not heard much of Rickie, she is certainly a well accomplished rider who resides in Wales, UK. I saw that she participated in the Highland Trail Race in 2015, and actually held the women’s record for a while. She also completed the 2014 Transcontinental race in Europe and finished 34th out of 60+ competitors. Maybe her biggest accomplishment is the 24 hour races that she has done, almost winning the world Championships twice. Rickie is currently in Colorado, on her way to Silverthorn. Trackleaders.com says she had a goal of 25 days, but as we sit today, she is basically at the 20 day mark. Rickie is riding a Shand bike and is on the Adventure Syndicate team in the UK. Rickie is currently leading the women’s race, and sitting in the top 15.
6/20/17 – 8:00pm
Josh Kato Video:
Sorry I couldn’t get this out sooner, but here it is now. Josh and I chatting about his Tour Divide run thus far.
Bonita Wildfire Reroute:
It appears we have an official re-route due to the wild fire this year. For more information on the closure, scroll down. The new route is now in red on Trackleaders.com
6/20/17 – 7:30am
Photos of Brian and Josh:
Yesterday I had the privilege of driving from home to take photos of 3 racers, Brian Lucido and Josh Kato from the Tour Divide, and Dylan Taylor of the first annual American Trail Race. Brian is currently leading the Tour Divide. I spotted him at the Tomichi Creek Trading Post in Sargents, Colorado. I didn’t want to interfere with his race much, so I kept my distance, shot some photos and asked him some basic questions. He is a down to earth guy who wanting to talk about where I was from more than talk about him, but I was able to squeak out a bit of information from him.
Brian is certainly a motivated individual. He is new to the racing aspect of bikepacking but has clearly gotten used to it. He mentioned he felt great, but there are certainly highs and lows, talking about head winds and re-fueling. Brian also has diabetes, he was checking his insulin levels as he was paying out. I asked if he is used to dealing with his levels as he does plenty of riding, but he said the racing aspect is completely different, and he even mentioned that his levels were low yesterday, but high today. Brian’s stop was quick and efficient. He was there no more than 35 minutes.
I then proceeded to head over Monarch Pass to see if I couldn’t run into Josh. I figured he was going to stop in the town of Salida as it was daylight and there are quality bike shops and good food, but he bypassed, and went to the High Valley Center instead, so that’s where I ran into him.
It was 87 degrees in Salida, the sun was out, and Josh was 1700 miles in to a bike race. He was in great spirits, he was willing to talk, and it was nice to catch up. He told me some stories about his bivy filling with water while he was sleeping on the Lava Mountain Trail, and dropping a fresh burrito in cow crap just to dust it off and eat it. We chatted briefly about the fire in New Mexico, and the horrendous conditions up north, specifically in Canada. He ate a bunch of food, and packed even more.
He slowed down a bit around Brush Mountain to rest his knee, and I think that was the best move as he said he was feeling pretty good today, and that his fitness has finally come around. Apparently he was out of shape before the race, so it’s pretty impressive that he held 2nd or 3rd for the majority of the race.
Josh mentioned a bit about some creaking on his bike, but he said it is performing well and there was no need to stop at a bike shop in Salida. He didn’t stop at Orange Peel in Steamboat either. His bike looked to been in pretty good shape however his rear tire was a bit worn, but that’s to be expected after 1700 miles.
I have another video of Josh up loading now…
Ben Steurbaut, the broken Tour Divide run:
After breaking his Lauf fork up in Montana on Fleecer Ridge, Ben has another major issue….
He attempted to find an affordable bike in Breckenridge, but came up empty. So My thought last night was that he would stop in Salida, as there are 3 bikes shops so close to the route that could likely help him out. Well, he decided to push on, and with a catastrophic crack like that one, I really hope he is careful. Ben is currently sitting in 4th, and both Brian and Josh spoke about how strong he was when they were riding with him earlier on in the race.
6/19/17 – 9:30am
What is age anyways:
7 racers in the top ten are 40 years of age or older, and the other three are 31, 34 and 34 years old. This conversation has come up before but it’s always an interesting topic of conversation. From the unofficial Tour Divide starters list, I counted only 13 racers in their 20’s this year, and 85 racers at 50 years or older. Just some food for thought if you are contemplating a start for yourself. I will look back at scratch rates per age later on as the race wraps up.
The Bonita Fires is a few miles northwest of Vallecitos, New Mexico. The fire has grown to 5,000+ acres, and according to Inciweb.gov, it has now reached the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) on Hwy 111. Closures are now in place for the area too, so we are waiting on Trackleaders.com to update a new track. I can only assume the route will either head west and continue on Hwy 64 to Hwy 84 into Abiquiu, or head east on Hwy 64 to Hwy 285, and eventually back to County Road 111 and 554 into El Rito. While it could be contained by the time racers make their way down to New Mexico, there will be little to no help from the weather.
A big thanks to the hard working fire fighters out there. See the map below for the Bonita Fire current closure, with the red line being the GDMBR.
6/18/17 – 9:30pm:
If this video does not speak emotion, I’m not sure what does. This is what the Tour Divide is all about, and for many, it’s a difficult decision to make. In this video, Greg shares why he is withdrawing from his 2017 Tour Divide run. We truly wish him the best and we are proud of him that he made the proper risk management decision.
6/18/17 – 10:00am:
Leaders at Brush Mountain.
Another morning and I find myself glued to the front of the pack. The 4 leaders are now all in Colorado, and past Brush Mountain Lodge. Brush Mountain Lodge is a heaven for many racers on the Tour Divide. The lodge is a bit over the halfway mark, between Wamsutter and Steamboat Springs, which is a 133 mile trip. Kirsten is the owner of the lodge and she treats racers like royalty, and I’m sure it was no different this year. In 2015 I arrived pretty late and she was up waiting for me with a huge plate of lasagna and loads of snacks. I also took a shower, did my laundry and slept in a bed for the one and only time during my race. Thank you to Kirsten for being available to us! Here is her first Facebook update, be sure to give the page a like to see these updates.
Brian arrived in Steamboat early evening last night and slept until 4am, another long night sleep for him. Josh just left Steamboat, so I figure Brian has at least a 5 hour gap on Josh. In general, the riding in Colorado is pretty easy until you get down south, racers just have to deal with a bit more elevation. Stefan just arrived in Steamboat, so depending on how long he stays, he could close the gap on Josh. Stefan mentioned on Facebook that he was not into the snow yesterday and took it easy…Jay Petervary ITT:
If Jay were in the race, he would be leading right now by a narrow margin. Jay arrived in Boulder in 7 days, 1 hour, and 37 minutes while Brian arrived in Boulder in 7 days, 4 hours, and 10 minutes. The next split in Wamsutter should be interesting to see. Jay will take on the Great Divide Basin today, and should arrive in Wamsutter some time this evening. Jay has had some pretty consistent sleep but not nearly as much as Brian. So this should be an interesting experiment to see which is faster, riding more with less sleep, or sleeping more with less riding time.
The Great Divide Basin:
In 2015, the route took a permanent change from the original route. Before 2015, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route followed a route into Rawlings, a rather large town in Wyoming. Because of long term construction it was decided to take a more direct route into Wamsutter, which is an interstate town build on natural gas. Even if the route is shorter going to Wamsutter, racers will endure a long and rather boring stretch though the basin, not to mention wind. I remember nearly getting blown over from wind in 2015, and it’s not going to be much different this year, although, the wind could be at racers backs in sections.
6/17/17 – 8:00am:
The Mysterious Brian Lucido:
Brian Lucido remains in first. His tactics are interesting, he seems to be going to bed much earlier than the rest of the field, and waking up slightly early, all while getting a decent nights sleep on average, outside of one night where it looked like he only stopped for an hour. This routine seems to be working, as of this morning he has created a comfortable gap on the field. He should make it into Colorado some this morning. I was trying to do some research on Brian, and it appears the 41 year old California man is no stranger to long distance riding.
his blog, BrianLucido.com, accounts all of his worldwide cycling tours, and it’s an impressive list. It reminds me of Lael Wilcox and her background before racing the Tour Divide in 2015. Brian is also posting his daily rides on Strava each day, which is pretty interesting. The sleep is obviously treating him well as he took a king of the mountain (KOM) on the Warm Springs Road climb yesterday, but he also mentions hiking in snow for 8 hours yesterday. There has been a lot of that this year.Check out his Strava account here: https://www.strava.com/athletes/8709
I’ve said this before, but if you can get though the Tour Divide without a mechanical, you are one of the lucky ones. Sure a lot of the mechanicals are from user error, but other times you just can’t do much about it. In the case of our friend Michael Grosso, there was not much he could do. He was hearing a creaking noise and couldn’t figure it out. So in Del Norte, he went to get his bike looked at, they found a quality size crack at the top tube/head tube junction. It’s not all that bad, he was overjoyed with the the help he received on getting it fixed. The fork on the right is Seb Dunne‘s fork from 2015, that too was a crazy experience as Seb was in 3/4th place at the time and nearly in New Mexico. Speaking of mechanicles, Ben Steurbaut, after breaking his fork on Fleecer Ridge is making great time, currently sitting in 4th.
6/16/17 – 8:30am:
Wow, just wow. This is turning into a spectator event. The leaders are now in Wyoming and the top three racers, Brian Lucido, Josh Kato, and Stefan Maertens are all within 20 miles of each other. While it appears that Brian slept very little the night before, last night he almost slept/stopped 10 hours. It looks like Josh either caught him or passed him, but he too went to sleep and Brian took off to create a small gap this morning. Brian remains the leader with a 14 mile gap, very little in the big picture.
Maybe more interesting is how Stefan has shot forward, closing his big gap after his mechanical on day one. Although it’s not clear no how much sleep Stefan got, his tracker was off/not transmitting for 6 hours last night, so it appears he got good rest for the steep hike-a-bike up Warm Springs Road. Stefan Messaged me personally on facebook the other day saying he was gunning for the win, which is a bold statement, but he is indeed doing just that. Only time will tell if he can keep up a faster pace than Brian and Josh, and sustain it, but it’s entertaining to watch.
The Tour Divide Veterian has withdrawn from the race citing Pneumonia. That’s a bit scary, so good on him for pulling the plug. Let’s hope he can rest and recover quickly. Before he pulled the plug, he did Pass Gary Johnson and snapped a photo with him.
6/15/17 – 8:00am:
Bannack Being Bannack:
it was either raining or already extremely moist from the previous day, but Bannack road looked like a mess yesterday, this photo was shot by Josh Kato on route. His wife, Val, is reporting that Josh took a spill, and can’t “crank as hard”. But it appears that Josh is pedaling forward, which are thankful for.
Jay has had an impressive ride so far, starting about 46 hours after the Grand Depart. He has passed nearly all Grand Depart racers, and is about to ride under I-15 and up to Fleecer Ridge. A little comparison from from his 2015 run. Jay arrived into Butte in 3 days, 12 hours, yesterday he arrived in Butte in 3 days, 18 hours after his start. To put it into reference this year, the current leader, Brian Lucido, made it into Butte in 4 days, 1 hour and change. So if you think about the the rather slow re-route, it makes sense that Jay is slightly behind his time in 2015, but clearly he is riding strong, and I’m sure he is finding motivation in passing the Grand Depart riders. I’ll report back on Jay’s splits between Butte and Lima tomorrow.
Speaking of Grand Depart, we have some great photos from Kerry at K-lite Dynamo Powered lights. He is in town from Australia. Kerry spent 10 hours shooting photos including the featured image above of Singlespeeder Ben Stepanik. The photos can be found here, thanks Kerry!
We would not be able to track our friends, family and fellow racers without this awesome service. Yesterday, it became a little bit more awesome with the Mega Tracker, here you can track all of the major bikepacking races, and RAAM.
6/14/17 – 8:30pm:
A quick morning update on the front of the pack. Ben is indeed waiting for the bike shop to open to get a replacement fork. Stefan Maertens is on a mission to catch the front, closing in on Rob Davidson, who is sitting in 3rd. Josh Kato is currently in Polaris, but looks to be bypassing Russ at the High Country Lodge. Current Leader, Brian Lucido, from California, is currently in the thick of the Bannack Road section. Bannack is notoriously known for being impassable when wet, and lucky for the front of the pack, there is no rain in the forecast today. Here is the forecast for the next week, it looks pretty good, but friday could be interesting.
6/13/17 – 9:30pm:
Here is a pretty significant update from the front of the pack. Ben Steurbaut, the leader for the majority of the race thus far has faced a major set back. Somewhere up on Fleecer Ridge, he broke his Lauf Fork. He is currently in Butte right now in hopes he can get a new fork. Here is his facebook post. Apparently he is ok, and we are very happy he got through this unscathed. Let’s hope he can get back on route quickly.
6/13/17 – 9:00am:
Wow, time is just flying by, and a lot is going on. By now most of the riders are out of Canada. The race is a little different this year. Instead of talking about records we are talking about a rugged reroute, rain and wind, ITTs and a generally slower race.
It was reported on Facebook that Stefan wanted to be very competitive on this year’s Tour Divide. The thing about setting your sights on something so grand is that you inherently know everything needs to go right, and on day one, Stefan had a setback. After some sort of derailleur issue, he posted this on his Facebook page.The mental battle of a mechanical got to him, and he was done. Not 5 hours later Stefan posted on Facebook again, saying he was back on track and moving forward after repairing his bike. After his set back he is finding motivation in catching racers, and no doubt it is a huge motivator. Stefan has raced the Tour Divide 3 times now, and he is currently sitting in 7th, pretty good considering his stopped time on day one.
This is a serious feel good story. Many know Eddie for his ultra endurance talents. He has been racing in the bikepacking scene in the Southeastern portion of the USA for a number of years, holding records on the Trans North Georgia, and Huracan 300. Obviously not nearly as long as the Tour Divide, but you can certainly get an understanding of multiday racing. So Eddie finally decided to race the Tour Divide this year. He was sitting in pretty good position when he realized in Ovando that he had lost his wallet.Lucky for Eddie, someone had found his money and credit cards up on Richmond Ridge. He was totally unaware and not sure how it popped out, but it did. You can hear his call in here.
6/12/17 – 8:30am:
I could talk about the leaders all day long, but the spirit of the Tour Divide comes from the main pack of racers. Stories, struggles, and making wrong turns. Whether you love him or hate him, former Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson is out near the back of the pack. In the first few days he has traveled roughly 225 route miles and maybe a few extras along the way. After looking at his tracker, he has made two wrong turns, so it begs the question, what kind of navigation is he using? Is it just maps, or does he have a GPS device? These missed turns are in no way significant, it just makes me wonder. When I rode in 2015, I always had the ACA maps and a GPS on my bars. I reached out to his staff before the race to see if we could get an interview or at least a kit list, but I never heard back, so maybe other riders can report back on this. Gary slept at Butts Cabin last night and will be entering the United States today.
Off the front:
For now, the race for first is between three people. Ben Steurbaut, Brian Lucido, and Josh Kato. Both Ben and Brian got a small room in Ovando and slept a good bit last night, maybe even eight hours. Josh stopped just short of Ovando last night and it looks like he has kept it pretty consistent with another 5 hours of sleep or so. He went thought Ovando rather quickly this morning and is nearly in Lincoln where I would bet he stops at the gas station to resupply before the push to Helena. Because of the reroute, they are well off Mike Hall’s pace, and closer to the Lael’s record pace.
Jay Petervary – Jay has made pretty good time, in just over 24 hours, he has traveled 250 miles and should make it to States by mid-day.
Billy Rice – Like Jay yesterday, Billy took off around 6:00am. He is already 30 miles in. This should be fun to watch.
6/11/17 – 9:30pm:
A quick evening update:
It appears that Greg Gleason is dealing with breathing issues and will be staying at the Holland Lake Lodge this evening. Here is an update from his wife.I remember Mike Hall having breathing issues, and same with Lael Wilcox a few years back. It’s certainly an issue, especially when you are breathing heavier than you normally do all day long. Hopefully some sleep will alleviate this issue.
The leader, Ben Steurbaut arrived in Ovando and is apparently going to stay for 6 hours to rest up. He plans on leaving at 2am, and I doubt he will be in first at that point. Strange set of events as he created a nice little gap on Brian and Josh today. Not sure when he got into the Canada, but the time change could be a big factor in him being so tired so early. Brian Lucido also just arrived, and will be staying overnight in Ovando.
6/11/17 – 1:00pm:
Yesterday Greg Gleason started the day as the leader but the leading pack caught him by mid day. It appears that Greg, Ben, Josh, and Brian, all slept roughly 5 hours. Ben, Josh and Brian have all pedaled 460 miles or so, and Greg is roughly 40 miles back. It will be interesting to see if they stop at Holland Lake lodge or push on up Richmond Peak, a notorious TD climb that should be holding snow this year. The leading woman are Lee Craigie and Rickie Cotter, and it appears that they have been riding together since Banff.
This is a Facebook post from Gregs wife, Kit:
Veteran Individual Time Trials (ITT):
Both Jay Petervary and Billy Rice have decided to head out on ITT’s. For Jay, I believe this is Tour Divide number 7, many of which are in ITT format. This will be Billy’s 6th Tour Divide run. Jay started this morning around 6ish, and it appears that Billy will start roughly the same time tomorrow. Talking with Billy today, he couldn’t make the Grand Depart due to an event he was putting on in Texas. He said he is ready to put the hammer down, and try and catch Jay. “I’m at the peak of my fitness” he says, but also mentions being 200+ lbs should make some climbs “fun.” This will be an interesting spectacle to watch, especially if they have a good weather run unlike most racers did on the first day of the Grand Depart. Here is Billy’s rig, an Eriksen XL frame with Nuke Sunrise bags. Good luck guys!
6/10/17 – 9:00am:
The lead group got into Fernie last night around midnight, where the majority of them also slept a few hours. Josh Kato was the the lone rider that pushed just a bit further, but not too much further. It appears he had a pretty decent night sleep of 4ish hours. Greg Gleason who is currently leading only got an hour of sleep, so it will be interesting to see how he fares today with minimal rest. In past years the leaders had always slept in Butts Cabin, but the new route into Fernie is longer, and certainly more difficult, so reaching the cabin would have been a stretch.
More on the Fernie route:
It’s 106 miles from Banff to the turnoff before Elkford. There is a massive Hike-A-Bike racers will be greeted with, but outside of that, apparently the route is pleasant, especially along the Bull River Forest Service Road. The really difficult thing that we have seen transpire thus far is the long resupply point in between the Boulton Creek store to Fernie. It appears many rider have detoured into Elkford to resupply. On the upside, this re-route takes away 45 miles of pavement.
Unlike yesterday, todays forecast looks a bit more promising, although it won’t get that warm as highs in Fernie today we be around 60*f. One bonus of riding in Canada is the ample amounts of sunlight. The sun rise in Fernie is at 5:30am and will set around 9:45pm. To hear a bit more about the peanut butter mud of yesterday, listen in to Brett’s call from Fernie.
Unlike the last two years, racers will no doubt be dealing with a bit of snow once they get into the states, and it won’t be as warm as past years either. Here is the extended forecast on Red Meadow Pass. Tomorrow looks pleasant.
6/9/17 – 10:00pm:
Alright, so we are underway, 14+ hours in and we have our first big piece of news. I was actually unaware of this until recently, but it appears that the race will take a route alternative for the first time in a number of years. Apparently the bridge in the Flathead has been removed permanently, and because of this, the route has taken on a bit more of a difficult start and an additional 20 miles. This route is most likely the route of the future. That being said, if someone beats Mike Hall’s time on this route, it will stand as the new record. Ryan Corry posted a Facebook live video that showcased the beginning of the race this year. In the video you will see Crazy Larry, a tribute to Mike Hall, and hundreds of bikepackers, It’s pretty neat!
First day thoughts:
I never really enjoyed the first day when I rode in 2015, it was rather high intensity the first few hours with many racing their hearts out, and even when that passes, I was relatively uneasy. It’s common in bikepacking races of this magnitude but certainly passes after day one, at least it did for me. I hope others can say different after day one this year.
Reports are coming in that it is a sloppy mess in sections. Some serious cells dropped a good bit of moisture on racers today, and it has created some very slow moving conditions. Here is Shem Simmons sharing a video between Elk Pass and Elkford.
Racers to watch for:
To be honest, I’m not too familiar with many of the racers seeking victory in this year’s Tour Divide. Obviously previous winner Josh Kato is a huge favorite, he is is currently sitting in 3rd early on. Another stand out is Rookie Ben Steurbaut. The Belgian was the winner of the French Divide last year with a time of 8d:7h:51M. Lee Craigie is a well recognized woman XC racer from Scotland who also should perform well, but speaking to her in Scotland two weeks ago, it appears she might not be gunning for a blazing time. I guess only time will tell.
That’s all for now, I’ll be back to report sometime in the AM, meanwhile enjoy this shot from northbounder Michael Grosso.