Tour Divide: The View From The Sidelines

Ah, The Tour Divide, a route/event that I am overly passionate for, in so many ways, for so many reasons. I often don’t make it through a day without it being referred to or thought about. I have been fortunate enough to “race” the route three times in three different styles. Going from Border to Border in 07′ with less then 20 folks as an early unofficial race with no tracking technology other than it was suggested to call in to MTBCast every so often to give an update. Ultimately I had the time of my life while also setting a new record. It was the first “hit”, you know, and the first hit is free. It’s how I got addicted. Next, it was a Tour Divide run from Banff in 09′ with 50-plus folks, but it was on a tandem, and we had these SPOT devices to carry, so folks could track us online as well as a call-in number. Talk about a good time! The funny part of this was I finished in 07′ so stoked and being quoted “I will be back with my wife on a tandem”. Sure enough, never ridden a tandem previously, but Tracey and I learned along the way and had another great trail experience from tip to tip. Last Fall I got to enjoy another Tour Divide when I pulled off a ITT (individual time trial), sometimes looked at as the puriest way to “race” the route, against a clock. Again, I had a successful run while doing it in a different season. I think it is safe to say that doing the race in these three different styles over the years has me look at and feel the race in ways that few people can understand or relate to.

This years Tour Divide had me view and experience the race differently: from the desk. I had never really “watched” the Tour Divide, following those Blue Dots on Trackleaders.com computer map screen or searching forums to see what kind of info, gossip, pics, and drama seeped out into the virtual internet world. But with my wife Tracey being one of those 100-plus riders that left this year in early June, I was sure to be watching constantly, and I was…constantly. As soon as a I woke up, all day long, before bed, in the middle of the night, check again, and repeat. I was very excited for her challenge, had great fun being involved, helping get her prepared, and was going to follow her “Pink Dot” like a puppy. It was tough at times for both of us. My intensity and ways of doing things are different than Tracey’s and she would have to learn that for herself, as I also had to learn that and be careful not to influence in a way that would bring her down. After many adventures both together and apart, this was the first time I think we both realized this.

Well, I wasnt only going to follow Tracey’s progress. Considering I had the individual record I was going to follow the leaders, as well as the tandem that had ponied up this year.

“Watching” the Tour Divide was a different experience that I learned so much from. The steady following had me much more tuned in on the route – bringing back many memories of certain places, turns, bivy spots, challenging times, good times, and experiences I had never revisited till virtually following the race. With that I walk away knowing the route that much more. Another big thing I learned is what the Tour Divide stands for today…what it has grown to be. There are many mixed feelings that I have in this regard from this years race. In my opinion technology and progression has changed what the event was originally. By human nature this is going to happen, and the feeling of being watched (on the internet) and the use of technical gadgets (computer phones) makes a lot of people much more comfortable with being out there. But remember this is supposed to be a “race” and not just a outlet/service for people to ride the route so their family and friends can watch. I think it awesome so many people are aware of the route and want to ride it, but I question – Would some be more successful and have a better time touring it than actually lining up for the race? How many people would actually do it if there was no Trackleaders.com to follow? I also wonder how computer information affects peoples decision making as opposed to being blind to it all, the difference between what it was years ago and what it now is. From this year I also noticed how much more people are riding together which in turn produces a different outcome.

Anyway, following my Lady was not an easy task from somebody who is so motivated, has loads of experience, and loves the one that is out there. To hear from her as she was dealing with certain physical and mental challenges was not easy. Watching her Dot when it sat static had me jumping up and down saying ‘Get going!’ was not easy. Listening to her phone calls as I missed her was not easy. Watching her move and pull into certain places of memory was very fun. Wondering where she slept and which restaurant she ate in was also fun. So, now I guess I know how she has felt through the years when I was out on the trail. The good side to all this is realizing how much I did miss her. The other positive is the feeling of supporting someone through a self-challenge and then seeing them achieve it. That is what makes it all worth it!

As for the leaders, well, many of them had an awesome run. I respect that, and it shows the progression of sport. We could go into analyzing the details of the ride with weather, sleep, wind, etc but I’ll leave that for someone else. The thing that I have learned from them is that if you havent been around from the start you probably just don’t understand ALL of how the event was birthed and the original intent, reasons, and style that the race suggests. Before there was a list of rules there was one – solo, self-supported from start to finish, all on your own, PERIOD. When you come back to this simple philosophy there should be no questions or additional rules. I am all for pushing each other (actually I like to push till someone cracks) and going fast together. I understand the coincidence of riding together for a day, two days, maybe even three. But to ride any longer than that and I have a hard time believing things are not being discussed. Seems odd that any two people can climb, descend, pee, eat, go to sleep, wake up, do maintenance and all the other things associated with Tour Divide living on exactly the same schedule. Even if things are done on your own and certain things are not discussed, by competitive nature two people riding together will always ride harder and faster. The boys up front had a great run but no jabs were thrown from what I could tell. It is what it is, a new record was achieved. As per progression, down the road we will see this again and again, but in a more unspoken of, planned scenario. That will be a shame but that is the nature of competitive human beings.

My tandem friends and teammates: Honestly, I followed them closely as I knew they were capable of a record pace but mostly I really wanted to know their experience. I felt their pain. The tandem is truly the physically hardest way to ride the Divide. It is an achievement in itself, time means nothing, completing it as they did while racing is huge! I would love to sit around a campfire and laugh our butts off sharing tandem Divide stories.

I am stoked to see everybody achieve what they challenged themselves to. I am very proud of my lady and all the hurdles she jumped to successfully get to the finish. I hope it is everything each of the racers imagined and more. I do not put anybodys efforts to the side. It is apparent things have changed since the Tour Divide’s inception and will continue to do so. I for one preferred the feeling of the early years. If someone else wants to experience that feeling I highly suggest an ITT. I look forward to my next trip down the Divide…just over a week from now…