Tour Divide: Day One

Adventure by Bike, Endurance Racing, GDMBR, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, ride the divide, Salsa Cycles, Tour Divide
Banff, Alberta to Sparwood, British Columbia
After tossing and turning all night I finally got out of bed at 5:30 and looked out the window.  Mount Rundle was already bathing in the morning sunlight.  It was June 14, The Grand Depart of the Tour Divide was hours away and I was nervous and excited.  First things first, Food!
Mount Rundle from our YWCA room
I hate to say it but my Tour Divide experience started out by going to McDonald’s.  I hadn’t been to a McDonald’s in over 10 years and I wasn’t really that excited about it.  It was the only thing open for breakfast though besides the Starbucks and I’m not sure I wanted to power up on Lattes and Coffee Cake.  McDonald’s also seemed to be the place to be for Tour Divide riders.
Powering up at McDonald’s

Back at the Banff YWCA things were bustling.  Seems everyone was taking care of last minute details and anxiously awaiting the start.

Kevin on the left, Bryan in the green jacket and I think that’s Ezra (Lees McCrae student) standing in the middle.
It seemed like we waited around for eternity.  Luckily I had my amazing wife, Andi there to help calm me down.  I felt pretty lucky to have my wife there to see me off.  We had a great time hanging out in Jasper and Banff the week before the race.
Me and my amazing wife, Andi
Ready to go. Everything looks so clean in this photo!
Finally, it was time for the group photo.  Crazy Larry heads up this tradition where everyone gets in front of the YWCA for a photo.  If anyone can get 130 people lined up for a photo, it’s this guy!
Crazy Larry Melnik

I was so ready to get on my bike and start riding it felt a lot like when your grandma is trying to get that family photo and everyone is so over the moment. But looking back it’s pretty amazing to see the excitement and energy in the group.

2013 Tour Divide Group

After the group photo I gave Andi one last hug and kiss goodbye, grabbed my bike and was off.  You can see the excitement in my face in this last shot Andi got before we rolled out of the Banff YWCA parking lot to the trailhead.

I had been waiting for this moment for over a year!

A short pedal through a neighborhood, past the giant castle of Banff Springs Hotel and we arrived at the Spray River Trailhead where we had to wait 10 minutes until 8:00 AM sharp before beginning the official route.

Here’s Scott McConnell who did the TNGA last year as well, although I didn’t officially meet him until Banff.  And Karlos behind him.  Karlos had some great energy and great attitude!

It’s interesting to look back at the start photos and see the people I had met during the days leading up to the start.  And then to see the people that I would meet later on down the trail in the same photos.

Kevin Campagna – We would later ride together for much of the route.

Waiting around for the official “GO!”

Here’s some of the group.  Ron Babington with the beard is also a fellow east coaster residing in South Carolina.  I didn’t actually meet him until somewhere near Ferndale, Montana.
Who’s gonna take the hole shot?
We were finally off and racing the Tour Divide.  It was an amazing feeling to be starting this adventure! The pace was fast!  It was like we were doing a 40 or 50 mile mountain bike race.  “My odometer just hit mile 1,” someone said.  I just laughed and tried to slow up a little thinking about the 2,849 miles left!

Eventually, we hit the first road that was steep enough that I had to get off and push.  It was a weird feeling to know that you were riding your bike across the the country and at the current moment you were traveling about 2.5 mph, WALKING!  It felt like I would never get to Mexico.

The first “hike-a-bike”
About 60 miles in we arrived at Bolton Trading Post.  This is the only service stop between the 110 mile stretch between Banff and Elkford.  Here I met up with Kevin, Scott and Brett.  We pounded food and were off again towards Elkford.
Scott McConnell, Brett Simpson and Kevin Campagna at Bolton Trading Post

We made it to Elkford just as the rain was starting, found a pizza place and pounded some more food!  I was loving the Tour Divide. So far all I had done was pedal 110 miles and eat a ton of food.  We were all feeling pretty good and all had the same plan to ride another 30 miles to Sparwood.

When we arrived in Sparwood, we found a gas station, at some more food and resupplied for the next day. We were planning to head down the road a mile or so to a campground but wanted to find a place to eat dinner first.  A&W was still lit up and had some other riders hanging out inside.  When we went up to the door a worker came up and said “Sorry, we close at 10.”  It was 10:01!  We begged and begged to let us at least order food to go but she just said “Sorry!”  Someone from the group asked if they had any food they were going to get rid of that we could have and the lady finally gave in and said she would see what she could do.  She told us to come around back and she would fix us up something.

After about 10 minutes she came to the back door with a huge platter of burgers and bacon, a tray of lettuce, tomatoes and onions, a giant bag of buns and a whole sack of condiments!  We were all psyched! I think I ate like 5 cheese burgers that night! A few other riders pulled into town so we passed on the food as there was plenty to go around. By this point, we were all freezing so decided to check into the nearest motel across the street.  Day one complete, 140 miles!

A&W Feast!

Click here for Day Two