Tour Divide: Day Two

Adventure by Bike, Bike Race, Bikepacking, Biking, Cycling, El Mariachi Ti, Endurance Racing, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Mountain Biking, ride the divide, Salsa Cycles, Tour Divide

Sparwood to Eureka, Montana

The morning started off brisk out of Sparwood. We kept waiting for the sun to poke out from behind the steep mountains lining the valley.  It seemed to come so close to hitting the road but never quite reached.  Ahead, we faced 3 huge passes that needed to be crossed before hitting the US border about 100 miles away.  Flathead Pass, Cabin Pass and Galton Pass, all stacking up to about 10,000 feet of climbing alone, not to mention all the ups and downs in between….nothing is flat!  By the end of the day a saying had been adopted that would stick throughout the whole trip.  “It’s all downhill from here!”  This was often shouted after reaching the top of a climb and was always followed up by some form of steep or long grueling climb found on the “descent” that was supposed to follow.

Entering the Flathead Valley and about the start climbing up to Flathead Pass 
Scott Thigpen and Kevin Campagna getting ready to start the first climb of the day. 
After reaching the top of the first climb we started down and found that the road turned into a river.  It wasn’t all that warm out yet and there were a few spots where it was impossible to stay out of the river so getting a little wet was inevitable.  

Eventually we hit a few calf deep river crossings and my feet got completely wet.  It seemed to be warming up though so I wasn’t too worried.  We continued down into the Flathead Valley which was absolutely beautiful and wild feeling.  It was supposed to be heavily populated with grizzly bears but we didn’t end up seeing any, not really a bad thing!

We had a pretty big group forming and it seemed that we caught up to some other riders and were also caught by some other riders.  At one point I think there were 7 of us total.  It made for some fun riding and conversations and I’m sure it helped keep the bears away.  We rode through some rolling terrain and eventually made our way to the second climb up to Cabin Pass.
Group Shot

Riding up to Cabin Pass was long and had some steep spots for sure.  It was starting to wear on me but once I got up near the top the forest opened up a bit and I got some really amazing views of the mountains.

Some of our group got back together at the top and soon after we ended up crossing paths with Billy Rice who was doing the YOYO!  He was almost to Banff after starting in Antelope Wells and was then going to turn around and ride back to Antelope Wells, NM.  He had a lot of great insight on the route and some good stories.  That guy is nuts!

The road leading up to Cabin Pass.
Kevin getting out of the saddle on some of the steeper sections of Cabin Pass
A break for food at the top.  Then layering up for the descent (which I’m sure had tons of climbing too!)

Once we hit the bottom after climbing Cabin Pass the profile on the map looked fairly flat and easy going for the next 12-15 miles before starting some harder sections and climbing Galton Pass.  It turns out the profile was completely wrong!  The next 12 miles were nothing but up and down.  And not just up and down but a super steep climb (some of which I was walking) followed by a blazing fast descent right into the next steep climb.  This kind of riding really kicked my ass!  Later on in the route there would be several other sections like this and I remember all of them being pretty difficult.  I guess you could call them “rollers” and it was basically like doing short, high intensity intervals!

Doing intervals along the Wigwam River Valley.  At least the view was amazing!
After the interval session I came to an interesting section.  Maybe including the cues from the map will help describe it best:
Mile 125.3 – Before crossing the Wigwam River a second time, at a rock cairn, turn right onto rough singletrack.  Trail becomes more well-defined as it meanders along the bank of the river.  
Mile 126.0 – Leave river bottom and climb steeply for .25 miles.  If you have a trailer you will need to unhook and push bike and pull trailer up separately.

Well, considering I wasn’t touring the route with a trailer, I figured I would be fine.  But once I turned off at the rock cairn onto the “rough” singletrack (more like a faint fisherman’s trail) I knew I was in for some interesting terrain to come.
Faint Fisherman’s Trail leading to the crazy Hike-a-Bike
Scott Thigpen re-hydrating along a small feeder creek into the Wigwam River
Kevin Campagna walking through some muddy sections of the fisherman’s trail
Ok, the photo below does not even do justice to this hike-a-bike!  For all my Boone friends, this thing was worse than the local hike-a-bike sections were all used to!  Let alone with a fully loaded bike.  The hardest part was trying to keep your bike from taking you out and plummeting down the steep hill into the brush!  

We finally emerged back out onto a gravel double track road and started heading over to Galton Pass. Somewhere along the way I ended up riding alone and just slogged my way up the endless climb.  It seemed to go on forever and just kept getting steeper and steeper.  I kept thinking I was at the top to find that there was another bend in the road and another spot that appeared to be “the top.”

The descent off Galton Pass was one of the only exceptions to the normal Tour Divide descents.  This one was steep and fast without any sort of surprise hills or rollers.  It was literally “All downhill from here!”  All the way to the US border!  I didn’t get any photos of the border crossing.  I stopped at the little bar right after you cross into the US, got a coke and met up with Sean Putnam.  Sean and I had met before the race in Banff so it was cool to see him on the route.  We rode together into Eureka and had a funny string of events in town.

Basically, we wandered around the gas station trying to decide what to get for the next day.  Our plan was to get some food and push on a little ways down the road.  After finally checking out we heard there was good food across the street so headed over for a hot meal.  When we got there, the kitchen had just closed.  So we went back to the gas station where there was a subway which over the course of a few minutes had generated a line almost out the door.  A lot of other riders were piling into town and since it was the only place open it got packed.  Long story short, we ended up spending almost 2 hours in Eureka and then decided to just get a room across the street!  I was starting to learn that not only did the Tour Divide wear you out physically but maybe more so mentally.  I soon realized it was better to sit down and eat something first and then try to do your planning and shopping after that.  Otherwise, it just became me standing on the candybar isle doing the 1,000 yard stare into the great abyss.

Lots of folks rolling into the Eureka gas station and Subway.