Monday, July 27, 2015

Tour Divide 2015 - Day 4

I awoke early next morning to some rustling. I had slept well, but was drenched with sweat. I mean soaked! I had read in blogs about the "night sweats" while on the tour but surely, this was ridiculous? The rustling turned out to be Andres just finishing his packing up. I let him go then proceeded to pack my kit up. My heel was feeling squidgy so I resolved to take it easy and just continue to pedal forward at a reduced pace.

I rode back to the route and it turned out that we had camped 5km off route. As I regained the route I saw several great camping spots on creeks within the next 10 to 15km. Last night was an inefficient mistake distance and time wise that I vowed would not happen again. 

I rode along on my own, whistling loudly as this looked like prime bear country. It also looked much like the last 600km so I didn't take many photos. I was lost in my own head trying to sort out what I could do about this achilles. It didn't hurt, it just felt odd and slightly uncomfortable. That would probably change unless I did something about it though.

I didn't feel like I was making good time with quite a bit of niggly climbing along here. It went up for a while then down then back up again. The elephant on the ride today was Richmond Peak, a climb and traverse that saw it's name whispered in hushed tones by veterans. There is always snow, scary, slippery snow on Richmond Peak.......

But first I had to get there. I had about 80km (50mi) to ride to get to Holland Lake Lodge and breakfast. Some of this 80k was through what looked to me like grizzly country. Again, the scat on the trail backed this up. In the following photo the trail left the forest road and followed a faint single track through the grass for a while.

"Try not to look like a wounded gazelle limping along, pedal strongly" I told myself. But I am sure I looked like prey.

Next thing I hear some rustling behind me and WHOOSH, a guy rides past me like I am standing still! F@rk me! I near soiled myself and it confirms that I was crawling along. But in true TD fashion, I pass him again 15 minutes later as he is changing out of his warm kit and having a bite to eat. I laugh when I read Blue Dot watchers speculating when someone's dot gets half a mile in front of the following rider that it is a break. Rubbish. Unless you get a 30 mile break on someone they are going to catch you the next time you eat/take a crap/have a minor melt down due to no more peanut M & Ms or have to do some other self-support type thing.

Bear Aware? Fark, I wasn't in a coma! Of course I was aware!!!

As I approached the 83 highway I passed one of the few riders I had seen all morning. I said "hi" as I rode by. Stopping at the 83 I knew that breakfast and Holland Lake Lodge were just a few miles along route to the right and one mile off route. The other guy rode up to me and stopped as well. He introduced himself as Lukas from Switzerland. He asked what I was doing and I replied "contemplating breakfast". He said he was going left, off route to the Hungry Bear Cafe as it was a 0.7 mile flat ride and not the climb like it was to Holland Lake Lodge. I was sold, turned left and pedalled off down the road behind him.

Any other time it probably wasn't the prettiest of places but this morning, it was the Taj Mahal filled with edible goodness! I briskly sat myself down and fired an order at the young lady waiting our table. Pretty soon a ridiculously huge plate of pancakes arrived in front of me and I did my best to make it disappear, along with several coffees and a can of Coke. Lukas had the same so there wasn't much conversation at the table.

I filled my Camelbak with icewater from the jug then paid the waitress. $11 was the tab and that sounded right. Outside as I readied to leave Lukas burst out and said "here, take this". It was $6 or $7. Wha? "She charged you for both of us" was his reply. All that food (I had actully been beaten and left a lot of pancake behind-oh the shame) for just $6? Crazy cheap and Happy Days!

Some decent food in ma belly cheered me up again- a recurring theme on the divide. I charged off toward Richmond Peak, pedalling delicately of course to look after my ankle but there was definitely a spring in my step pedal.

Passing Holland Lake I got a little lost in the campground as the gps track seemed to go through the campground and then out a bit of single track near the bridge, not straight along the road I was on. I was super paranoid about missing even a small section of the official route and being relegated later on so I did a couple of loops of the campground to make sure I had the route covered. Idiot.....

Shortly after crossing the bridge the climbing began. Taking it easy wasn't.....easy, as I wanted to get up this 2500ft climb and down the other side. As I climbed I felt more and more alone.

Finally the trail became little more than a single track climb. The forest felt mighty "close" at this point without even a bird tweeting to break the silence. It was hard to get used to the silence in the bush over here. At home there would be a cacophony of noise as various birds strove to out sing one another.

I pushed up a narrow section of steep trail then burst out onto another fire road. Phew! It felt like I had been holding my breath for an hour or more.

I began climbing steeply again, this time with expansive views across to the Grizzly Basin on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Photographs do not do this basin any justice at all. It was MASSIVE and "right there" as I climbed away. It felt so close that I was scanning it's steep slope for movement, any sign of a bear. This is how I wanted to see one, at great distance across a basin. ;)

More single track surrounded me. I held my breath again....

Until I burst out onto an intersection of roads and a view to the west of the Mission Wilderness. Wow!

Turning hard left, I was into the final section of track across Richmond Peak. The route notes say "Occasional downed trees and rocks in trail during next 3.8 miles; use extreme caution in slide zone at point where road has failed". Where road has failed?! WTF? I was lucky this year because there was no snow. None at all. This is the section where Matthew Lee says in the Ride The Divide movie "it was route finding, it was mountaineering, there were full on cornices etc" but today, for me there was a rocky, dry trail. And THAT view. I was so glad that I did this during the day. I pity racers that get to Richmond Peak in the dark as they miss this view.

Fair dinkum, I loitered for 15 minutes here trying to out-shoot myself with various selfies, angles and camera locations. None of them do it justice at all. Today, alone, was worth all the suffering so far. Maybe not all that was to follow, but definitely all up to this point.

I came to the point where the road had failed. I got off and walked as it was a loong fall down if I got it wrong. Then the trail went down. It was a fire road that had overgrown into single track and it was awesome fun. For a while, then like other descents off a mountain it became torture as I clung onto my speeding bike, trying not to brake too much but also trying to keep some semblance of control. I must have done an ok job. Strava tells me I am 6th overall on the Richmond Peak DH ! I guess those top guys aren't on Strava? Wait, yes they are. I am right behind Mike Hall and ahead of Neil Beltchenko! Didn't he come 3rd in the TD this year?

Finally I bottomed out and had to pedal again. I came to the turn into Seely Lake, a 2 mile off route resupply, but I had plenty of food and figured I could pick up water from a stream so pushed on to the next stop, Ovando which was a mere 45km away.

45 up and down kilometres away in fact. Yes, we were doing the rollercoaster again and my legs had nothing. I put my ear buds in for the first time this trip and turned on some inspirational music that my son and I love. I must admit, a few tears streaked my grimy face as I listened to his favourite songs and for the first time in the race I lost focus a bit and my mind drifted off to wondering what my family was doing. Stupid fucking race.......

It was hot, I was pedalling hard with my normally weaker right leg and almost out of water again. I stopped at a babbling creek to fill my bottle and wash some dust off. How much further to Ovando? I really was looking forward to the Stray Bullet Cafe, another of my "carrots".

Finally, there it was in the distance. Ovando MT, population 71 (approx). Woo hoo!

I rolled into town and straight up to the cafe'. It was closed! It closes at 3:30pm! WTF? Don't they know they have all of these ravenous mountain bikers coming through who would happily pay $20 for a burger and Coke.....and they are effing closed?! A friendly local points out there is a bar up on the highway where you can get a feed so I point the Muru back UP the hill and hit Trixie's bar for a burger and a few Mountain dews.

Angler, from turned up again (that was her giving us directions earlier) to take a photo of Lukas and I as Lukas had just arrived. She proceeded to take the worst photo of me ever seen (sorry) but I present it here as I didn't take any more of Ovando once I found out the cafe' was closed. And, no, I wouldn't be staying the night after such a huge let-down. One thing I did notice here was Lukas's obvious style. He and I had the exact same rare Icebreaker jersey on. Maybe that is why I am red? With embarrassment?

I told Lukas I was going to camp out the road a bit to rest my heel. He said he would camp with me but was going to start pedalling as I was faster and would catch him. But I didn't. I was soft pedalling after dinner to let my meal settle but I was also scouting for a nice camp site, preferably by a river so I could cold soak my left achilles.

I soon found what I was looking for on the eastern fork of the Blackfoot River. There, that gap just to the left of the river. A secluded flat spot right by the river....

With a house nearby to hear me scream should a grizzly want to "cuddle"....

I quickly set up camp.

Then wandered over to the river for a wash and a soak. It was nice to just relax with no food to push into my face, map to anxiously pore over or internet to madly try uploading photos to....

That water was straight off a bloody glacier but just what I needed.

Offending achilles gets a drowning

Ahh, this must be what it is like to tour. Stopping 2 hours before dark and relaxing.....

I crawled into my sleeping bag well before sundown but sundown was about 10:30pm here so I guess it wasn't exactly uber early. 

It was my first sub-200km day. 198km isn't far off though and there had still been 2700m climbing. That was almost 900km (560mi) and 10 800m (35 500ft) climbing in four days.     

Yep, just 4 days. No wonder I slept through my alarm by two hours the next morning!

Cheers and there is more to come.........


  1. Underwater foot shot adds some variety and expect that may be a first for a Tour Divide blogger. Ever! - OM

    1. Yes, we are cutting edge here on AVFA. ;)

  2. Wow even more amazing pictures. Keep them coming. When you were hooking into those pancakes were you channeling Austin Powers Fat Bastard. Oh get in my bellyyyyyy. Lol
    Amazing countryside there, nothing at all like Australia.

    1. The first part that I saw that looked like home was in southern Colorado.

  3. Sure are some beautiful views in those pics.

  4. Blackfoot River didn't look that good from Google Earth - top spot and great photos as always!


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