Just a touch over four months from the Grand Depart of this year's Tour Divide. Still lots of work to be done, but training is going well. Thankfully I've managed to avoid injury while piling on the cycling workload. Strength work has me feeling more resilient than ever. On Sunday I got in a solid ride at six hours with almost 7,000 feet of climbing aboard my loaded bike. It left me suitably tired, but not wrecked or sore. "Good sensations!" as any European pro racer would say.
The gear choices are coming along too. The Mosaic is dialed. Only a few small decisions to make before I head south to Antelope Wells for my northbound departure. I've been obsessed lately with tires more than anything. I'm set on running "plus" sized tires for the extra comfort they afford. It's just a matter of selecting which ones. Well, one really. I'm set for my rear tire, WTB's excellent Riddler 2.4. Going wider in the back of my Mosaic would limit mud clearance more than I'd like. So it's down to which front tire. Top contenders include WTB's Ranger, Maxxis' Ikon and Chronicle and a new tire from Vee called the Rail Tracker. They're all promising. It'll come down to which rolls fastest and delivers a good balance of weight and durability.
Tomorrow I take delivery of a custom top tube bag made by Bolder Bikepacking's Greg Wheelwrright. It's a monster of a bag, but narrower than other options on the market so that it'll clear my knees a bit better. It'll hold much of my food. I'm pretty excited about it.
Also on the bag front I'm in the process of making a new front harness, much like the one I discussed in a past post on this site. The new one will have a third strap around the dry bag and the plastic will extend underneath to shield my shelter from the front tire and anything it might throw off while riding. I'm also going to use a strap and buckle around the head tube instead of the paracord I used on the first version. It should be a bit more robust.
Still deciding on clothing, namely shorts, for the ride. Thankfully it's a matter of picking between favorites. Giro's Chrono Expert and Rapha's Classic bibs are the front runners. All else is essentially what I've used in the past. Mont Bell rain gear and puffy vest, a wool long-sleeve baselayer, a light wind vest, Defeet Wooly gloves (new ones with the electronic touch feature), Craft arm/knee warmers, rain gloves from Aerostich, a favorite Pearl Izumi hat, and a wool Buff. New are a pair of Bontrager Stormshell Oversocks and Pearl Izumi toe covers. I'm also deciding between a couple helmets. It'll come down to comfort and which of them moves less with my Black Diamond Spot headlamp installed. Shoes are likely to be Specialized's newest S-Works 6 XC shoe. I can't get over the comfort and the light weight of them. I run Bontrager Race 7" Wool socks and still have room for oversocks.
Shelter and warmth are provided by an Enlightened Equipment quilt, a Sea-to-Summit Ultralight pad, an Exped pillow and a custom Borah Gear bivvy with a cuben bottom. All tried and true in my book.
Earlier this month I also spent time playing with the GPX track on RideWithGPS.com. Armed with my resupply list and a couple of finishing goals it was educational to game the route from several perspectives. Daily mileage is an obvious one. Daily elevation gain was more eye-opening. Mostly, it was helpful to run through the route and seeing how a couple miles here and there can get you to better shelter and hitting resupplies while they're open. A fellow bikepacking friend graciously shared his packing list and resupply list. It's always helpful to see another perspective on the route and its demands. This homework has me more comfortable with the route and served to inspire my training in the coming months.
I said to my wife on a walk the other day that I can't wait to get out there, to enjoy my time on the Divide, but also to finish the daunting challenge I've set for myself. It has become a quest of sorts, a means of self-discovery. But it's also taken a huge amount of time to prepare for and research the route in the hopes of completing it as quickly as possible. It'll be nice to have more time for touring, for hiking, for fun rides with friends. Of course, it's also possible that I'll go into major withdrawals afterwards. The preparation is part of the fun. And those who know me well know that I'm a planner. I love working the logistics. Only time will tell.
To my fellow racers, stay focused! We can do this! It's gonna get gnarly out there, but the work we put in now, both mental and physical, can get us through it. Good luck!