Australian’s Beth and Seb Dunne took off at the 2015 Tour Divide grand depart for the race of a lifetime. After Seb experienced a major mechanical, the couple completed the race together, both with impeccable finishing times. Read more about their experience below. How was the lead up to the race? Did you train and prepare together in Australia? Tour Divide is such an individual event and everyone has their own training and preparation which works for them. We both had very different strategies in terms of preparation and training, which meant different races for both of us too. Seb was super prepared: he had meticulously studied the route, prepared cue sheets, dialed his bike set-up, been on test rides and done a mammoth amount of training. Everyone back home was in awe of him! Meanwhile, Beth was an exhausted firefighter after a busy Australian bushfire season and spent a lot of time just sleeping, eating and looking at maps. She was healthy and strong, albeit only about 70% fit and kept saying “I have 2700 miles to get fit!” What were the first few weeks like for both of you? Beth: After mud, rain, sleet and snow on day one, the weather fined up and it was nice to put the rain gear away for a while after that. Within the first few days I made some great new friends in Doug Werner and Simon Cross, both became my riding buddies over the next weeks. I managed to meet most of the other ladies in the race and in the early days found myself regularly swapping places with Alice Drobna and Lael Wilcox. After I rode with Lael just before Helena I didn’t think I would see her again. She was in good spirits but could hardly breath and was heading to a hospital. Little did I know that with medication and determination, she was able to continue on into the wee hours of the night. We met again a few times riding into Lima, but after that she cleared her lungs and took off, charging towards the record and even further. Magnificent ride by her! Some of the wilderness we experienced was incredible. Day four was my most favourite day of the Divide. The Swan Valley was beautiful and then the views from Richmond Peak just blew me away. Lunch at Seeley Lake was delicious and the hospitality and kindness of the Ovando township was extra special. After declining to stay in the scary old jail, I even scored a free bed in the teepee with Eleanor. beth and seb dunne Mainly I just tried to ease into the first part of the race and let my body adjust. I had terrible knee pain after day four but that eased and then I had terrible sit-bone issues. After using my rain jacket as butt-padding for two days that eased too and I started feeling great. I started putting in some bigger days and catching people. Simon Cross and I had a fun battle with the two New Zealanders Greg and Evan, as they rode fast but often shorter days and we kept pushing just that little bit further each night to see if we could catch them. When we reached Colorado I worked out that at the pace I was going it might be possible to finish under my 20 day goal and the focus started to change from “just finish” to “what if I rode further today?” and “where are the other female riders at?” Seb: It was such a relief to finally get going. The build-up seemed to go forever.  Hitting the trailhead and finally beginning the adventure was a great feeling. The first few days consisted of some long but steady riding as the mind and body got used to what is was going to be doing for the next few weeks.  The country was stunning, weather mostly very kind and I was absolutely loving divide life.  I tried as much as possible to not get too caught up in the race and just focus on doing my own thing.  As much as I was stoked to be a part of the lead pack I knew the fastest way to get myself to Antelope Wells was to do what I had to each day to keep myself happy and progressing south efficiently rather than getting too caught up in racing with 1500 miles still to ride. Did you have any mechanicals? Beth
: I had my fair share of bike issues, but none as bad as Seb. On day one a mud-caked front derailleur struggled to do its job and wouldn’t change gears properly, if at all, and a few days later the front derailleur cable seized completely (I thought it had actually snapped). I rode Red Meadow Pass in my middle ring and made it to Whitefish where it was fixed at Glacier Cyclery. Coming out of Basin my water-bladder tube went into my front wheel, spun around the hub and then melted and fused itself in the front rotor. I had to take the entire brake apart and prise it our with my pocket knife! I also had some issues with my fork but that was largely rectified in Steamboat Springs Orange Peel Cycles. Apart from that, I was really lucky and had no flats and ran the same tyres the whole race on the same sealant, which leaked out when I let the tyres down for the plane. Seb: A lot of people have asked me how the whole fork thing went down. A few years ago my Dos Niner finally gave up on me and I was keen to try out a titanium bike but didn’t really have the dough at the time to buy an off the shelf frame. Some friends had successfully tried Waltly frames who do custom ti builds so I got them to build me up a frame and also bought a matching rigid fork to use for this sort of thing. I haven’t had any problems with either until now… As I crested the first main hill in the Cruces Wilderness in New Mexico, I hit a small bump and the front end made a horrible noise. Initially I actually thought the stem bolts may have shifted so got my multi-tool out to check them. An evening storm was brewing and it started sleeting at this point so I tried running the bike down to some trees for shelter. As it collapsed underneath me I noticed my front wheel was no longer attached to the bike….oops! beth and seb dunnebeth and seb dunne There were no tears or tantrums – just an acknowledgement that this wasn’t really an optimal situation but that I was extremely fortunate I wasn’t in any way injured. In hindsight I suppose I was shocked by the finality of the thing and that I had no warning of it happening or realistic options for quick repair. Initially I’d contemplated dumping the bike and hiking out that night but with the weather not looking great decided to bivvy, hope my family could convince themselves I was OK and walk the 8 miles out in the morning.  I knew Dylan Taylor was not far behind and it was a great relief he said he would get a text out when he had reception down the track. It took some time but I got in touch with a frame builder in Del Norte, Andy Peirce, who was good enough to help me source a new fork and headset bearing to get me back on the road as well as put me up for the night while the parts arrived.  I was continually amazed by the generosity of people along the route.  If the world was full of the people found along the divide it would be a much better place! How was it to ride together? Seb: After the fork incident I was pretty done mentally. I wanted to finish the route but found it hard to get going again knowing my race was over. Beth said she wouldn’t mind me riding with her and the timing worked out well to getting back on route and intercepting her. I was very conscious of not impacting her race. Inevitably I could not completely avoid this but I hoped it would be in a way not dissimilar to if she were riding with another racer for an extended period. Beth was kicking some serious butt and I loved being able to see her do her thing and experience some of the highs and lows of the TD (and New Mexico) with her.  We were back and forth with a number of other riders over the final few days which was also a bit of a novelty for me after all the solo miles I’d put in earlier in the race. Beth: Riding up to 20 hours a day with your partner for days on end is not everyone’s cup of tea but we know each other so well and know each other’s weak and strong points. Seb was good at just hanging back and letting me do my thing. I went through some tough times in New Mexico and was giving it my all, leaving everything out there. I guess riding with strangers you don’t usually burst into tears or start yelling at rainclouds, but you can in front of your husband! I wouldn’t change any of it though; it was really special to share those experiences. What was it like to finish together? Beth: The last 30 miles were so hard for me! I hit the wall completely. I had shoveled every bit of food I had into my belly but I was not able to go faster. I was completely zonked after riding over 30 hours straight and no amount of food seemed to help. Sitting in the shade of the biggest bush I could find (which was about ankle height), I honestly thought at 10 miles to go that I needed a hospital not the finish line. As we counted down the last few miles and took some happy snaps and the emotion of it all seemed to get me across the line. It was such an incredible feeling to have completed the ride together. Seb: Fantastic – and in many ways an appropriate ending to our TD journey.  We’d dreamed about this ride for a long time and, although we never imagined we would be finishing together, I couldn’t help but feel as though it was somehow meant to be. beth and seb dunnebeth and seb dunne

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the great interview

    The Dunnes did amazingly to overcome such challenges and still enjoy the experience

  2. Super efforts! Great write up, what an experience, and together at the end.

  3. I loved reading this. You two are awesome, thanks Sebbeth. Tandem in 2016?

  4. Pingback: 18 Bikepackers of 2015 - Bikepackers Magazine

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