We were up before the alarm went off, gathering all of our clothes that were strung up around the room which resembled a Chinese laundry. They were nice and dry and a peek out the window showed a glow on the eastern horizon, indicating that the day would be the same! Awesome!
As we rolled out of town my natural pace was faster than Simon's as we warmed up, so I slowly pulled away from him as we climbed the pavement up to Corbin. The first 34km(21mi) were paved and I was starting to think that I should have pressed on last night rather than cave to the temptation of a warm, bearproof bed. Yes, I have an irrational fear of bear encounters and this next section was actually prime bear country.
Having said that, shortly after leaving Sparwood I came up behind another racer who I assumed had made an early start from Sparwood. The rider turned out to be Jill Homer. Jill has written a great blog for years and I first heard of the Tour Divide via her writings. We exchanged pleasantries and she commented on how nice and clean my bike was after yesterday's drubbing. I explained the car wash (but not my mild OCD that took me there) and she explained her slow pace as having just crawled out of her bivy by the creek. Wow! She had pressed on and camped out. This made me feel soft and like I had missed a opportunity to make more ground. Later, via her blog I would see that not all was as it seemed. Various riders that I spoke to who pressed on all had bad rest in the cold and subsequently had a rough day on day 2, whereas I was feeling good and powering on.
I din't get any photos of the pleasant river valley that led up to Corbin, just the one with the big, ugly mine tailings pile in it. You can see the thick dew/frost. It was a cold morning and luckily it was all uphill meaning that I kept warm.
I was soon back onto dirt road, climbing up to Flathead Pass. After climbing for a while I could hear bear whistles being blown ahead and above me. I was catching someone and they were doing the bear scaring work for me as well. The climb to Flathead Pass was rocky and rough going with careful line selection being important. Cresting the climb, there wasn't any reward in the form of a view. This pass was simply a low point in the mountains that was acceptable to put a road through. I began to blast down the descent, staying off the brakes as much as possible to maximise the use of elevation gain. Somewhere here one of my dishwashing (waterproof) gloves abandoned ship but I wouldn't notice for an hour or so.
I caught the whistle blowers as we came to the section of trail that doubles as a river! An icy cold, rapidly flowing river.
I could see Greg and Evan, the kiwis but I didn't know the other riders with them. There was no way through here but to wade into the stream and just put up with icy feet. That certainly got my attention and I did my best to catch the guys but they weren't hanging around despite my valiant attempts to ride sections of this road/river. Not an issue although the company would have been appreciated.
This road/river got old very quickly as I continued to bath my feet every few minutes. I couldn't imagine what it was like last year in the rain and snow. I had it easy!
The road soon open out into flowing forestry road and I began to make good time again. I came to a large river, the Flathead River, with a big wooden bridge across it where a rider was sitting in the middle of the bridge eating. I stopped and chatted then asked if he minded taking a photo for me.
Thanking him, I pressed on and soon caught the Kiwis having a bite to eat. I rode with them for a while until they stopped again to adjust something on one of their bikes. They were sticking together like glue it seemed.
I rode on until I came to Butt's patrol cabin where there was a small picnic ground opposite, complete with picnic table. I stopped here to tuck into the sub I was carrying from last night and to shed my rain jacket now that it had warmed up somewhat. Maybe it was 10C!
Shortly after I stopped, Andres Bonelli stopped to have a bite to eat as well. We chatted and were both ready to roll at the same time so rode together for a while. I picked him as about 28-30 years old but was a bit surprised when he told me he was actually 38.
We pedalled along discussing everything from where we got our interest in the race, to training and race ethics and bears. Andres had done a massive amount of research on the race and the route and it later showed with his strategy and knowledge of services along route. I could only dream of having the time to have researched the route in such an in depth manner.
As we chatted we continued to climb the next pass, Cabin Pass. This one was worthy of a photo or three as it was quite spectacular.
We donned our lightweight wind vests for the descent. While the climbs here on the divide seem to go on forever, so too do the descents and it is easy to get very cold while roaring down the mountain. We enjoyed a long, rough descent until we were again pedalling along a valley floor in nice warm temperatures. Here we caught up to Brian Steel again and his buddy, Josh Daugherty topping up with water from a fast moving stream.
They informed us how crap their sleep was last night as they had pushed on up to Corbin rather than stay in Sparwood. They were really suffering as a result and crawling along.
We slowly began climbing as we made our way up the valley toward the famous "wall" section of trail. The wall was a quarter mile section of trail that went almost straight up a steep hillside. It was a cheap and nasty way of linking one forest road to another when the ACA created the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. It was in no way rideable, but we were hoping that as it was dry it would be at least walkable. From reports, in the wet it was barely that.
We passed several groups of riders along here prior to the wall.
There were a few groups of tourer along here as well. It certainly was a very pretty section that probably deserved a touring pace, not the race pace we were using.
The turn to The Wall appeared and we made our way along the thin little trail to the base of the climb. The Wall itself turned out to be a straight forward hike-a-bike.
I would rate the ride from the forest road to the base of the Wall as far more taxing and worthy of some respect on a heavily loaded bikepacking rig.
We stopped at the top for a short break. It was time to down the second half of that sub I had been lugging for 158km(98mi). A few riders, including the Kiwis, passed us here but we reminded ourselves this was a looong race.
It was getting pretty hot in the sun now and more so as we began to climb Galton Pass. Galton wasn't anything super steep or lofty but it was all business going up then down quite briskly for a divide road.
I was still being a bit precious about drinking stream water and had all but run dry, so I had an hour wait until my Aquatabs worked their magic on the icy, clear water that I scooped out of a stream near the base of Galton Pass. On the upside at least I wasn't hauling unnecessary weight up the pass!
But the downside is that I was getting a bit cooked in the heat and dehydrating. I countered this by hopping off my bike and pushing for a while. My pride wasn't too big to allow me to mix things up and when I did hop back on the bike, my pedalling muscles felt rested and good to go again. Sometimes you just have to get off that damn seat!
The descent off Galton was a big one and FAST. We donned our wind jackets again and pushed over the edge. It turned out to be a brake searing descent. I actually had to stop mid way down for 30 seconds to give my hands a rest. No suspension and hauling on the brakes had left my hands with no strength but I was happy to do it. We weren't climbing!
Near the bottom of the pass were several cars and vans parked on the road. There was a guy standing in the middle of the road taking photos. I gave him a wave but didn't stop as I wanted to get to that border crossing in Rooseville and more importantly, the food in Eureka!
We dropped onto blacktop again for the roll through the border. Nice! The border crossing itself took all of about 20 seconds which surprised me. I wonder if the guard was Blue Dot watching and knew who was coming along next?
The last few kilometres into Eureka were into a stiff wind which put the finishing touch on my hunger as we rolled into the first gas station which just happened to have a Subway and a motel attached. We joined Rob Orr there eating and perusing his map and Marshal had grabbed a room, muttering something about SRAM rear derailuers as he pushed his bike by.
Looking at the next section of trail and it was going to be a long, isolated section with no services again and two passes. These were the Whitefish Divide and Red Meadow Lake, one of my "must see" carrots. We elected to call it an early day and stay in the motel. This would allow us a good rest rather than camping up high in the cold and we could start early to beat the heat later in the day.
Stats for Day 2 were 204km (126mi) with another 2750m (9000ft) of climbing. I didn't feel too bad but that last photo shows some sign of fatigue. Twelve and a half hours in the saddle will do that!