Friday, January 21, 2011

Why I'm Attempting the Tour Divide in 2011

I'm a mediocre mountain biker and gravel road enthusiast with negligible ultra experience. I rarely average more than 14mph on my gravel rides. However, I do really enjoy long solo rides on crappy dirt roads, and the Great Divide route has been on my to-do list since I learned of it roughly four years ago.

My decision to ride the Divide in a race format is probably a result of a more traditional roadie bike tour that I completed in the fall of 2009. I pedaled from my home in Minnesota to New Orleans over the span of two months. The trip featured a lot of extended party stops, was mostly ridden with two close friends, and was a really great vacation. However, the segment of the trip that was most memorable for me was a week long stretch where I rode completely alone. Those days were long and tiring, as I didn't have anyone to goof off with and spent basically all of my waking hours in the saddle. By the end of that week I could feel my body beginning to settle into a routine where subsequent fourteen hour days felt normal. I was just getting used to it when I arrived in St. Louis and stopped to hang with my friends for two weeks. Since then I've always intended to do another bike trip where I focused more on pushing my limits than on seeing the sights.

The Tour Divide obviously provides a great opportunity to do just that. It's also a race with an attrition rate of roughly fifty percent, and its easy to question the wisdom of attempting it at all. In an ideal world it would probably make more sense for me to try it in a few years and spend the interim time doing some shorter off road touring and racing. Fortunately thats not an option for me and I can't use that logic to talk myself out of it. I'll be starting law school in the fall and see the next eight or so months as the last 'dick around' time that I'll have until my first midlife crisis. Unlike someone with kids or a real job, I'm at a point where it's still somewhat feasible for me to make this race one of the biggest priorities in my life. That in itself makes 2011 seem like the perfect time for me to ride in the Tour Divide.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Triple D Race Report

This weekend I was lucky enough to get to participate in the Triple D, a sixty some mile snow race on trails and roads surrounding Dubuqe, Iowa. A month ago I was only dimly aware of the D, but my newfound Pugsley ownership and a group of friends willing to share a hotel room convinced me to give it a go. It ended up being an awesome race and a near perfect start to a year that promises to hold a lot of great events.

Despite being one of the shorter snow races around parts, heinous weather and riding conditions over the past few years have kept the number of racers finishing the D pretty low. Realizing that my ability to complete the course was basically beyond my control, I started off without any expectations beyond having fun and covering some new ground on the Pugs. As it turned out, conditions were pretty close to perfect and a competent rider could probably have completed the course on a cyclocross bike.

After a neutral roll out through city streets of Dubuqe we hit an unplowed bike path and the race began. The course consisted of some comically hilly snowmo trails followed by a short road section leading to the Heritage Trail, a mixed use trail on an old railbed that we first rode to the town of Dyersville before turning around and heading back to Dubuqe (by way of Durango, the last D in Triple D).

By the time I hit the Heritage Trail (mile fifteen or so?) I was feeling confident about finishing and I made deeco time all the way to Dyersville. The lead riders began passing me on their return about four miles away from town; first up was Northfield man-machine Cody Larson, followed about 30 seconds later by a very composed looking Andre. At Dyersville I pulled on a clean baselayer, ate some shitty pizza, and took just slightly too long to get back outside. Once back on the trail a slight climb and a mild headwind were enough to make me start feeling kind of lousy. I continued to feel sluggish for the next half hour or so. I rolled up to the Handlebar right around dusk, signed in, put on my lights and bounced. It was about eight miles back to Dyersville, but due to a wrong turn two other riders and I got in about fifteen minutes of extra credit riding before finding the bike path back into town.

I arrived back at the hotel at just about 6:20 (for a time of 8:20) to learn that Cody had won. Fellow Northfielders Curtis Ness and Jerry Bilek showed up not too long after I did. Of the 24 finishers, four were from Northfield! Overall I'm pretty pleased with how I rode and am really grateful to have been able to participate. I feel like completing the D was a good confidence boost and I am now able to consider longer snow races in the area a lot more seriously that I would have prior to this year. It might be awhile before I have the time, gear, and experience to tackle something like the Arrowhead, but it's definitely something that I look forward to attempting at some point in my life

Friday, January 14, 2011

I have a Tour Divide Blog!

My name is on the start list and I now own some Revelate bags, so starting a Divide focused blog seemed like a logical next step. I already feel more legit, even though I don't have any content and I can't figure out how to make a header that doesn't look like complete crap. I'll try to work on this next week, but right now I'm getting ready for the Triple D instead. Stay tuned...