Tour Divide–Weather Challenges

To want to ride your mountain bike in a 4,418 km raceimage along the Rocky Mountains attracts a certain type of person (a record 90 this year!) who generally have a high tolerance for risk and don’t worry about much. So when the riders are concerned about the weather—and it is two weeks until the race starts—you know that things must be bad. There will be snow, which is not unusual, but we are talking serious snowfall. At one point on the trail they have 2.5 m of it.

The following news item was on ABC last week:

Late winter storms are packing a punch to the Rockies, piling snowpack on top of already record levels across the West where officials are concerned about historic flooding, avalanches and mudslides.

“At this point, everybody is just sitting back chewing fingernails and waiting because the longer it stays cold and wet, the worse it’s going to get,” said Randy Julander, a supervisor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Julander said in a typical year the weather warms gradually, allowing snow in the mountains to melt slowly and ease into rivers and streams over time. That’s not the case this year.

“June is right around the corner and sooner or later, it’s going to warm up,” he said, noting that instead of gradually warming over eight to ten weeks, the West will likely see a rapid rise in temperatures heading into summer, a worst case scenario.

One of the racers put together an excellent Google Earth file showing the situation. Where it is purple that is snow.

image

It is likely that we will have to reroute in Canada to avoid the Flathead pass. That has two major mountain crossings where you have to push your bike along the side of a mountain and it would be excessively dangerous with the current conditions. Other mountain passes will undoubtedly have lots of snow, but Wyoming is the biggest worry as we are talking very substantial snow depths. Fortunately, the Tour Divide supporters will monitor the situation and will advise if other rerouting is necessary.

Of course this means that all time estimates for the race this year are off the table… If you are interested the discussion among riders is here.

As for me? I’m glad I ordered those neoprene foot warmers!

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