Fastest win ever, but no course record for Mike Hall
July, 2013. A record number of 141 racers took to the course from both directions on June 14th to get a taste of eating, sleeping and riding on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route for the 2013 edition of the Tour Divide. The majority, approximately 125, started in Bannff, Canada to ride the 2745 miles to finish at the US and Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Interestingly, many of the racers were first timers, but it was veteran Divide rider Mike Hall of Cardiff, United Kingdom, who took the win in 14 days, 11 hours and 55 minutes.
Hall devours a quick breakfast at Penny's Diner in Rawlins, WY.
In the early days of the race, it was Hall who suffered with stomach issues and allergies to initially fall behind the leaders pace while veteran racer Craig Stappler lead the charge south. As is often the case, many rookies took on too much of a fast pace at the start only to burn theirselves up and eventually drop out. Despite his ailments, Hall pressed on and eventually got back on pace with a vengeance once the claritin for his allergies kicked in.
By southern Montana, it was a full blown race with Hall determined to catch up to Stappler. Perhaps, the pivotal point came when Stappler spent the night high up on Union Pass in below freezing temperatures while Hall stopped much lower down to avoid sleeping higher up on the pass. What happened the next day resembled something closer to a high paced cross country race with both riders riding near their limit from Pinedale and into the Great Divide Basin.
Craig Stappler was looking good on the bike, and riding a fast pace through Wyoming.
Finally, it was in the Great Divide Basin that Hall put in a solid dig to create a gap he could hold over Stappler as the two raced into the night. In a cheeky move, Hall turned off his lights and rode by the bright and full summer solstice moon so that Stappler wouldn't be able to see where he was. In the Basin, you can see for miles, and this strategy surely helped Hall give Stappler the slip. To further solidify his lead, Hall rode into the morning and only took a couple hours to sleep before getting back on the bike and riding into Rawlins to refuel.
With a gap hovering around a few hours, Hall pressed on as Stappler gave chase. Unfortunately, the wheels came off the tracks when Stappler rolled into Kremmling where he withdrew from the race. With a string of rookies much further back, Hall had nearly a days lead on second place as he rode into New Mexico. More misfortune would highlight the race with widespread forest fires forcing a reroute, which negated any chance of setting a new course record.
Mike Hall climbing at a fast clip in southern Colorado.
No doubt, Hall was riding at a pace (and destroying the numerous climbs- over 173,000 feet to be exact) that would have seen him literally smash the previous records. To read more into this, it's worth taking into account that the lead racers saw the fastest course conditions in many many years. With practically no hike-a-bike snowfields to contend with, very little mud, little rain and a generous tailwind, conditions were ripe for records to be broken. Instead of a course record, Hall would settle for the fastest time to ever complete the race, which is no small feet considering the reroute around the Gila National Forest is much longer than stanying on course.
To see all the gritty details of the racers rides and even follow the last of the blue dots (Grand Depart racers), check out the wealth of information on the Tour Divide website here.