Sunday, 9 October 2016

Tour Divide 2016: Day 1

Banff, AB to Sparwood, BC
Mileage: 223.9 km (139.1 mi)
Riding Time: 14 h 21 m
Standing: 27th place 

Day 1 Map

Group Photo at the Grand Depart

The race started by gathering at the YWCA in Banff.  It was exciting to finally be there.  About 1.5 years of getting ready and the moment was finally here!  I saw the famous faces like Mike Hall, Josh Kato, and Chris Plesko.  Even saw Mike Dion with his camera.  Crazy Larry was running around getting pictures and being…crazy. Everyone’s gear looked so clean.  Mine was still dirty after completing the Alberta Rockies 700 10 days earlier.  I was looking around for Richard Hadfield who was another rider from Edmonton.  We met up a few times leading up to the race to discuss gear among other things.  We found each other eventually.  He was scrambling a bit since he just drove in that morning.  It was a shame to hear his race didn’t turn out the way he hoped.  Hopefully he can make it back another year.  At the same time, we found the Salsa rep to get our pie caps.  I heard of this cap to redeem for free pie in Pie Town and I for sure wanted mine!

Me and Richard with our caps and 
someone who might want one too.

The weather was cloudy, but the rain didn’t start until later. It was difficult to ride at the pace I planned while riding with all the other racers.  When everyone else was racing, I wanted to race too!  The result was that between Banff and Elkford, I rode probably a bit too hard, but to no detrimental effects. 
This beginning section was one I have ridden many times.  When I found out at the last minute that the route had changed to avoid the Smith Dorrien Spray Road, I was excited there was something new to ride in this section.  Kristin and I rode a bit of this new section 9 months before and it was pretty rugged.  Turns out we rode it while it was under construction. Now it was nice!  Good trails and nice bridges.

Reroute bypassing Smith Dorrien Spray Road

Trail along Spray Lakes

The rain started to fall and I started to see other riders putting on rain gear.  I was thinking about it, but didn’t want to stop.  The single speed was a bit slower than many other riders, but I would usually pass them when they were stopped to put on gloves, or get a coat.  During training rides, I would practice doing as much of that as possible while on the bike to save time.  Getting my camera out of its baggie was one of them.  I eventually caved and stopped to put on my rain jacket at some point, but can’t remember when. 

Getting the camera out on the bike

After Canyon Dam the trail gets more closed in and a bit rooty.  I rode that section as a training ride a couple of months earlier and recognised the spot I set my tent up on the trail.  When I rode it then, there was a lot of snow.  It was a lot nicer now.  Wet, but no snow to hike through!  It started getting pretty wet and cold around Mt. Shark.  I rode past crazy Larry and his crew when the trail met up on the road.  This is when riders started to look a bit cold.  I am used to riding in this kind of weather so I was cold, but not too uncomfortable.  I was just happy to be on the trail.  One rider on the Smith Dorrien Spray Road flagged me down to help with his tire.  This was Pavel and I ended up seeing him later in the race.  I was reluctant because the rules say everyone is on their own, but I helped anyway.  It’s hard to say no when someone is shivering and in trouble.  The only thing he needed was for someone to lift the front end of his bike so he could get his tire on so I obliged.  When he asked to use my pump though, that was a bit too far.  Under any other circumstance, I would have helped and it was actually really difficult to say no.  I was starting to get cold not riding and getting my pump off is a bit of an ordeal.  The good thing is someone else stopped and Pavel ran after him to ask for a pump.  That made me feel a bit better as I rode away, but I still felt really bad for not staying so he could use my pump.  I tried to tell myself everyone knows they should be self-supported and it is a race.  A bit of consolation, but I still felt bad. 

Riding into Kananaskis and it was still raining.  I didn’t want to stop at Boulton Creek so I stopped a bit earlier at the Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre.  It was nice stopping  there to thaw out the fingers and get some more water.  No other riders.  I had the place to myself and it was nice.  After a bit of a warm-up I was on my way. 

The mud on Elk River Road north of Elkford was something to behold.  Sticky, clumpy mud clogged drive trains and covered the riders.  If you ever do the race, pray that it doesn’t rain in the section before Elkford.  There was one couple I saw that scratched after riding this section and were loading their bikes in a pickup truck that was willing to give them a ride back to town.  The mud was too much for them and their bikes.  I heard their chain broke several times in the sticky mud.  Many riders were cleaning off their bikes in streams with water bottles to save their drive trains.  This is where I was thankful to have the single speed.  I was able to ride this section without stopping and passed quite a few riders.  In Elkford, I stopped at the grocery store to get some food and a new cloth.  I had a cloth on my Aerobars to wipe my runny nose as I rode.  Mine blew off somewhere along the line.  I spoke to a rider who was stopping at the hotel.  I was surprised since it was still fairly early in the day, but everyone is racing for different reasons and it was pretty cold up to that point.  He was skeptical of my plan to ride 5am-11pm on a single speed.  I thought he might be right, but I was going to give it my best.  I called Kristin to touch base.  Used the hose to rinse off the bike and started the steady paved climb toward Sparwood. 

I met Jose Bermudez in the section of single track after the climb.  I would see more of Jose in the coming days.  A rider from Victoria (can’t remember his name) and I were trying to figure out where to go when Jose rode up to us.  The rider from Victoria was having issues with his GPS.  We found the overgrown foot path up the hill eventually and rode some nice single track.  Jose and I lost the guy from Victoria and I never saw him again.  I wondered if he was able to find his way without a GPS or maps. 

Saw my first free range cows on the way.  I heard there were a lot of cows on the route and I would discover in the coming days, the rumors were true.  I rode beside a “galloping” cow that I think was trying to get away from me.  A running cow is not a graceful thing.  I am not sure if it knew, but if it stopped, I would just ride by.  Not too smart. 

Saw Jose again and he asked where I thought we were in the race.  Maybe about in the top 3rd of the pack I thought?  I wasn’t expecting much and I was trying to be conservative in how I was doing.  I told Kristin not to tell me how I was doing unless I asked.  I didn’t know how knowing my place in the race would affect my ride.  So much of this was a learn-as-you-go thing.

I got to Sparwood when it started getting dark and stayed at the campground.  I re-supplied at a gas station since the A&W was closed by that time.  I rode past the big truck and found out Tom had slept under it – great idea!  I wish I had thought of that. 


  1. Great blog! I am looking forward to reading more.

    1. Thanks Kingsarse! If that's your real name...:)

  2. Replies
    1. It's on the way! It's going to take a few Saturdays. :)