Photo Courtesy: Trent Bona / Ibis Cycles. Jefe Branham will be apart of the Grand Depart for the Tour Divide in Banff this Friday the 13th, if racers don’t already have enough on their minds. Jefe is a very experienced bikepacker from the early days of riding the Colorado Trail, to the Arizona Trail, and the Tour Divide. This year Jefe will take on the Tour Divide again, depending on what happens he will no doubt be a contender for the win this year. Good Luck Jefe! Where did you grow up? Never have grown up, still more or less an excitable boy from Connecticut. Where do you live now? One of the greatest places to live, Gunnison, Colorado What do you do for work? I am a bike mechanic at a local bike shop, Rock N Roll, I still sometimes cook at the Firebrand Deli and also volunteer as a member of the board of directors for Gunnison Trails. When did you start Mountain biking? I started riding a bike off road back around 1990 in Connecticut, rode a bit out here for a few years. Didn’t ride for 6-7 years and got really into backpacking, hiking, climbing mountains. Bought a new mountain bike and a BOB trailer in 2001. When did you get into bikepacking, what was your motivation? So, I basically came back to mountain biking via bikepacking, didn’t have a car and it was hard to get out to trailheads with my dog, therefor the BOB trailer. It was a perfect combo, still got to go to great places and ride my bike. I spent every weekend of the summer of 2001 riding all over the Gunnison Valley with my dog, it was awesome and I was hooked on riding, exploring and adventuring on a bike. How did you figure out that Bikepack races were a specialty of yours? I initially got into 24 hour solo races and 100 milers, I was ok at them and had fun, learned a lot, etc. Then I heard about the Tour Divide, the Grand Loop, eventually the Arizona Trail and the Colorado Trail Race. I had already spent lots of time backpacking and bikepacking with a BOB. With so much backpacking and BOB-packing experience I had the right skill set to do fairly well in this style of racing. Whats your favorite route? AZT, CTR, TD? Favorite route…tough call. They all have a special place in my heart, even the Grand Loop! But most likely the CTR, it was hiking the Colorado Trail many many years ago that changed my life for good. The CT is so hard, so gorgeous, such an honor to experience the trail over so many trips, fast and slow. In 2011 you finished 2nd to Kurt Refsnider in the Tour Divide, is that a factor in coming back for another try? Going into the 2011 TD I just wanted to survive and go as fast as I could. Sure, I wanted to and did try to win, but it was a great experience. 90% of the time I was out there, I was happy as can be. I know I can go faster and I want to try and do that, I think deep down we humans are capable of pushing our mental and physical limits much further and I want to try this experiment on myself! How do you train for a race like the Tour Divide? Ride a lot, know your gear, your bike, your body and your mind. I like to say that I have been training for these races most of my life, hard days, heart breaking days, glorious days, rainy days, I have had lots of them and experience pays… What goals do you have for this years race? My goals are to have fun, enjoy the chance to tour through some lovely places, live the life of a bike tourist…that and go fast, sleep little, test myself and eat a lot! You are running a Dynamo Hub, how do you like it? What is your lighting system? Yeah, I am running a SP Dynamo Hub and an Exposure Revo light. I love it, lots of light, seems very solid and worry free, think it will be safer than not using much light to save batteries. What bags are you using? Bags will be all homemade except for a Revelate Gas Tank, unless I get the time to make one of those too. Going as light as I can with bags and gear… With so many new races popping up, summer and winter, do you have any plans to do other races in the future? I’d love to race more, but I am perpetually broke and can’t afford to travel and take much time off. The TD is going to bankrupt me for sure, but the best things you can spend money on are time off and the experiences it gives you…oh, and bike stuff. I still want to do the AZT 750 and would love to try the triple crown….but I’m not sure how yet?! Would also like to do a snow bike ultra of some sort, but again gear is expensive! Favorite food? I love food, so much food. I have a bunch of food issues though so I eat carefully most of the time. Bottom line chocolate chip cookies. Favorite trail? I love the Fossil Ridge trail, pretty, almost forgotten, rugged and brutal, makes me feel small and my problems even smaller every time I ride it. Sponsors? I ride for Team Griggs Orthopedics, Team gO. I love being on this team. I was the thrift shop plaid button down type guy for a long time. Now I am proud to represent a great team, a great doctor and person and a great valley. Idea Loop also believes in what I do and the dreams I chase. There is of course Dave Moe and Rock N Roll Sports, the Firebrand Deli, SRAM, Intelligent Designs Cycles as well helping me get after it. I have to thank all the wonderful folks of the Gunnison Valley and the endurance cycling community. Love having people believe in me, pretty amazing feeling. For a more in-depth conversation with Jefe and I check out Bikepacker Radio a series of podcast on the Mountain Bike Radio Network.