Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Thanks: Mum and Dad for frequent flyer points for tickets and support, Joe Polk and Tom Purvis for the transcripts (which my family and friends found fascinating), guys that I rode with (even for a short period of time): Nathan Bay, Hodge, Steve Wilkinson; Mike Curiak thanks for listing my time next to the fastest womens time on cyclingnews.

I am not going to write a list of stuff I took/stuff I didn’t use/stuff I needed as I enjoyed trying to work it out for myself from: experience and practice, reading others reports and looking at the pictures of racers bikes. You do take risks and you will have to live by them- for example I didn’t take a spare tube but had plenty of patches. I got 6 flats on the rear until I replaced the Nanoraptor, but I could easily have blown a tube beyond repair, stranding me. There is ten times the info I had access to for people racing next year due to the addition of even more blogs and photos. I think I had a better setup than some of the other guys, and I have ideas that would save most racers a whole lot of time, so I will answer specific questions about gear if you email or PM me on mtbr.com. If there are Australians considering this race, contact me and I can give you maps and show you some good training rides.

I am not sure if I would ever do this again- it was only the first or second day when I said to myself that there would be no chance of me ever doing this again, the boredom is unbearable. But, it was only two days after the finish when I got an email from Steve Wilkinson that I considered doing it a second time. If I were to race again, I would definitely be racing- I speculated when I was riding what my time would be if I rode the whole thing on my limit: with no need to navigate (I could probably make most of the turns from memory, eliminating the hour per day that I spent making sure I was going the right way), and the motivation that comes from being well prepared I was thinking that another 30 miles per day would be quite achievable. But, speed is speed, the time I finished in will stand as my best as I probably wont do it again. But, then there is the attraction of riding the thing a lot slower, spending time to see the sights in daylight and meeting more of the characters that I came across. I remember riding through the first parts of Wyoming, thinking that it would be awesome to do the thing on dirt bikes with a friend- you would travel faster so could see the same sights with less boredom. As a sort of a mental exercise, I thought if the route is possible on a recumbent, or even a recumbent trike- there would be considerable advantages and yet limitations.

Reading this report, I am not sure non racers would get an idea about the actual day in the life. For every interesting scene or time that is worth listing there in normally tens of miles of pretty boring riding inbetween. I had thought about doing a complete day in the life with everything that I remember seeing and thinking, but I think most people would get bored after an hour. I mentioned how I thought that it would be a great ruide to do on dirt bikes- the same scenery and people with less boredom. But in reality a day comprises of ride for an hour, stop to get food in, ride another hour, stop for food and to oil chain- repeat 7 times.

Day 21- Plains of San Agustin to Antelope Wells 228 miles

Gila National Forest

Waking up, I was really unmotivated and ended up going back to sleep, waking for the second time as the sun came up. I set off pretty quickly, pissed at myself for missing an hour or two, but realized I was missing the motivation. It didn’t take me long to get into a good rhythm and I was feeling good that there was only 200 miles and 3 or 4 shorter climbs to go.

One of the easier Divide crossings

It was before 12 when I rolled in Beaverhead Work Centre, called in, grabbed a Sprite and talked to my parents- I was feeling pretty good. It got better throughout the day, those 3 or 4 climbs were fantastic- climbing through rocky, forested mountains then steep rocky descents (some of my most favourite terrain of the whole trail).

It was beginning to get dark as I came flying the down the paved stretch into Mimbres. Again nothing was open and I had run out of food and water again. I knocked on a door and got some water from a nice guy- even though it was now dark, I needed to drink something in the 20 miles to Silver City.

I was not sure of the correct road out of Mimbres- I followed a guys, and the maps, directions- but there was a split in the road that wasn’t listed. This caused a great deal of worry as I climbed, but I wasn’t willing to ride back down to check and then back up again. Thankfully, I joined onto the right road and motored along the paved to Silver City.

I was starving and it was late. I stopped at the first servo, but they took some trouble to explain to me that they were closed. I continued on and saw a sign for McDonalds and thinking that would be the only place still open, I increased speed. I came across a Wendys? and decicded to stop. The interior was closed but the drive through still open. I got in line and had trouble explaning to the guy in the car behind me that he had to move forward to set off the intercom. I ordered a couple of meals and what I thought was a chocolate thickshake, but turned out to be this fantastic whipped ice-cream-in-a-cup stuff.

I pulled into a Walmart parking lot, a massive warehouse building for a town of 10,000. Inside, there was a amazing amount of everything and I walked out with more than enough Powerbars, Gatorade and food to last me the 125 miles to the border (I bought a gallon of Gatorade- not in several bottles, but 3.8 litres in a single one!).

It was after midnight as I made my way over the rollers out of Silver City. The road wasn’t busy at all and I stopped under a tree a few miles before the turnoff onto the dirt trail. I ate some stuff and dozed off, feeling a little unmotivated even though there was only 100 miles to go. Some simple calculations given my late start on the previous two mornings, and information from checking-in and from my parents led me to believe that Steve Wilkinson and the other two Englishmen could be only a short distance behind me (or even in front). I think I only slept for less than an hour, but it wasn’t complete sleep due to me wanting to keep on going and that it was cold as I was just lying on the ground in my cycling clothes.

After some time on the dirt trail to Separ, the sun began to rise and not surprisingly I felt better (it being downhill helped). Through Separ and the road beside the highway was terrible, and at the end of it before the turn onto paved (and second last road of the whole trail) a Police cruiser pulled up and asked what I was doing. I presume they were either after illegals or smugglers, or just bored.

That was a Divide crossing?!

The road to the border was almost flat but, considering the day, the 100 feet changes in elevation over long distances were tough. Those 65 paved miles seemed to last forever. I hardly ever stopped, it was heating up by the time I got to Hachita, and luckily got a Sprite from the post office lady when picked up a bag that I had sent from Eureka MT. I wasn’t really excited to be almost finished jut glad, not stopping to eat for the last 60 miles or so. As I got closer and closer to the border I spent more and more time out of the saddle- pushing for 5 strokes and then coasting, checking over my shoulder every 5 minutes to see if someone had caught up. I pulled part of my gastrocnemius after Hachita and ignored the pain over the last 65 miles. After an endless time on the paved road I saw the Windmill 6 miles before the border and I tried to ride out of the saddle for the rest of the time.

The border post was a lot smaller than I expected. I said “Hi” to an officer lounging on a chair and we talked- surprisingly he seemed to know a lot about the race, having been stationed at the post for the previous few years and meeting MLee especially. Tim, my new friend, offered me the use of the posts phone and I called in. I had tried to stop and talk to some of the shuttle buses I had seen on the road when I realized that they may be my only way out from the border, but the only Spanish I knew wasYo quiero taco bell” so there wasn’t much communication. Talking to Tim, it seemed that the shuttles ran only in the morning and at midday- I had just missed the last one and it seemed that I was stuck at the border with no facilities for the night. Tim offered to drive me the 65 miles to the I-10, but that’s quite a drive, so then he offered me the use of his second house and I could get on the shuttle the next morning. I waited a few hours until the three guards closed the border at 4 then helped Tim carry some meat from his place, over the border to the Mexican guards post. Tim, two Mexican guards that spoke only a little English and I talked and drank shitty Bud Light whilst a Mexican mama cooked up the meat and some corn. After trying some of the hottest chilli sauce that I have ever come across (and spending 20 mins trying to cool my mouth down with meat fat), we drank even more and played dominoes until the wee hours.

I had a shower and an awesome sleep, free from the need to get up and go riding again, and hobbled over to the post just before the morning shuttle left. I thanked Tim and got the bike on and greeted the others on the shuttle, but I am not sure they understood me- they seemed to all be Mexicans visiting friends/family in Arizona. We passed someone (Retro-it was SWilko but I didn’t realize it at the time) and I ate a ton of food every time we stopped on the way to Arizona.

Day 20- El Malpais Ranger Station to Plains of St. Agustin 110 miles

Just out of the Narrows

I was a little slow to rise, just from the accumulation of tiredness I think. I had previously thought that once I was in New Mexico or that once I only had 500 miles to go, it would all be downhill- I could increase the pace and it would be easy. But, the false finish of the New Mexican border just depressed me, and I think this affected me this morning (I still had 360 miles to go). I lacked a little motivation and was a little bored. The Narrows and rest of Cebolla Wilderness was impressive but I was in a bad mood and it took me a little longer to warm up than normal.

Natural Arch, Cebolla Wilderness

I wasn’t much more happier turning off the paved road and onto a pretty sandy washboarded road. I battled with the road conditions as the gradient was easy for the next hundred or so miles. I exchanged waves with some motorbike tourists and rode away jealous.

The temperature was not a problem and as I rolled into Pie Town, dark clouds appeared. I didn’t anticipate anything being open, but was hoping I could find some food (preferably hot) as I wanted to be sure I had enough food into Silver City. Everything appeared closed, I pulled my bike up onto the verandah of the PIE-O-NEER café as it began to rain and after walking around the back to see if anyone was home, I pulled my food out to have a picnic on the outside tables. I was just about to open a can when I saw movement inside. I knocked on the door again and was greeted by Kathy. She explained that the café was closed but offered me sandwiches, the left over pie (that was still good) , and a couple cans of Sprite. I again struggled to think of something to write in her visitors book (worthwhile reads) as I ate, and again spent much too long chatting. It had stopped raining when I left but was still overcast, disguising the real time, but I ended up making good time. I did stop at the Toaster House, but no one was home. I found the box and did write something and left something that I cant remember what was.

Though navigation through this section was harder than in previous days, it was great riding terrain. The ascent and descent of Contenintal Divide crossing 23 was great and it was dark as I started into the Plains of San Agustin. It wasn’t long before I got a headache, riding washboard with enough light to see the way but with dark peripheries (that means you cant tell what gradient you are riding so there is this confusion between your balance, your brain and your eyes). And like most of the dark periods I have ridden previously, I would stop quite often, to check the odometer and the map, with disbelief at my progress and willingness to stop and sleep. But, I would continue on, planning to stop at the “Nice campsites” after the enterance to Gila National Forest, but eventually stopping a couple of miles short. I walked off the road a few hundred metres to try and be a little out of sight, had the rest of the salami for dinner and slept. I was a little disappointed that I missed the “Very Large Array” of radio telescopes whilst riding through the dark.

Sunrise on the the Plains

Day 19- Cuba to El Malpais Ranger Station via Pueblo Pintado 134.7 miles

The scenery just out of Cuba

I slept in after the exertion of yesterday afternoon, and thinking that I would fly through what looked to be flat today. After the mountainous northern New Mexico had been passed, I knew that there were only 5-6 small climbs left before the finish. Reaching this morning was an important psychological boost, I saw the flats of today and the last 120 miles to be easy- this is probably why this day was so tiring. For, whilst the 230 miles from Cuba look flat in comparison to the several hundred previous miles, its actually quite rolly.

The first miles were good, cool and dry and enjoyable. I only had to ride 27 miles to reach the first grocery store, a surprisingly big store that probably serviced all the Indian reservations in the area. All the people I saw that in that area were Indians, the cop asked where I was headed and seemed a little surprised at my answer.

This section is pretty desolate and barren, scrub with most of the buildings being churches. I was feeling a little sick in the stomach under the hot miles into Pueblo Pintado, drinking from bottles that I had filled up in Cuba, and all the rollers didn’t help. Sitting in the shade, I got some food in, and replaced all my water with bottled stuff.

It was now well into the hottest part of the day and the 65 miles into Grants were boring (even though there was some impressive rock formations and scenery). What looked like a Joint Strike Fighter (it wasn’t a F-18 or F-14) made a pass along the road only 50 metres above me- my hearing came back a few hours later. I was feeling better after I crested the last hill and began the long 25 miles shallow descent in Grants.

After riding around and asking people for the location of a supermarket, I managed to find a massive one on the northern side of town. It was 70 miles to possible food in Pie Town (though I wasn’t betting on it, considering other riders stories about nothing being open), and another 155/175 miles on to Mimbres/Silver City, so I had to really stock up. Clif bars, peanut butter, and salami were on the menu. I dont know if I was getting looks from locals because of what was in my trolley or because I must have looked pretty filthy. Again the cashiers didn’t seem to know anything of the town they were living in, I had to ask four before I learnt of a restaurant nearby.

I sat at the bar in a busy restaurant, drinking a few beers waiting a long time for my order to be filled, and then left as the sun went behind the mountains.

By the time I had crossed the I-40 and started down a deserted road in the El Malpais Conservation Area, it was pitch black. I stopped several times and just stood there, wanting to get off and sleep, but continuing on after a little mental break (and there was no where to stop anyway). The nine miles from the I-40 to the ranger station seemed to take forever, but after having to slide my bike under the fence, I had a secluded camp and I had some salami and went to sleep.

Day 18- 8,278’ to Cuba 106 miles

It is interesting how the terrain influences your mood. I flew down the 30 miles to El Rito, the high speed lifting me. I stopped to call in and learn of JP and ML finishing (I was in third and still had 590 miles to go) and then continued down to Abiquiu. Though it was early, it was quite hot, and stopping for breakfast again took time out of my cool riding period. I stopped at the grocery store, and then again at the next one to get some more water and to confirm the location of the 189 road. I expected to find no water over the next 80 miles so I filled up with 9 litres. As for the directions, no one seemed to know even though the turnoff was a few hundred metres down the road (I have noticed a pattern- Americans travel all over the country to work, and often know less about the area than you do. I think this is why they have the home town/state on their name badges- so you don’t ask them for directions).

It was beginning to heat up as I climbed the more than 4,000 feet to an unnamed ridge, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. I remember hearing 90-100 degrees mentioned in Abiquiu, I equated that to less than blood temperature, so I was going to be sweet. I much prefer hot weather and so long as I had enough water I would be fine. It cooled as I climbed, the slight breeze was delightful, and the 27 miles of climbing was quite enjoyable. The last few miles were quite rocky, but it just seemed to make the next section of rolling ridgeline hardpack even more enjoyable.

I spent the next 25 miles cruising along, making good time but constantly worrying about my arrival time in Cuba. As I lost time throughout the day, the importance of the speed on last 10 miles of sealed, steep downhill became more and more important. I was using this speed as a buffer in order to get to Cuba before I figured the restaurants would close (9pm). The last sections of trail were great, but the rollers began to shit me, and I spent a bit of time out of the saddle, trying to keep the speed up. I realised I would pay for my extra effort later but I became a little obsessed with my finishing time. I almost ran over a few turkeys as I came around a sharp corner, they took off in my direction and covered me with shit.

I descended at times very quickly (45-50 mph) as the sun was going down. After riding past Cuba it seems, I finally made it into town just after 8.30. Stopping at the first restaurant I saw, I went in and was told by the owner that they were closing for the night due to lack of business. I didn’t stay to ask her how she expected business is she was closed, but she told me of another restaurant a few miles down the road that may have been open (apparently the best Mexican along the whole trail). I didn’t want to ride further for “may” so I stopped at a bottle-o and picked up some Gatorade and a 64 ounce bottle of Budwiser as she wouldn’t let me take singles. The McDonalds/servo was open till 11 so it became my dinner. I went to the Subway to get a footlong on the way to find a motel, but they were closed, so I went back for more expensive McDonalds and some bread. I stayed in a run down motel, the door looked like it had been kicked in several times before, and I had a restless sleep even though I had drunk two litres of beer.

Day 17- Conejos Campground to 8,278’: 103 miles

I set off just as it was getting light, planning to get to the store/café for breakfast in Horca. But, it was Sunday, so of course it didn’t open till later. I sat a liitle despondent trying to work out what to do- I was running out of food (again) but the only way to finish this thing was to get to Mexico.

I was a little sick of riding, and the climb up to La Manga Pass didn’t help. 5 miles long and paved, but a liitle steeper than I expected, added to the fact that my mind and body had not warmed up meant that it took me and hour and a half to climb the thing. I was feeling better after stretching out in the sun at the top, knowing that I could get some food at a restaurant a few miles away. As I descended, I noticed how southern Colorado is a lot greener than more northern areas I had passed through. I pulled into the restaurant/bar, but Hey! Sunday, so it didn’t open until late afternoon. I ate from my dwindling supply of foodstock and managed to get some water from the nearby snowmobile rental place and set out not sure about where I could get food from over the next 95 miles. Waiting for the place to open did enter my mind, and I may have considered it if I had had only a few hours sleep the night before, but I had slept 7-8 hours so I had to continue on.

I lost 20 minutes on the dirt trail just before the border, dropping my map and walking back uphill to find it. I didn’t think my day could get any worse, food was probably out of reach 90 miles away in El Rito. I was wrong. The first 10 miles to the top of Brazos Ridge is a lot of the time unrideable: the trail is edge to edge covered in fist sized rocks, with large ruts and steep inclines and declines. With the realisation that this would put me way behind schedule, I got pretty pissed off: I needed to vent, so I threw the bike down. I felt a little better and continued to trudge up. Over the summit, the trail improved, and I stopped to give directions to a woman in a ute. Apparently, I didn’t know where I was, but after driving in the opposite direction to my instructions, she passed me (going the right way) 20 minutes later.

Slow going on the steep rocky trails of New Mexico

Several hours on and I was moving well, the sealed climb on I-64 proved harder (longer) than I anticipated (hoped for), but I rewarded myself with a feed at Hopewell Lake. Resting against the toilet block, I noticed a number of campers. So far, New Mexico seemed to be a lot more popular with campers than southern Colorado- there were numerous people along what I considered remote, difficult to reach places.

After an easy short climb over Burned Mountain there was a long descent with some short climbs through some amazing country. Coming down Canada del Oso into Canon Plaza was especially spectactular, and I saw my third bear (or his arse as he was running away) for the trip. I didn’t see the mother, and didn’t want to stop on the road, potentially between them, so I continued on. I stopped at a little white shack on the edge of Canon Plaza, one that is familiar with most GD racers and riders. I was planning to get into El Rito late and plead for something to eat from a motel manager, but this little shack saved me. I waited as Paula? came over, she opened up the shack, gave me a book with comments from previous racers and riders (including M.Lee and JP several days previously) and went off to get me some soup. I sat and talked with her, trying to think of something to write before buying supplies and heading off in the dark. I lost an hour and a half, but I got a feed so making El Rito was now not essential. After rediscovering how much night riding sucked, I pushed up and over 8,278’ so that the next day would begin with 30 miles of descending. I pulled off the road after I was sure I had passed the summit (nothing worse than waking up in the morning to still have to climb), found a flat patch, ate some chocolate and other gear I picked up at Paula’s shack and had a half descent sleep.

Day 16- Storm King Campground to Conejos Campground: 97.4 miles

Rolling down in the early morning, I saw more of what I missed by riding last night. The rocky oucroppings were impressive but soon gave way to flatter red rocky hills. I lost some time miutes getting lost in between La Garita and Del Norte.

Rattle snake warming up

I stopped at the first café I saw in Del Norte and it turned out to be a good decision. I was thirsty and ended up downing a few litres of ice cold sprite before a massive breakfast. I again spent too long in a town by stopping at the grocery store. I filled up 9 or so litres as I was not sure about the water situation around the Summitville area and then was on my way. I am not sure if it was this extra weight or something else, but the climb up to Indiana Pass was the hardest and my least favourite of the whole trail. The earlier sections were okay but the last five steep miles were a bitch. It started to hail about a mile from the top and so I hid under a conifer and killed a Snickers.

The 25 miles from the summit to Platoro were pretty sweet. Amazing scenery and my favourite riding time in the afternoon helped me over the few small climbs there were along the way.


For once I had made a restaurant in good time (even though I did want to be in Platoro earlier) and even though I had been scarred by chicken fried steak before, I had to have it as it was really the only thing on the menu (and they didn’t have an alcohol license either- WTF?). The uncomfortable chairs and the waitress hitting on me (Retro- I seemed to not be the only one) took my mind off the steak. I paid $5 for a shower (as had Matt Lee done a few days earlier they told me) and set out in the dark. It didn’t take me long to get sick of riding in the dark- washboards give me a headache when you cant look away, but I managed to trick myself into riding further. I just became a little fussy about where I would sleep and after telling myself I would stop at the next decent campground, it became a little easier to keep on going.

I found a place and quickly set up near to a loud river and ate my takeaway chips.

Day 15- Salida to Storm King Campground: 123 miles

O'Haver Lake

I awoke well before dawn and had to leave without saying goodbye to my hosts. I had to ride a couple of miles back down into Salida and found my way once I got back to Absolute Bikes. I felt slow along the flats, and after starting the climb up to Marshalls Pass, I realized this would be a long climb. I think it was the mental exhaustion from the ordeals of the previous day, but it took me four hours to warm up. I was not happy until this point, especially when passing the campers cooking breakfast at the beautiful O’Haver Lake, but by the time I had summited a few thousand vertical metres later, I was okay.

A nice long descent and a bunnyhop over this:

and I was in Sargents. It was a tiny town, but had “Burgers & Beer” and a really overpriced grocery store. After the next section along the pavement, there was more than 30 miles of dry and dusty washboard through boring country (Retro- with hindsight, the hardest parts of the race were these stretches of dry washboarded roads through brown, flat countryside- not physically, but mentally. I would often have to stop because I couldn’t take the boredom. Getting off the bike, getting some food, and looking at the maps for a few minutes was the best mental break I could get).Before coming onto the 114 road I am pretty sure I saw a Lynx, but he was way too fast for photos. At the Upper Dome Reservoir the water pump did work, but for some reason I purified water from the lake instead. I would have loved to have cooled off in the water, but sitting down and killing a Snickers had spent enough time. After almost stepping on a snake, I set off with the aim of getting over Carnero Pass by bedtime.

Upper Dome Lake

I held reasonably high speed up the easy climb to Cochetopa Pass into the dying afternoon light. On the descent I realized we were entering some different country, with more prominent red rock outcrops. That’s another shame of doing this race, as I would realize the next morning: riding in the dark of night or early morning, you miss some pretty amazing scenery. As it darkened and cooled on the way up to Carnero Pass I would stop and put clothes and lights on, but with a full moon, I enjoyed riding without a front light. The large low moon was partly obscured by the mountain range to the east but the road was good and there was just enough light to see. What I didn’t miss was the meteor that came low over the forest on the summit and looking like it crashed where I imagined my camp would be. With daydreams of fighting off an alien invasion in the middle of nowhere, I crested and made my way down. I passed the rock formations mentioned in the maps, even though I was disappointed, they were still impressive in the moonlight.

There were still cows about, so I crossed some cattleguards into Storm King Campground. I was alone and surprised to find picnic tables and metal fireplaces. I had brought a can of chunky soup, a can of refried beans, and a can of creamed rice, and for some reason I really wanted a hot dinner. I tried to start a fire with my lighter but after 20 minutes I couldn’t get the thing started even though the tinder I had found was dry. I gave up and walked back down to the river to get some water, walking back up I was surprised to see the fire burning well (pesky fire gnomes). I looked around expecting to see some smart arse standing there with a flamethrower, but there was no one (I think?). After popping the lids of the cans and chucking them in the fire, I had a cooked meal.

Day 14- Dillon to Salida: 114 miles.


I awoke early to try and make up some of the time I had lost by staying in Dillon. The bike path to Brekenridge was very easing going and filled with morning riders. The climb out of Brekenridge to Boreas Pass was surprisingly easy due to itfollowing an old constant grade rail bed (this time without the sand) and it being hardpacked.

I didn’t even stop in Como but should have to break up some of the most boring flat, dry and sandy riding through to Hartsel.

After stopping at a restaurant for burgers and beer in Hartsel (“He’s so hot right now”) I started out into what looked like becoming a storm. Guess what? It began to storm, the worst thing being that the lightning and its slow southerly direction meant I couldn’t ride through it (I wasn’t carrying a defibrillator) and I kept on catching up to it.

Ze Storm

The storm gradually moved away from the trail and I now moved through the rain on very muddy trails. I tried riding on the grassy sides, but wasn’t willing to wait for the clayey mud to dry. I began to slow as mud built up on my wheels and bike. Even getting off and pushing was difficult. I was determined to make it over Marshall Pass to the south of Salida by bedtime and so I continued on. At one stage the drivetrain jammed, sending the bottom rear derailleur pulley into to my spokes. After flipping the bike over, pulling the derailleur apart and removing some of the mud I was under away again. I didn’t get far, mud quickly jammed the drivetrain and without realizing it, I had sheared the rear derailleur off. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wouldn’t be making todays goal. Last night talking to Dad, I was told of a bike store in Salida where all the previous guys were stopping. The new goals for the afternoon were to find a ranch with a phone to call the guys at Absolute Bikes and find what time they were open to that night  and what time they opened in the morning. I cannot remember exactly where the drailleur broke, but talking later to the locals, they referred to the roads as undriveable when wet. They would avoid driving after the rains, and only then with a 4WD.

Derailleur caught in the spokes

 I had a chain tool, so I could have set the bike up as a singlespeed, or even a trispeed with three front chainrings, but I was hoping to find a phone quickly to get the call done. Of course, there were no houses for the next several miles. I walked the bike out of the worst of the mud and then freewheeled downhill and walked uphill for the next hour. Eventually, I found an occupied ranch and was able to get through to Anton at Absolute (Retro- doing this race again, I would learn how to pick doorlocks and hotwire cars. I came across several weekend houses with 4WD’s but wasn’t willing to break a window just to use a phone. If I knew how to pick a lock in this situation, I still wouldn’t have, but they would be lifesaving skills if I had broken something or was bleeding badly). I was suprisised when he said that he would be willing to come in to the shop if I got there before 11 that night. My spirits lifted, I walked the few steep miles over the Watershed and coasted down to Salida. Some people gave me directions to the shop and I got there just as they were closing up. I got in and stood around whilst Andrew and Anton worked on my bike, replacing and tuning a new rear derailleur, cables, cassette, truing my wheel, fixing the computers and checking everything else. Shaun Gillis, the owner took me across to a bar that served food and we drunk whilst chatting. I paid for everything (I never pay retail for bike gear, but in this case I was willing to pay whatever they wanted considering the service they gave me. Shaun gave me and all other racers a discount on parts as well. I am always happy to see a LBS know what they are doing). After an offer of a floor to sleep on from several people I got a lift to Antons place where there was a hot shower and bed. The generosity from people like Anton and his girlfriend and guys like Gary Montgomery caused the biggest disappointment of the whole race for me. I was disappointed not being able to stay longer and in no way able to repay the generosity.

Day 13- Lynx Pass to Dillon 92.2 miles

Only a few cars passed me during the night and I awoke with each one. Setting off in the early light, I was feeling good due to the easy two previous days. I did stop to take off my shoes and socks to cross a small creek, probably worth the time as it was a cool morning. The trail to Radium was rocky and rolly but quite enjoyable, and I again encountered what I considered to be the greatest threat to a Great Divide Racer-cows.

Radium and the Colorado River

 On one ascent, steep uphill and downhill slopes on both sides of the road meant that the cows I frightened stampeded up the road and over a cattleguard. I immediately realized what was going to happen and stopped, but they kept on going, a few made it over the grate, but a couple got legs caught and almost broke them off in their scramble.

It was warming up by the time I started the climb up to Inspiration Point and over the Watershed. It’s a steep climb, but funnily enough, the views are great. The descent is even better and the road on its way to being turned into asphalt. No hot meal since yesterday lunchtime so I rode the couple of miles into Kremmling. It seemed a pretty barren place, the town is of a decent size but ringed by brown mountains. There is a yellow Mexican place on the corner of the main street that I would recommend. Unlimited corn chips (the real ones), water and sprite, and some fantastic enchiladas proved to be my best mexican meal for the whole trip.

Dry and dusty seemed to be on the menu for the rest of the day as I began the long climb up to Ute Pass. Passing Williams Fork Reservoir cooled the breeze and I stopped at the payphone on the southern side, but the whole thing was missing.

I was pretty bored, but moving well along the ten miles before the steeper parts of the climb to Ute Pass. I decicded to put some power down when I passed the dam and sirens went off and a voice came over the loudspeaker- something about venting? A dark storm began to roll in as I reached the steeper, paved end of the climb. I stopped on the southern side of the pass to put a jacket on and get something to eat and had to dance the mosquito jig for a few minutes. The descent is paved and steep, but as always too short.

Over Ute Pass

Along the flat towards Silverthorne, I felt pretty sick in the stomach and a headwind didn’t help. Even though it was paved, flat and only ten miles it seemed like an eternity.

It was late afternoon even though Silverthorne is a large tourist town, a lot of the shops were beginning to close. First priority was a bike shop to replace my full cable routing on the rear with normal routing so I could hopefully get all my cogs back. After asking a couple of people and at a skate shop, I found Mountain Sports Outlet, the biggest bike store I found along the whole trail. After waiting 45 minutes, I chatted to the mech as he did the cables.

Another recommendable restaurant is the Brewery at Dillon. It was packed and the beer was good. I scrubbed up as best I could by putting my black rain pants and long sleeve top on- I must have stunk though. As I was leaving, a guy asked me if I was doing the GDR, suprising considering that no one previously had any idea about the race. He was following someone but I cant remember who. He pointed me to the Safeway where I called in to report and called the outside world for the third time (Retro- I picked up that other racers were  calling friends and family almost everyday to get updates of their position and the status of the trail ahead). I was very surprised to hear I was in fourth after PBasinger pulling out, especially considering the easy previous days I had had. I then tried to call the motels in Brekenridge to see if there would be a place open at 11, but I couldn’t get through anywhere. After gathering some supplies and gas relieving (seemed to be the pain I was having over the previous few days was gas related) tablets, I found a motel in Dillon where the nice Polish guy gave me a discount after I stumbled through some basic Polish (and motel operators seem to prefer dirty bikers, and their bikes, in their rooms as they apparently don’t get drunk, sleep early and leave early).

I again gorged myself whilst watching tv, stretching and massaging and thinking up another line that I was going to say next time I called in but didn’t: on Rick Hunter being only 50 miles (Retro- he was more than this) ahead according to my Dad: “Looks like the ‘Hunter’ is about to become the ‘Hunted’”. I always seem to take 2 more hours to get into bed when I stay in motels compared to sleeping out, but I always feel better in the morning.

2007-06-28 02:32:40 GMT

Yeah, it's uh, Alex Field. Wednesday, 8:30 at night. I'm in Silverthorne. Not that bad of a day. Managed to, um, do 3,000 vertical. Meters that is. And uh, got caught in a storm, in the afternoon coming over Ute Pass. And uh, yeah, had a little stomach trouble after that. Took me a while to get down the road to Silverthorne. But yeah, so if I can find a place to stay in Breckenridge over the phone right now I'll ride on, otherwise I'll stay here tonight. Alright, thanks, bye.

Audio: GDR Episode 14: 3.03-3.50

Day 12- Slater to Lynx Pass 101 miles

I got up pre-dawn and set off quickly. After the short day yesterday, I was feeling pretty good, just a bit mentally tired after the ordeals. The trail climbed gently, but it didn’t have much of an impact on my speed. By the time I reached the Watershed Divide, I had done my slow hours of warm up riding, but the last steep part I had to walk. Trying to rest my legs as much as possible, steep technical riding was to be avoided. The scenery was in stark contrast to the sections before Middlewood Hill WY: a lot greener, with forests of white Aspens and fields of flowers. After a break at the top of the divide, and 10 minutes working out which descent to take, I was on the way down what seemed to be the longest and steepest descent of the whole trail. It was pretty rocky, I had to stop a few times to re-adjust and tighten the quick release on my rear wheel (it was a great idea not to bring the tugnut for my track dropouts), and then to repair a two snakebites on the rear (running a rear Nanoraptor at 40psi was great for all things except big impact protection. Note that the rear still had a 15mm sidewall cut that I had put in it in Banff). As I was riding down, I thought about Dave Nice with his fixie- you would not be able to sit on the saddle and ride feet off as the trail was too rough, and it was so steep that you would have to be hard on the brakes the whole time to get your feet round.

Steamboat Lake

It was hot by the time I got to Clark, I stopped at the grocery store and downed two litres of Gatorade and called in.

The run into Steamboat was good, until I got run off the road by a grader. The bad thing about the bigger towns is that its harder to find the places you are looking for- I have been to Steamboat twice before (in winter), and I had to ask several people where a bike store was. I found a new bike shop, and put the bike in for a derailleur adjustment so that I could use my bottom cog. I borrowed a bike of theirs and went off in search of a 29” tyre. Orange Peel Cycles was easy to find, and quite a revelation in terms of LBS’s I have visited around the world. Their service, knowledge and willingness to help was explemntary and even though they didn’t have the tyre I was after, they introduced me to Kent Eriksen who had his workshop adjoining. After a quick tour and chat with Kent, I had a Bonty Jones XR in my hand and even though it wasn’t exactly what I was after (Kenda Small Block 8 or Nanoraptor) it proved to be a better tyre for my weight- I didn’t get a single puncture with it on the way to Antelope Wells.

I thanked Kent and the Orange Peel guys and grabbed a burger at the place next door. Again, it seemed that the waitress was either working hard for a tip or was into me. I assumed the second option and chatted with her for a while. I was disappointed to have to leave, both the bar and Steamboat, but it was only the early afternoon and I had wasted a few hours getting stuff fixed.

I rode one handed back to the bike shop carrying my takeaway dinner. After putting the new tyre on (and blowing up a brand new tube- scarry considering I wasn’t carrying a spare) I paid and left but returned 5 minutes later because the guy, Ken, hadn’t fixed the problem. He was apparently the best mech in Steamboat, but all he managed to do was take my $10 and not fix anything because I was running full length housing. The fact that I had ridden from Banff to Wyoming with it working perfectly after setting it up myself didn’t seem to matter to him. I love how he took the money but didn’t even tell me that he couldn’t do what I asked for, or that he didn’t offer suggestions as to getting it set up right.

After a brief detour to the best grocery store along the whole trail, I made my way along the paved roads under the late afternoon sun. I had lost quite a lot of time running around in Steamboat, but it wasnt this that was depressing me. I was feeling fresh, but for the first time in the whole race, I lost motivation. I think it was because I asked myself why I wanted to keep on riding and leave such potential at the bar. My competitive side was at odds with my willingness to have a good time. It didn’t help that I stopped just before the Stagecoach reservoir and dam, not sure if the steep hill in front of me was the right way to go. My amended plan had me over Lynx Pass before stopping to rest for the night, but as I continued up, I felt less and less inclined to keep on going. But, for some reason I did, and another two hours later it was dark and I had ridden a mile or two over the pass, and was looking for somewhere to sleep. I didn’t want to sleep in the bushes on the side of the road, so I stopped at a few ranch/holiday houses along the way, planning to ask if I could sleep on their lawn (and hoping they would offer me more). But, after 30 minutes of knocking on doors, I couldn’t find anyone home, so I set up beside the road and ate my now cold takeaway.

2007-06-26 20:02:01 GMT

Yeah, it's Alex Field. I'm in, uh, Clark. And uh, it's 1:30 on Tuesday, I'm at Links Pass Campground... (The rest of the message is too quiet to be heard)

Audio: GDR Episode 12: 22.43-23.04

Day 11- Rawlins to Slater 72.5 miles

I awoke late after the two long previous days that had taken something out of me. I was hoping a late start would give me enough time to rest so that I could get to Steamboat Lake (100 miles) by nightfall. I got a hot breakfast then had to ride around for 15 minutes trying to find a payphone. I got some food at a servo, called in, then called the Dutch Creek Guest Ranch to see if I could get a bed and dinner. It was going to be expensive, but they were willing to leave food in the cabin for me as I estimated my arrival after their kitchen closed (9 pm!). I said I would call if I needed the room later in the day from Slater.

Riding along the pavement on the 401, I felt similar to the day after Butte- not exhausted, but very tired, causing several additional stops to get extra fuel on and for a mental break. A clear blue sky gave me good views of the surrounding rock formations, but the desolate landscape was a little depressing. 

But, when I hit gravel and the Climb up to Middlewood Hill I folded- I felt sick in the stomach and almost instanteously exhausted. The short climb ahead of me looked like a vertical wall. I stopped and stood there next to my bike. (Retro- I think I may have had food poisoning. I was 3-4 hours from breakfast and the stomach pain was similar. I did think this, and dropped any ant-acid meds I could find). After 15 minutes of just standing there I felt a bit better and got back on (the notion that I would have to get back on eventually, never left me, and so I think I just needed a break). I am not a fan of rollers, especially when they are on a long uphill, and I lost my map on a rough descent, but I was feeling better (I had noticed the pattern that after 3-5 hours in the morning of feeling slow and a little depressed, I would begin to feel much better. I could pump myself up very easily most days from lunchtime until dinner just by thinking about various things, most of them not race related- just fantasies. This became my favourite riding time, and whilst the sunsets helped, there was always the worry of not making a town in time for dinner).

Writing this three months after the event, I can remember almost every section. On the trail I remember thinking that re-riding this a second time would yield a massive advantage, and that I probably could ride the whole thing in reverse or straight again relying only on memory. However, I cant remember riding the 25 miles from Middlewood Hill to the ranger station on State Hwy 70.

I had run out of water by the time I had reached the ranger station, and, of course, there was no taps/streams or rangers. I spent 30-40mins eating and trying to get into one of the cabins without breaking in, but to no avail. I started down the highway, realizing I probably shouldn’t have stopped for so long (but sometimes I don’t want to think- I continue wasting my time rather than making the decision I know I should make).

There was still plenty of daylight when I reached Slater, but I continued the 5 miles off route to Savery. I knew the grocery store was closed, but I was hoping to get some food and water (as I had run out of both) and then continue up and over the Watershed divide 30 miles by nightfall. My plan failed when the grocery store that I knew had closed also turned out to be the restaurant and motel as well. I found one person in the deserted town, at the Little Snake River Museum and she let me in to get change for the coke machine. I had been surprised at how generous and helpful all the people along the trail had been, and so this woman was even more suprising when after listening to my predicament, all she could say was sorry on behalf of the town and suggest suggest Dixon 8 miles away as a possible source of food. Should I feel disappointed with her? Probably not, I would get less help from most people in Sydney, even though I would be quite generous with a person in need. She didn’t offer me a lift anywhere, even though she drove straight past me on the way to Dixon after I tried to call in on a barely working phone. By this stage I was starving, my days plan completely rearranged, and very pissed off. I would going to need assistance just to get something to eat. I got into the only open bar in Dixon, but the bartender said there was no food. I was told of Baggs 10 miles further to the west, and after 15 minutes standing beside the road, I managed to get a lift. Thank God for big American utes that could take my bike! The restaurant/bar was smoky and quite full. I made the mistake of trying the chicken fried steak, cooked by the most amazing charactiture of a woman- her thin body not hidden by a grubby white singlet and even filthier apron. Chain smoking out the side of her droopy face, she hocked up massive loogies in between cooking meals. I didn’t even touch the “salad bar”, but my thirst was quenched by several beers. Afterwards, I made my way out onto the mosquito infested road but no one that went past was going anywhere near Slater. After half an hour, I went back into the bar and asked the barwoman if she knew of anyone traveling back that way. She introduced me to a guy that lived in Slater- Gary Montgomery, he was willing to give me a lift, but asked if I minded waiting a while. I said “No problem”, not wanting to put the guy out, and then spent the next three hours talking to everyone in the bar and having drinks bought for me. There were some nice guys, truck drivers and guys working in the mining/gas business in the area, latino and American cowboys, farmers etc. When it was time to leave, I managed to get my bike in the truck and we were underway. After a mile or two I realized my new friend was a little tipsy, but I was in no position to drive anyway. He swerved around a bit, responding to the animals on the side of the road, but I wasn’t in the mood to go riding again. He dropped me off at his trailer park and gave me his trailer for the night whilst he went to his girlfriends place. I got a shower, a warm bed, and a microwave the next morning to heat up the breakfast that I had got “charactiture” woman to cook at the restaurant for me.

2007-06-25 15:17:05 GMT

Yeah, it's Alex Field--Monday morning. I'm in Rawlins, I got here last night after having to ride through that wonderful Great Basin of high temperatures, 20-knot headwinds, no water. Fun stuff like that. Oh, that's another thing; there is... you may want to let people know, contrary to what the maps say, there is no water between I think it's Sweetwater River and A & M Reservoir. There's absolutely nothing, even though the maps say there should be. But um, yeah, knees are a bit sore after riding a lot of pavement yesterday, and uh, saddle sores are sort of OK, but yeah. I'm just uh, taking it easy for the next couple of days and just ride. OK, check you guys later.

Audio: GDR Episode 11 6.41-7.46

2007-06-26 01:41:26 GMT

It's uh, Alex Field, it's Monday night. I'm in uh, Savory. And there's nothing here. No restaurant. (unintelligable) ... no grocery store. I'm sort of, uh f****d right now pretty much. Because I can't get over the mountains to anywhere. Um, yeah, I got no... can't get any further, so I guess I'll try to get a lift somewhere. Alright, bye.

Audio: GDR Episode 11: 13.17-13.49