Where do you start telling a story about a ride that was just soo epic in scale? A ride that taxed not only the physical but probably more so, the mental? Call me old fashioned but I might start........at the start! Well, no, before the start actually because like most riders I arrived four days before race day to allow for flight and luggage bungles. I am pleased to say that my flights went smoothly and my baggage- my bike in particular- arrived with me. Some of this is re-hashing a previous post that I did while in Banff but I resubmit it here for continuity's (and straightening everything out in my race-addled mind) sake.
Gary Tischer photo
Gary Tischer photo
I arrived in Banff on Tuesday afternoon and found several other riders putting their bikes together outside "the Y", so I soon joined them. That is Brett Stepanik lying on the ground. No, he isn't ill or floored because his bike didn't arrive. He is a pro photographer and was using the SLR that he brought along to get all sorts of weird angles on us. Here he is capturing Steve Fuller reassembling his bike. I think he got a few of me as well and I can't wait to see his Tour Divide gallery, once he develops all that film.
I was keen to have a look around town and to make sure the bike was ok after it's massive trip. The scenery from the main street was just mind blowing.
A few tweeks to the steering mid ride and all seemed fine, allowing me to take in the stunning scenery that surrounds Banff. I dropped into Soul Ski and Bike to pick up some bear spray.
On Wednesday Dave Wicks, another Brisbane rider, decided he needed some new pedals. There were none in Banff so we (Mick Eyb from Taree and I) offered to accompany him across to Canmore to stretch the legs and look around. More stunning scenery greeted us on this outing!
Dave Wicks (L) and Mick Eyb(R)
The ride across to Canmore was not only scenic but a very nice stretch of the legs in the new-to-us-Aussies 4500ft elevation.
The 50 or so kilometres to Canmore and return felt good but the elevation was quite noticeable for all of us. I silently wondered how I might cope with higher elevations along the route if just 4500ft was sapping this much power.
The next morning I was up early for a walk around Banff. Damn jetlag!
It was going to be very hard to leave such a beautiful place for the hurt of a mountain bike race. I had to remind myself that this was the actual reason I was here!
Mark Meyers had arrived into Banff overnight and tried to catch up on his beauty sleep. That done, we went for a roll out past the Banff Springs Hotel along the Spray River Trail which is the first section of the Tour Divide route.
Spray River Trailhead
I was a bit excited and nervous to see the trail but it just turned out to be some forest road- not the big ugly monster that had been building in my head...!
Last years route went over this bridge. Well, actually it wasn't built last year, so the route went through the creek!
But this year's route was going to bypass that section of trail as the Canadian Parks Department had it closed due to bear, cougar and wolf activity to name but a few!
Coming back to town I stopped outside the Banff Springs Hotel for some touristy action.
The forecast for tomorrow morning was for rain and a possible thunderstorm. Not the warm, dry weather forecast I had been hoping for to grace the start of this race. Dave, Mark, Mick and I ate together at the Elk and Oarsman where Crazy Larry had organised a Q & A for everyone. It was a bit surreal/intense for our Aussie psyches so we left once we had downed our elk burgers and as we walked home after dinner the rain was starting to fall gently.
We all fell silent as we walked back to the Y, each lost in thought about tomorrow's start. What would the weather do? How would we deal with a cold, wet start to this 4430km ordeal? Thoughts of last years miserable first day drifted into my mind but I did my best to shut them out.
4430km? When thinking about it as a whole a huge knot would ball itself up in my stomach. That was just too much for my little mind to comprehend. It always had been. During my preparation I had always just thought about the route as small segments. I had broken it down into daily mileages from town to town, campsite to campsite or resupply to resupply. That way I could deal with the enormity of this ride. I reminded myself that my plan was to just deal with whatever obstacles this race threw up in a no fuss, business-like manner. No letting them eat away at me. Mental strength was going to be key in this race.
That seemed to quell the butterflies that had been building all afternoon.
An early night was had by all. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.........