The drive to Idaho from Colorado’s Front Range is not a short one at nearly 10 hours. On the way up, I decided to break it up and play tourist along the way. The quickest route takes you through Pinedale, Wyoming, a town on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Nearby are Atlantic City and South Pass City, both also on the route, but a little off the beaten track. As a lover of history, especially the history of the American West, I decided to tack on an extra hour of driving and explore both towns, especially the preserved ghost town of South Pass City. It was worth every additional minute.
Here are some photos:
After exploring a bit, I drove on and checked into the Gannett Peak Lodge in Pinedale. I highly recommend this little motel. The rooms are recently renovated and the staff accommodates Continental Divide thru hikers and GDMBR riders with flying colors. My room had a microwave, coffee maker, refrigerator, and even a rag for wiping chains. I did a short yoga routine to help with loosen up after the drive and walked to a local Mexican joint for dinner. Man, they don’t mess around with portion size in Wyoming!
The next day I drove on, making my way through Jackson and over Teton Pass to Victor, Driggs, Ashton, and arrived at Ponds Lodge in Island Park. It was a gorgeous day and after saying hello to Jay and Tracey, I kitted up and rolled out for a ride. Here’s a quick video from the opening couple miles of the race course.
After doing some openers, short efforts to get your system primed, I rolled back to the lodge and changed. Now, I have to fess up that I made some changes to my bike after I posted on what I would ride. Because of the area’s volcanic gravel and rocks, I decided to put on a set of 650b Boyd Jocassee wheels with a Continental Race King 2.2 up front and a Ritchey Shield WCS 2.1 on the back. With rain in the forecast, I also added a rear fender and a small Ortlieb seat pack to carry additional rain gear and moved my spares to a storage bottle on the underside of the down tube.
I checked in at registration and stuck around for the rider’s meeting and dinner. Jay spoke and then Ben Weaver played a couple tunes that really resonated with me. If you haven’t heard of Ben, he’s a poet, singer/songwriter, activist who travel to his gigs by bicycle. Salsa sponsors the Minnesota-based family man and I was happy to share a post-race meal with him the next day.
After hanging with some friends around a campfire, I headed for some sleep at my accommodation. The next morning came quickly. The 7am start was chilly and I resisted the temptation to pile on the layers. I knew that soon I’d be working hard trying to keep up with the fast guys.
After a beautiful poem by Ben Weaver, Jay led us out aboard an ATV. It was still fairly dark as we raced our way around the large puddles. At the exit of the first section, there were seven of us in the lead. After 10 miles, the race turned onto a long, paved climb and that’s when I backed off, needing to recover from the start effort. I rode my race and was soon joined by a couple other racers.
Because of snow in the higher parts of course, Petervary altered the course. This meant that we would see several sections on more than one occasion. It was the second time down a quick descent that I was distanced by my fellow riders. I rode solo to the next couple aid stations and caught several of them on the long approach to Two Top.
Once we turned onto the narrower ATV trail it was every man for himself. The going was slow for me with the pitch outdoing my gearing on several occasions. Thankfully I’m a fan of a good hike-a-bike. Riding when I could, walking when I needed to, the weather at the highest point on the course looked menacing. We made our way over some deadfall and through some shallow snow and descended into a wetlands area. Mercifully Jay laid down a plank over the widest water crossing. I managed to exit the section with only mildly wet feet.
As I made my way downhill, the rain began to fall and it didn’t stop until late that night. I took pains to eat and drink and stopped at one point to grab a pair of waterproof gloves from my seat pack. I also threw on a rain jacket over my waterproof jersey to ward off the dropping temperatures. For the last couple hours I rode solo, stopping at the last aid station for some warm broth and a few bites of food. My computer read 37 degrees and that combined with the rain meant that it was best to continue to push the pace. That, and it was a race afterall.
Once I finished, I rolled back to the Lodge with Aaron Couch, who had finished just ahead of me. It was time to get dry and get fed. A towel and change of clothes helped with the first bit, but the power was out at the Lodge and the kitchen had closed because of it. Thankfully after eating the rest of my ride food, the power was back. Ben Weaver and I shared some poutine and then I tucked into a burger and fries.
The awards ceremony was quick and well celebrated. I was especially happy with my 12th place finish: far from the podium, but closer than usual. It was a fantastic day with 9.5 hours in the saddle. I met plenty of great folks, as you can expect at most gravel events. Jay and Tracey put on a killer event. In fact, they have me pondering a go at the Fat Pursuit this winter…