Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Stressing up for the Tour Divide

Once I convinced myself that I wanted to be on the June 9 start line there were a few things to consider and organize.  The seed in my mind basically sprouted last year after following the race and reading a few accounts.  Anita’s suspicions were aroused when oddball items started arriving in the post; unusually large frame bags, handlebar roll, an odd looking handlebar, a book and a set of maps.  She helped things along by giving me a spot tracker for Xmas, ostensibly so we wouldn’t disappear without trace in the Jugungal wilderness over the new year period.

In my mind’s eye I would have everything sorted by mid April, allowing an assortment of test runs under various conditions before the real thing. 

Life has a way of shaking things up a little.  Jan/Feb/March were pretty full on at work, wrangling refinement of huge datasets, submitting numerous structures to the databank and writing manuscripts.  Planning essentially stalled, although a few more bits of kit rolled in, and some bike issues came to light.   The press-fit bottom bracket housing on the frame was shot, the half-frame bag was too obstructive of bidon cage positions, and both gear and hydraulic lines would have to be lengthened in order for things to fit on the new-fangled bars.  Hence, quite a bit of wrenching and re-wrenching, and a custom framebag was hastily ordered.

In late April Anita dragged me to the travel agent to book tickets and a day later she went over the handlebars on a benign stretch of fire road, highlighting just how quickly things can go terribly wrong.  Then, three weeks later, in the middle of May, she collapsed with a pulmonary embolism and had a week-long stint in the ICU.  At this point my appetite for more adventure had pretty much bottomed out and I was ready to chuck the whole thing in.

But just weeks later here I am, only days from departure, and everything is mostly under control, thanks in no small part to Anita convincing me I could still go, and sorting out a myriad of non-bike technical details that I struggle with.  That said, I haven’t had too many solid night’s sleep over the last month, no doubt making me (more) difficult to live with.  Other things that had to be sorted included multiple flat car tyres, car rego, bank cards expiring whilst abroad, travel SIM, and issues with GPX files, water bladders, bottom brackets, wheel building (built the rear one twice), bike transport, tyres, and sourcing spare bolts for pretty much every component.  Not to mention whittling down the riding kit, bivy kit, working out how to fit it all on the bike, and agonizing over “hope-to-hell-I-don't-need-this” items. 

As I contemplate deconstructing it all into bike box #2 (thanks Sara!), and after a few trips of riding loaded to the gunnels (Thanks Mikey!), I have some portage numbers;

Me + std riding gear; 68 + 2 = 70 kg.
Bike empty (zero water/food) = 21.5 kg (bike stripped 10 flat)
Backpack (zero water/food) = 4 kg.
Total = approx. 95.5 kg.  So fully loaded close to 100 kg, as compared to approx.  81 kg were I lining up for a 7 hr race.

And yes, I can confirm that the bike handles like a truck.  Anything both vaguely technical and uphill will require a walk.  But it is comfortable, probably a bit over-packed, and I should be able to shed some weight come the half way point as heat replaces cold (and bears) as the main concern.

I’m somewhere between excitement and sheer terror, not helped by news of an early re-route in the Canadian sector (downed bridges) involving what looks to be ~5 kms of unrideable 10% hike-a-bike through slides of baby heads and basketballs to throw my predicted schedule asunder, and almost guaranteeing there’ll be a bit of sleeping with bears early on.  To meet Anita at the prescribed date on the Mexican boarder three weeks later I’ll need to average 220 km and 2700m vert /day.  I don't see it as a race, but a journey of discovery; new terrain, vegetation, fauna, silhouettes, horizons, constellations, and a physical challenge I hope I’m up to, and no doubt befriending some interesting characters along the way.  Not to mention satiating whatever masochistic tendencies I still harbour. The side-burns are ready - I hope the rest of me is too. 

Hooroo all!

Kicks off June 9

Friday, 5 May 2017

More gravel tasting

This time in the ACT, in the form of the Centenary Trail.  Anita might have taken things a little too literally, and ended up inspecting the brand spankers ER at Canberra Hospital.   Amazingly, nothing broken. Eventually Ben and I did make the full loop, although there wasn’t much to see for the first third.  Thanks to Ham, Lisa and Cheryl for looking after the fallen soldier on the second morning whilst we did our lap.  Heal well Mudgey!