Reflections on the Tour Divide

Having finally completed the Tour Divide after three tries, I’ve had a few people contact me asking, in a nice way, what went right this time. So I thought I’d put down some thoughts/suggestions which may help those who want to race the TDR in the future. May also help me should I ever suffer from acute memory loss and decide to the beast again …

Preparation

I have a seriously dysfunctional life which makes any form of proper training for a race difficult. My job sees me travelling to different countries for over six months a year. In spite of having 16 bicycles (yes, 16 – I’ve a very understanding wife—who would also prefer a bike in every port to a girl!) strategically placed around the world, it still makes following a training plan challenging at best.

For the TDR there is a basic truism: you simply cannot train enough to be ready to ride 200 km/day every day. I recall Scott Thigpen sharing his really heavy training regime with us months before the race and I was quite impressed. For me? I just maintained my fitness (running, swimming, biking when I could) and then did a good block of six weeks or so before the race. The training program from some of Jesper Bondo’s work. His sitewww.training4cyclists.com is the singularly best resource that I have found for cycle training. It probably helps that I’m into interval training.  It basically saw me riding 3-4 hours a day 3-4 times a week, with some long days as well.  

In the end, the best advice is ride as much as you can, preferably with a loaded TDR bike, and accept that you will suffer for the first week until your body adapts.

The Bike

This year I ran a 29” Titanium Motobecane from www.bikesdirect.com. The complete bike only cost $2199, but in hindsight I would have been better off just buying the frame and then building it from scratch as I ended up swapping out a number of parts.  Two years ago when I first did the TDR 29” were a relative rarity, now with places like Walmart selling them they are very mainstream. For a race like the TDR the reduced rolling resistance of the 29” make life much easier.

DSCA_0001 (6)

While the bike is more than adequate for the race straight out of the box, I made a number of modifications which I think improved what was already a good bike.

Most importantly—always start the race with new chain, cassette, pedals and bottom bracket. If you don’t (particularly the cassette/chain) you will regret it. Be prepared to replace them all again at the end of the race (unless you run a Roloff—in which case replace the belt before the race). I also replaced the bottom bracket with a new Hope ceramic bottom bracket.

I replaced the front shocks and ran with a White Brothers carbon fork.  This is about 1 kg lighter which may not sound like a lot, but every gram counts. I had no numbness in my hands this year at all and the ride with the fork was very smooth. There is a good reason why more and more TDR riders are running carbon forks.

I ran a SON front generator hub from www.peterwhitecycles.com which was connected to a Tout Terrain ‘Plug 2’, also from them. The Plug 2 mounts to the top of the steering tube and has a USB plug on it. This was connected to my GPS or cell phone to power/recharge them. It worked OK but the problem was that I did not have a cache battery which meant that at slow speeds the GPS would give the message ‘Power Lost’. Very annoying. A cache battery is essential with a setup like this. I ran a USB cable from my Garmin 800 and the phone (which was in a pocket on the handlebars) into the case on my top tube, where I had another cable connected to the Plug 2. This meant I only needed to swap the plugs in the bag, rather than fiddle with the Plug 2 (which I waterproofed with tape). Having the plugs in the bag also kept them protected from the elements. Using different colours for the GPS and phone cables made it easier to be sure that the right one was being charged.

I used the Supernova E3 light which was great. With the light on there was no power for the GPS so I made sure it was fully charged before any night riding. There are now some other options on the market, such as the new Busch and Muller Lumotec which contains both a USB connector and a cache battery so I’d probably not go for the E3 again. I supplemented it with a Fenix LD22 torch on my helmet. I used the latter mainly when going uphill at slow speeds. I also had a flashing red light on the back of my helmet for night riding on roads—very important! The one from www.roadid.com is the best I’ve found, tiny and bright beyond belief.

DSCA_0001 (112)

My wheels used Stan’s Arch EX rims. Absolutely bullet proof. They were built for me by Tristan at www.wheelworks.co.nz and were as true after the race as when I started. We used a DT Swiss rear hub. I highly recommend this combination—especially when built by an expert wheelbuilder like Tristan. Worth the investment.

At the advice of Ollie Whalley (who won the 2012 TDR) I was going to run with DSC_0062WTB Vulpine tyres. He didn’t have a single problem and use the same tires the entire race. WTB are renowned for quality problems and the tyres that I had were absolute junk. Two punctures in not difficult riding conditions. The photo to the left is a piece of wood that punctured the Vulpine when I was cycling the C&O Canal in Washington D.C. a few weeks before the race. If they couldn’t handle such an easy ride they sure weren’t going to last on the TDR. Then there are those who used WTB Nanos. I know of two riders who cut the sidewalls during the first week of the TDR. It is exceptionally hard on tyres and it just not work running with light weight ones.

At the recommendation of Absolute Bikes in Salida I went for the Specialized Fast Track Control tyres and they were magic. I did not have a single puncture and they lasted the entire race. By the time I got to Antelope Wells the tread on the rear was a bit thin—should probably have swapped the front and rear tyres in Steamboat Springs. I used 2.2 tyres rather than 2.1—the extra width is helpful in the sands of Southern Colorado and in New Mexico.

I ran them tubeless and used lots of Stan’s fluid in them—and added more in Steamboat. It can evaporate in the heat so you want to make sure that you are more than you think you need. Of course you could avoid this problem entirely by running proper UST tubeless tyres—my riding buddy Peter extolled their superiority every chance he got during the race, and I’m convinced he is right. But most use a tubeless conversion and Stan’s.

I used the Ergon G3 handlebar grips again, with additional tape wrapped around the edges for further padding. I really like the fact that with the integrated bar ends you have so many choices for hand positions. I also put on a pair of the Profile Design T3 aerobars which gave my hands rest.

DSC_0112

The first two times I tried the TDR I used standard SPD pedals and I had a lot of numbness in my feet. Third time I used the SPD XTR Trail M985’s which have a larger platform and absolutely no numbness. I put the cleats as far back on my shoes as possible. Helps to prevent Achilles problems.

As mentioned above, use a new chain and cassette for the race—and consider new chain rings if they have a lot of miles on them already. I recommend SRAM as they are available at every bike shop along the way. Plan to replace your entire drive train by the end of the race, and the chain half way at Steamboat Springs.

I put on new brake pads before the race, and took 2 x spares. I think the jury is out on hydraulic vs cables. I prefer the former but if something goes wrong you want the latter. Since my Motobecane came with hydraulic, that is what I ran with.

I highly recommend the Thudbuster seat post (www.thudbuster.com) . Yes, they are heavy, but the extra damping they offer makes a huge difference—at least if like me you are on the wrong side of 50. I ran the “Long Travel” (LT) version but this had the disadvantage that on some very bad sections the seat bag would hit the rear tyre. This depends a lot on the geometry of your bike. For my set up the “Short Travel” (ST) would have been better. I just put some leather on the bottom of my bag and made sure not to bounce too heavily on those bad sections.

DSC_0088

After crashing a number of times on previous races, I decided that having water bottles close to the wheels was a bad idea (you’ll see my bear spray mounted at the top of the fork on the photo above—it was largely above the wheel). Mounting the 1 L ‘Magnum’ bottle on the top tube worked really well, and I had the Topeak oversize bottle cage on the downtube for putting in a 2L bottle for long desert runs.

For navigation I used my same Garmin 800 Edge as before, with my Sony DSCA_0001 (82)Xperia cell phone as the backup GPS. I’ve done a post at www.tri-duffer.com (here) on my navigation setup. Next time I’d be tempted to skip the cue sheets entirely, and put the maps on my mobile phone by  scanning them (although that would be a copyright infringement …). I almost never used my maps or cue sheets—the maps were most useful to show me supply/sleeping options in the areas. I used a Specialized Speedzone Wireless trip computer for the odometer to supplement the GPS, but it was really not needed. Having power from the hub let me run the GPS all the time so I just followed the GPS track …

Bags

My frame and seat bags were from Revelate Design. Before the race I waterproofed them again using silicon spray, but since they will always leak to a degree I also used the ‘Sea to Summit’ microlight dry bags to hold everything and keep them dry, and these were then put in the seat bag.

I used a 35 litre dry bag for my handlebar bag, which was held by the Revelate Design handlebar harness. The bag contained my tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping kit. I could also stuff in my jacket and rain gear during the day. I added two extra tie down straps wrapped around the handlebar ends for extra lateral stability. You can see them in the photo below running over the brake lever.

DSC_0152

I had a 3 litre Cambelbak ‘Unbottle’ which I mounted over the top of the dry bag. I used two clips to hold it to the handlebar which allowed me to unclip it for filling. You can see these just to the right of the aerobar.

I ran some REI velcro straps through the bag as well. These were handy for when having to carry extra water—the photo above shows the 2 x 1 L water bags I used for desert runs (giving me a total of 8 L).

DSC_0151 

While on water, I used Aquatabs for water purification. They are very effective with 1 tab/L of water and it only takes 1 h. To offset the taste, I used Camelbak Elixir tablets which also provided electrolytes. I would say that 90% of the time or more it was not necessary to use Aquatabs, but I was glad to have them when I needed them. I stored them in the Camelbak at the bottom where there is an access zipper. Made it easy to locate them when needed.

For temporarily carrying extra food I had a Finally, I had a Carousel Design map and cue sheet case on the top of the bike. I could probably have done without it having used the GPS full time. In the photos above I’ve got my MP3 headphones rubber banded to the case (my cell phone was also my MP3 player).

For the first time in three attempts I did not wear a hydration pack and I was so glad I didn’t have it. Not only does it give you more freedom when riding, but it forces you to take less. I did have a small Sea to Summit Ultralight day pack. These are about half the size of a soda can and very light. I used it to carry extra food/water when necessary—i.e. until I could consume it so never more than a few hours! I also dispensed with my Revelate handlebar bag this time—at the suggestion of my riding buddy Mike Kerley. He drilled into me the less bags, the less gear, the lighter and more pleasant the ride. Thanks Mike for the great advice!

Clothes

Keeping with Mike’s philosophy, I minimized the clothes I took.

My jacket was a Paramo Quito Cycling Jacket. It waDSC_0007s great last year—which was a cold year—but I found it too hot this year. I would have been better off having a light weight Goretex jacket, and a super lightweight windbreaker. I could have then layered them (my Paramo has two layers – you just can’t remove the inner one).  Make sure your jacket has a hood that fits under your helmet. Quite useful—especially when there is hail. Easier than worrying about a helmet cover and having cold water running down your back is not very comfortable.

When not wearing the jacket I wore my Pearl Izumi Elite Series wind vest. This is one of my favourite pieces of kit as it is so comfortable over a range of temperatures. My Gore Bike Wear rain trousers were great I really appreciated the almost full length zip. I wore them even when not raining—especially when the mosquitoes were heavy!

For my hands I had Specialized fingerless cycling gloves. I used a lightweight Merino glove for cool days, which I put on before the regular cycling gloves.  I had Gore Bike Wear winter gloves for the cold days. What was a real blessing were my Extremities Goretex overmitts. They were super light weight and waterproof so I could keep my hands dry without overheating. Highly recommended. I used them even in cool dry conditions—just slipped them on over my gloves. The winter gloves were hardly used and could probably have done without them, but it was a warm year.

Along with your hands, keeping your feet in good condition is essential—there is a reason why that is the first thing they teach you in the army! DSC_0092Here was my solution, from the inside out …

  • A pair of the BRD Sport (www.brdsport.com) Achilles Braces. Achilles problems are the #1 or #2 physical problems riders have and these braces are magic. I had problems the first two years but this year not a single issue—even though I rode longer and harder. Absolutely essential. Trust me.
  • Merino wool socks from Ground Effect in New Zealand (www.groundeffect.co.nz).
  • Rocky Road Goretex socks as an outer layer.  your feet will be warm, dry and comfortable. I even wore them in the dry desert to keep sand out of my socks and shoes.

Be sure that you can walk 5 km in your cycling shoes pushing your fully loaded bike uphill. If it is a snow year this is what you will end up doing. And make sure you have broken in the shoes before the race. I used Specialized Body Geometry shoes, but it’s really whatever is comfortable and not too rigid.

I wore a Ground Effect ‘Rock Lobster’ long sleeve jersey. During training I tried a short sleeve jersey along with the Pearl Izumi arm coolers for extra hot days, but it just was not worth the hassle of having the extra pieces of kit to worry about. I pulled up the long sleeves when appropriate.  They were coupled with Ground Effect ‘Exocet’ shorts, which really are by far the most comfortable that I’ve ever cycled in.  And over the years I’ve tried many.

For cold days I had a pair of winter weight cycling trousers. I’ve found it impossible to hold up leg warmers for hours on end and the extra weight of the full trousers was negligible compared to the comfort. I also had a Monte Bell under layer down vest which came in very handy a night after finishing riding for the day. I took along arm warmers, but only used them once or twice so could have done without.

My ‘sleeping kit’ consisted of a pair of lightweight triathlon shorts—which can also double as a replacement for your regular cycling shorts if needed—and a lightweight T-shirt. When cold I included Merino socks and warmer clothes like my down vest and winter cycling trousers. When doing laundry I was able to wear my sleeping kit while my other clothes were cleaned.

An often overlooked item is a hat. When it gets really hot you don’t want to wear DSC_0023your helmet (in 2013 it hit 45C/113F one day). I always wear a drymax hat under my helmet it not only keeps sweat from my eyes, but sunburn from the top of my head. However, this didn’t work well in the extreme heat so Peter and I stopped in Silverthorne at Columbia and bought hats which had ‘flaps’ on the sides and back. Looked quite silly but were wonderful for keeping the sun at bay. Peter mentioned that Simon Kennett created something like these flaps from an emergency blanket during a previous race so there are other options … but suffice to say that something like this is useful to have.

Finally, and importantly, once you’ve got your kit together pack your bike with all your gear, then get rid of at least 20% of it. Further sage advice from Mike!

The following table is my final gear setup and where it was packed.

Qty

Item

Where

 

Bike

 

Titanium Motobecane 29” Superfly with Shimano XTR components (www.bikesdirect.com)

 

Shimano PD-M985 XTR Trail pedals

 

Hope ceramic bottom bracket

 

Thudbuster LT suspension seat post (www.thudbuster.com)

 

Stan’s ARCH EX Rims with Swiss DT Competition Spokes  (built by www.wheelworks.co.nz)

 

SON Dynamo front hub

 

DT Swiss 240 rear hub

 

Stan’s Tubeless Sealant

 

Specialized Fast Track Control 2.2 Tyres

 

Tout Terrain plug for 6v dynamo to USB power (www.en.tout-terrain.de)

 

Supernova E3 dynamo light with tail light (www.supernova-lights.com)

 

Sportypal Sony Xperia Active phone mount (www.sportypal.com)

 

Specialized seat

 

Ergon GC3 Cork Grips with extra tape (www.ergon-bike.com)

 

Profile Design T3 Aero Bars (www.profile-design.com)

 

Profile Design UCM Computer Mounts

 

Specialized Sport Trip Computer

 

Water Bottle Cage (on top tube in front of seat post)

 

Topeak Modula Bottle Cage XL (www.topeak.com)  (on bottom tube in front of crank)

 

Bags

 

1

Carousel Design Quad Map Case

Stem

 

1

Revelate Design Custom Frame Bag

Frame

 

1

Revelate Design Gas Tank Bag

Top Tube

 

1

Revelate Design Handlebar Harness

Handlebar

 

1

Revelate Design Spocket

Attached to Vischaca Seat Bag

 

1

Revelate Design Viscacha Seat Bag

Seat

 

1

Cellphone Bag

Handlebar

 

1

Outdoor Research 35 L Dry Bag

Handlebar

 

Gear

 

50

Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

3 L Camelbak Unbottle/Frame Bag

1

Bear Mace

Fork

1

2 L Water Bottle

Frame – On bottom tube before cranks

1

1 L Magnum Water Bottle

Frame – On top tube before seat post

2

1 L Emergency Hydration Bag

Frame Bag

1

Action Wipes

Frame Bag

1

Arm Warmers

Frame Bag

2

Camelbak Elixir Electrolyte Tabs

Frame Bag

 

Food Supplies

Frame Bag

1

Sea to Summit Ultralight Day Bag

Frame Bag

1

Pearl Izumi Elite Series Wind Vest

Frame Bag

1

Cassette Cleaning Brush

Frame Bag Cleaning Kit

1

Cleaning Rag

Frame Bag Cleaning Kit

1

Dumonde Tech Chain Lube

Frame Bag Cleaning Kit

1

Shoe Covers

Frame Bag/Wear

1

Garmin Edge 800 Cycle Computer

Handlebar

2

Sony Xperia Active Cell Phone

Handlebar

1

3 L Camelbak Unbottle Hydration Bag

Handlebar Harness

2

Spare Spokes

Handlebar Harness

1

Klymit X Frame Sleeping Pad

Handlebar Harness Bag

1

Macpac Sleeping Bag

Handlebar Harness Bag

1

Sierra Design Lightening HT1 Ultralight Tent

Handlebar Harness Bag

1

Gore Cycling Goretex Rain Pants

Handlebar Harness Bag/Wear

1

Paramo Quito Cycling Jacket

Handlebar Harness Bag/Wear

1

Passport

Map Case

1

Cash

Map Case

2

Credit Cards

Map Case/Seat Bag

1

4 x USB AC Adapter

Seat Bag

2

Asthma Inhaler

Seat Bag

1

Dumonde Tech Chain Lube

Seat Bag

1

First Aid Kit

Seat Bag

1

MEC Cold Weather Cycling Trousers

Seat Bag

1

Mont-Bell U.L. Down T Vest

Seat Bag

1

Small Kinesys Sunscreen SPF 30

Seat Bag

2

Spare Lightweight 29” Tubes

Seat Bag

1

Toilet Paper (and plastic bag for used paper)

Seat Bag

1

Respro Techno Dust Mask

Seat Bag /Wear

10

Oxycontin

Seat Bag Med Kit

10

Prednisone Asthma Emergency Pills

Seat Bag Med Kit

1

ACA Map Cues

Seat Bag/Map Case

1

ACA Map Set

Seat Bag/Map Case

1

Rocky Goretex Socks

Seat Bag/Wear

9

AAA Spot GPS Batteries

Seat Toolkit

10

Cable Ties

Seat Toolkit

1

Derailleur Cable Housing

Seat Toolkit

3

Disc Brake Pad Kit

Seat Toolkit

1

Fibre Fit Spoke

Seat Toolkit

2

Latex Gloves

Seat Toolkit

2

Performance Bike Steel Tyre Levers

Seat Toolkit

1

Respro Dust Mask Filter Replacements

Seat Toolkit

1

Shifter Cable (Cut to length)

Seat Toolkit

1

Son Generator Cable

Seat Toolkit

1

Tenacious Tape

Seat Toolkit

1

Webbing – Spare

Seat Toolkit

1

Allan Key for Replacing Brake Pads

Seat Toolkit Box

4

Chain Links

Seat Toolkit Box

1

Chain Ring Bolt

Seat Toolkit Box

4

Chain Super Links

Seat Toolkit Box

1

Derailleur Hanger

Seat Toolkit Box

1

Disc Rotor Bolt

Seat Toolkit Box

2

Needles and thread

Seat Toolkit Box

2

Park Tyre Boot

Seat Toolkit Box

1

Patch Kit

Seat Toolkit Box

4

Safety Pins

Seat Toolkit Box

1

Spare Cleat

Seat Toolkit Box

1

Stan’s Valve Stem

Seat Toolkit Box

1

Stein Mini Emergency Cassette Tool

Seat Toolkit Box

20

Ambien Sleeping Pills

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

1

Chamois Cream

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

2

Ear Plugs

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

1

Ground Effect Marino Wool Socks

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

1

Lightweight T Shirt

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

1

Merino Wool Shirt

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

1

Orca Triathlon Shorts

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

1

Sleeping Mask

Sleeping Kit in Harness Bag

2

AA Fenix Torch Batteries

Sprocket Bag

3

AAA Spot GPS Batteries

Sprocket Bag

1

Spot GPS

Sprocket Bag

1

Asthma Inhaler

Top Tube Bag

1

Aurelle Toob Travel Toothbrush

Top Tube Bag

1

Dental Floss

Top Tube Bag

1

Hand Sanitizer

Top Tube Bag

1

Kinesys Lip Balm SPF 30

Top Tube Bag

1

Lezyne Carbon Pump

Top Tube Bag

1

Micro Lock/Cable

Top Tube Bag

1

Micro USB Cable – Cell

Top Tube Bag

1

Micro USB Cable – GPS

Top Tube Bag

1

Micro-Can Opener

Top Tube Bag

1

Microfleece Towel

Top Tube Bag

1

Microtorch

Top Tube Bag

1

Nisita Nasal Lotion

Top Tube Bag

1

Small Kinesys Sunscreen SPF 30

Top Tube Bag

1

Titanium Spoon-Fork

Top Tube Bag

30

Tylenol

Top Tube Bag

30

Voltarin 100 SR Anti-Inflammatory

Top Tube Bag

1

Prescription Glasses

Top Tube Bag /Wear

1

Sunglasses

Top Tube Bag /Wear

1

Leatherman Squirt PS4 Tool

Top Tube Bag Toolkit

1

Shrader-Presta Adapter

Top Tube Bag Toolkit

1

Specialized Multi-Tool

Top Tube Bag Toolkit

1

Bear whistle

Top Tube Bag/Wear

1

Drymax baseball hat

Wear

1

Fenix LD22 helmet mounted torch

Wear

1

Ground Effect Cycling Shorts

Wear

1

Ground Effect Merino Cycling Socks

Wear

1

Ground Effect Summer Riding Shirt

Wear

1

Road ID

Wear

1

RoadID Supernova flashing red light on helmet

Wear

1

Specialized BG cycling shoes

Wear

1

Trek Cycle Helmet with Light on Back

Wear

1

Extremeties Tough Bag Gore Tex Over mitts

Wear/Frame Bag

1

Gore Cycling Gortex Xenon GT Gloves

Wear/Frame Bag

1

Kathmandu Merino Wool Glove Liner

Wear/Frame Bag

1

Specialized Gel Cycling Gloves

Wear/Frame Bag

 Race Strategy

 

I *really* needed to finish the TDR this year. After two failed attempts—one for medical and one for family reasons—it was this cloud hanging over me. Not only that, my longsuffering wife Lis was becoming fed up with my TDR obsession and having a big chunk of the year blacked out for this race, and a modicum of training leading up to it.

The logical thing to do was to aim to finish in sub 25 days and ride conservatively enough to just meet that goal. But I had unfinished business with this blasted race so rather than be logical, I decided that I would ride the race to the best of my ability and go as hard as I could, hopefully without blowing up or hurting myself.

Now hard is a relative measure, and different to fast … as I soon learned.

DSC_0115

There were so many strong and fast riders this year, that very early on I realized that I had no chance of keeping up with them and finishing. I would blow myself up after only a few days. But one thing I did notice was that because they were riding so much harder than I was, they required more time to recover. And recovery is the key to finishing the TDR.

Don took the photo below outside of Helena. There is Prentiss, Peter (NZ), Peter (USA), myself and Ron. Prentiss and Ron were riding single speed bikes. It’s a sign of how strong they are that after 800+ miles they were still with fast riders like the two Peters, especially Peter (USA) who rides like he has a rocket underneath him. Me? I was only there because I could ride more hours in the day than the others …

heading out from Helena

And that was my basic race approach. I would be up and on the road most days by 06:00, take short meal breaks of 30 minutes or so, and ride until dark or afterwards. Peter (USA) gave me the complement when he said that after 12 h he didn’t want to be on a bike. For me 12 h was a short day – most were 15-17 h of riding.

I ended up riding ‘with’ about seven others. I say ‘with’ because the typical day would be that I would start around the same time or earlier, they would then blast past me. At lunch I would arrive at the restaurant after they had finished a leisurely meal and were recovered, then if I was lucky I’d stumble upon them in the evening at a campground, restaurant or hotel.  They were good natured about this ‘plodder’ catching up with them, and often we rode together for a while, but in the end I couldn’t keep up with them and we would bid adieu until later.

Riding as late in the day as possible is really important in the TDR, especially if the weather conditions are favourable. More than once I put on an extra 20-40 miles in the evenings continuing until I couldn’t ride any further. I then crashed next to the road, or if I was lucky in a town where I would treat myself to a hotel room. That’s one thing for the TDR: you have to have the confidence to be able to sleep in the wilderness on your own. If you don’t have that, then you’ll not do as well as you could. I slept everywhere from under signs to a few metres off the edge of the road. When you decide you can’t go any further that’s it…

DSC_0070

One advantage to averaging some 200 km/day is that I was more often than not able to spend the night in a town. A good meal and sleeping in a good bed is the best way to recover. One just has to be able to set the alarm for 05:00 and be on the road by 06:00 at the latest—in other words, overcome the temptation to succumb to comfort.

Another skill which is good to develop is that of the power nap. The sleep monster will rear its head at the most unexpected times, and it is often best just to pull off to the side of the road and sleep for a short time. Does wonders.  A month after the TDR my wife and I were mountain biking in Switzerland. She fell behind and since I had a wait just parked the bike and did a power nap. She grabbed the photo below. At least I now know what the motorists who passed me during the TDR saw!

Switzerland 2 127

Of course there are times when you don’t want to power nap and then caffeine pills come in handy. I don’t drink tea or coffee and so they probably have a greater impact on me than others. I used them very judiciously at absolutely essential times. The other useful thing are the 5 hour energy drinks—which last about 29 minutes on the TDR.

In the end, you just have be able to spend as many hours on the bike as possible, irrespective of the conditions and focus on the finish. For me that not only meant riding through rain, but towards lightening storms (I counted between the lightening and the thunder and as long as it was over 5 seconds I didn’t worry), and through very hot parts of the day.  You just keep on going until you feel like you can’t ride any more.

And that was how I managed to finish so well in the race. After a long day I got to Silver City with some 200 km to the finish line. I knew that a number of the riders I had been catching up to were going to overnight in the city. After eating and resupplying I hopped on my bike and headed for the border. After 392 km of riding over some 26.5 hours I ended the race, and moved up some seven places to manage a 27th.  I was shattered at the end (especially having to really haul it for the last 1.5 hours as Nathan, Nick and Hugh were waiting for me to join the ride to Tucson) but it was worth it.

So the best race strategy? Eat, sleep and ride. Eat lots. Sleep little. Ride long and ride hard.

DSC_0176

10 responses to “Reflections on the Tour Divide

  1. Congratulations on completing TDR! Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  2. Nice breakdown of your strategy. I may be similar to you – not the fastest but I can ride long, sleep short and get up early and do it all again. Appreciate the insight:-)

  3. Did you ever end up picking a cache battery? I tried one on a road tour and it charged incredibly slow even trying to push 10mph heavily loaded.

  4. this is great, thanks Chris, definitely a font of very useful knowledge, have got the Cordillera book to read through now too..How does that work with the SPOT trackers, did you guys borrow those, or buy ?

    • Hi Tim,

      You’ll find the Cordillera to be the best source of advice (outside of the Bikepacking.net bulletin board). I bought my own SPOT. Matt Lee has them available for hire. He’ll ship them to Calgary but if you want to hire then pay a bit extra and get one early. You don’t want to be fiddling with new kit when the race starts (or if they are delayed!). In 2011 they didn’t get to the NB’ers at AW in time for the start…

      • Hey Tim,

        How did you get your Spot set up to track you on the ride the divide route? Jessica

      • When you register your Spot you need to choose the optional tracking package. This gives you the tracking updates and also a web interface which shows your tracks for the last seven days. At my site http://www.lpcb.org the “Chris’ SPOT GPS Location” button on the left shows you that (normally – haven’t used it so needs a fix!). In the Tour Divide http://www.trackleaders.com assembles all the SPOT data for the racers onto a single site, with pages for each racer.

  5. Chris; what did you use to mount your dynamo light to the aero bars?

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