By Eddie Clark
Tour Divide rookies Ollie Whalley and Eszter Horanyi smash existing course records.
(July 3, 2012) North America—Picking up from where Part 1 left off at Brush Mountain, the leading racers blazed a fast path across Colorado's Rocky Mountains with near ideal conditions. Excepting an always present headwind into Grants, their ride across New Mexico proved to be just as ideal.
Eric Schraufnagel who rode across much of Wyoming and Colorado with nasty flu-like sypmotoms recalled his ride into Grants in a way that was echoed by many. "Last night I got to Grants probably an hour after Kurt and Caroline, and I was toast. The wind and heat, I was just so dehydrated and bonked. So I just stared at something for a couple hours, and finally came out of it and got into a hotel for the night."
Even the women's new record holder Eszter Horanyi ran out of water for the last three hours of her ride into Grants, and recalled that as being one of her worst days on the course. That day included 120 miles of pavement through desolate Indian reservations, and a very strong hot headwind that sucked the water right out of you. As Eszter recalled over some key-lime pie in Pie Town the next day, "I didn't take a single picture yesterday, and that's how I know I'm having a bad day."
Fortunately, the rest of Eszter's ride went smoothly, and she succeeded in not only finishing the Tour Divide as the first woman, but she also set a new course record for the women with a fast time of 19 days and 3 hours and 35 minutes, which also saw her finish in seventh place overall. An exceptional finish for a Tour Divide rookie!
Speaking of adversity, Crested Butte, Colo. resident Jarral Ryter also finished his ride to take sixth place overall in 18 days 12 hours and 17 minutes. Besides the very respectable time, even more impressive is that he did this with type 1 diabetes, and has shown to others that diabetes can be conquered.
Perhaps the biggest news of this year's Tour Divide was generated by New Zealander Ollie Whalley who absolutely crushed the existing Tour Divide course record by finishing with a time of 16 days and 2 hours and 46 minutes. As a rookie, he was quick to note that he probably could have shaved more time off with shorter stops, but he also missed the company of Craig Stappler in the final days of the race.
As the two rode into Grants, Craig had a major pedal mechanical which saw him scrambling to find a replacement in a town where there are no bike shops. From Grants, Ollie rode on solo in his bid to not only finish but also set the new record. "It was great riding most of the route with Craig. It made it a lot easier to keep a routine instead of opting to sleep in some mornings. We definitely spurred each other on to maintain a good pace", recalled Ollie.
Soon as Craig got his pedal issue taken care of, he was back on course and riding strong. So strong that he also broke the existing record, and set the second fastest time at 16 days 23 hours and 45 minutes which also gave him the second place overall for this year's race.
Meanwhile, much further back on the course, the weather had turned. Just as in the first half of the race, getting further ahead instead of lagging further behind with long stops and late mornings proved invaluable. Particularly, the past week's storms on the high mountain passes of Colorado have been a big deterrent to forward progress for many.
Going even further north on course are the north bound riders who are now encountering the wilds of Montana. Fixie Dave Nice, the only fixed gear rider this year (and one of the few to ever attempt the route on a fixie), is currently making his way through northern Montana despite some minor injuries which include a broken nose and sprained thumb from a crash he had on the way to Helena, MT.
Cjell Money took top honors as the first north bound rider to finish the course after what sounds to be an interesting border crossing. Cjell, the self-dubbed Manalope from Antelope, finished his ride with a very respectable time of 18 days 12 hour and 17 minutes. Considering that he started his ride in Costa Rica, that's quite the accomplishment.
In wrapping it up, just deciding to take on the Tour Divide and start the race is quite an accomplishment, let alone finishing this incredible race. Southbound finisher Serge Chiasson summed it up best when he said, "The one key ingredient required to complete this ride is the kindness that is found everywhere on the route... What a ride."
Congratulations to all the Tour Divide riders who have started, finished and those who are still out there living and riding on the Divide, and having their adventure of a lifetime. Well Done!
Video's will be uploaded soon!