Friday, June 20, 2014

Tour Divide Race

Unbeknownst to me, as I have been following the Race Across AMerica (RAAM) and my brothers friend Dale, the Tour Dive race had also begun. This is the annual mountain bike race that starts in Banff Alberta (Canada) following the Continental Divide, and finishes on the Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Actually there are two different TD races: one going north to south, and one going south to north (if you look at the map and click on any racer, it will tell you if they are south or north-bound).

This race is 2475 miles long, over 300,000' of climbing, and is totally SELF supported! My brother thinks the RAAM is the hardest race in the world, but I beg to differ. I think the TD beats that hands down. Anybody who's ever ridden a Mt bike can attest that typically the miles are roughly two to one (ie: 20 miles on a MTB is roughly equivalent to 40 on the road bike). Of course, this is all dependent on the ride I suppose, as I've certainly done some MTB rides that were easily THREE to one! Not that the RAAM isn't hard, but you have total support day and night. Bad weather? Come on inside the support vehicle and wait it out. Your lights ran out of juice? No prob, we'll drive right behind you (which they do) from 7pm to 7am with you riding in the chase vehicle headlights (Greg called that "Direct Follow" which they are required to do when they ride after 7pm). Need some food? just sit in the easy chair and let the crew get it for you. Maybe take a nap on the bed in the vehicle. Or even a quick sponge-bath, and a change of riding kit. NONE of that on the TD, unless you carry it with you.

And I'm guessing the RAAM riders typically don't get bogged down waiting for a grizzly bear to move out of the trail. Or swarms of bugs. Or "Soul Sucking MUD" down in New Mexico as far as the eye can see. And that the RAAM route is pretty well laid out. The TD route (well, actually the TD follows the Great Divide Race route, or GDR) is totally written out on paper, and they make changes whenever they need to. It's easy to miss a turnoff, as you have zero support, it's just you and your bike. Your bike breaks? Fix it yourself (if you can), or ride/carry it to a bike shop, wherever the next one second (or third, or fourth bike waiting at your disposal on the follow vehicle, all nicely maintained by your personal mechanic). You want food? Ride to some and buy it, wherever that may be (a lot of racers fuel up with total crap food at gas station mini marts and such). You want water? Carry it yourself, or suffer the consequences. As I said...TOTALLY self supported. For 2475 miles of whatever nature throws your way. Does this sound like FUN to you? Me neither!

OK, OK you are saying to yourself. Get to it already. is a link to this years TD race leaderboard/map/racer follow link:

2014 Tour Divide Race

And if you are interested in any info on the race, here is the general link for that:

Tour Divide Race info

The current mens record was set 2 years ago (2012) by Jay Petervary (his wife has raced this also and she is an animal also btw). The current womens record is held by Ester Horanyi, also from the 2012 race. Iwas following it that year and it was apparent both Jay and Ester were going to crush the current records. Jill Homer (world famous blogger, her site is now called "Jill Outside", see my link on the right side of my blog) raced this back a few years before that and set the womens record at that time (she had never done anything like that before and thought she should give it a try). She wrote a book about it called "Be Brave, Be Strong" (which I have, she's a gifted writer AND her book gives an inside look at how utterly difficult something like this is). Normally Jill would have got me fired up for it ahead of time by posting a nice writeup about the upcoming race, including some info on the racers she knows (she IS famous in the crazy endurance world btw)...but THIS year she is currently riding her bike across South Africa in the Freedom Challenge (see her blog to check on her exploits).

ANYWAY, I was working up in Sunnyvale the year Jill raced it, and as I had been following her blog for years (it used to be called "Up in Alaska", when she was living in Juneau, and then Anchorage for a bit before moving to the states) and I was fascinated by the race that I had never heard of. She would leave short phone voice messages that we fans could listen to, which really made the race fun to follow!

And so, this years race is now in full swing, the current mens leader is Jefe Branham, and he's not too far off of Jay's record (there's a marker showing both the mens and womens record pace, as compared to the actual racers). And how is Ester's record holding up you ask? Well, let me tell you....her pace is AHEAD of everybody in the race except for Jefe! Yes...even ALL the men! That tells you how awesome Ester is!

Jefe is currently more than halfway thru Wyoming, and not too awfully far from pacing Jay's record. The next closest racer is a tandem team: Katie and Sam, and they aren't too far off of Ester's pace. There are 2 other racers already in Wyoming, and the rest of them are still in Montana but are getting close. Jefe is the only racer past the half way point (he's just under 1400 miles). Most of these racers who are trying for any kind of a record ride about the same hours as the RAAM folk do: around 20 hours a day. However I must say that is a TOTALLY different animal being self supported.

OK, that's enough on the TD race (for now).

AS to the RAAM, a new mens record was set by the same man who won last year: Christoff Strasser (the new record is 7 days, 15 hours and I forget how many minutes). Greg met him (and got his pic taken with him down in San Diego before the race). I'm still hoping Greg will write his crewing story and let me guest-post it...Jeannie and I are having dinner with him and his wife tomorrow down in Santa Barbara, and I can't wait to hear some of it!

Oh, here's the RAAM link again (just in case you don't want to go looking for it..go ahead, I KNOW you're just dying to look!:

2014 RAAM

Dale (#493) had been holding second in his age group (50-59) most of the way across the country, but has just recently slipped to third. He is currently at 2738 miles, with only 284 to go! He's past the ten day finish he was shooting for, but he's going to be pretty close!

And with that I'll sign off with a big shout-out to the Mens World Cup Soccer team! Hang in there guys! What an amazing tournament the World Cup is!



  1. Just quick - I hope to write more tomorrow or Friday but JENSIE is going to the Tour ONE MORE TIME! Whoo-hoooooooo!

    1. and I echo your Whoo-hoooooooo!

      And I'll up your Whoo-hooooooo to WHOO-HOOOOOOO!

  2. R-O-C-K IN THE USA! R-O-C-K IN THE USA! :) :) :) The USMNT laughs in the face of (the Group of) death! Crank up the Gloria Gaynor!

  3. Holy cats, team USA moves into the knockout round! And Ghana goes HOME! Take THAT! (after doing it to us 2 years in a row). Saw the final 15 minutes of the game was nail-biting! Germany sure was controlling the ball, but they were more interested in running out the clock...and the 2 chances right at the end were heartbreaking! I think if that kick had been to the top corner instead of on the ground it might have gone thru...but hey...would have, should have...we'll never know...they sure gave it their all and it's good enough to go on....woo-HOO!!!!

  4. It's Sunday morning, June 29th. Jefe Branham is about to finish the 2014 Tour Divide race just about 7 hours short of Jay Petervary's 2012 record. He has 18 miles left to Antelope Wells, NM. His stats are just amazing to me: the distance he rode will be just over 2800 miles (on a Mt bike!), he held a 174 mile per day average for just a hair over 16 days (Jay's record was 15 days 15 hours I think). I'll update this with his actual finish time when I get back from breakfast...way to go JEFE!!!

  5. Jefe did indeed win this years TD race this morning, and his amazing race statistics are as follows:

    He finished on 06/29/14 @ 10:56am (Mountain time), overall mileage was an awesome 2735 miles (keep in mind the actual route miles is 2475, so the extra mileage was him going off-course for necessary things like food, water and shelter, bike repairs/etc).

    His overall finish time was 16 days, 2 hours and 55 minutes, with an actual Moving Time of 12 days, 3 hours and 21 minutes and a stopped time of 3 days 23 hours and 34 minutes.

    His overall average speed over that entire time was 7.1mph (including stopped time), and his Moving Average Speed was 9.4 mph.

    His final distance per day ended up at 169.64 miles, and he is first place out of the 133 starting riders.


    Does this sound like something fun that you'd like to do? (this question is for everybody BUT Jill Homer). Not to me neither.

    WAY TO GO JEFE! (and that shout-out goes to all the others who valiantly even have the guts to start out on an adventure like this). Just unbelievable to me that anybody can do such a thing.

    And just a thought to keep in mind: even this isn't enough for a very select few out there. It was last year I believe that a man (can't remember his name just now which is sad and I humbly apologize to that man!) who started at the southern end, rode all the way up to the finish at Banff, then turned around and went back south doing the entire course back to back in both know, for the FULL TD experience. That man must be independently wealthy, has no job, AND is in SUPREME mental and physical condition. All of these people are my hero's.

    Jefe missed Jay's record after all that riding by a bit under 9 hours (which still stands at 15 days, 16 hours and 14 minutes). And Estzer's record is quite safe this year for the ladies, standing at 19 days, 3 hours and 35 minutes (which looks to be faster than all but TWO of the men this year: Jefe and the man currently in 2nd place by the name of Calvin Decker, who still has a day or more to the finish...hope I didn't JINX you Calvin!)

    Anyway, everybody (who hasn't yet scratched) is still out on the course, keep watching this amazing race as we come down to just a WEEK before the start of THE Tour de France! It's coming FAST NOW!!!

  6. Hello all! First of all - HOORAY for Jens! Smart decision by his team!

    I was sucked into the black hole of getting our house ready to put on the market - it was all consuming and exhausting but it is now on the market and we've had a handful of showings. The problem now is the upkeep - while we're all still living here and the kids are constantly undoing what I've been doing! We will be purchasing my folks' house which is just outside of town and has 13 acres. This is where my horses are and it had been our plan all along to buy the house when they were ready to move to a smaller place. They found a house that they want and now we just need to find the right people for our place. It is a genuinely beautiful 1930 home with all of its original hardwood floors, built-in cabinets with leaded glass, open staircase, etc. We're crossing our fingers that it doesn't take too long to find a buyer so that we can get things moving along and know where to enroll the kids in school by fall. computer crashed when I updated the OS and I haven't had time to deal with it. Finally went up to work and brought home my laptop from school so I had something besides my phone to use! I hate it when technology doesn't cooperate - and that is what I do for a living.

    I'm getting excited for the Tour to begin!! Haven't had much time to think of it until the last couple of days. I did watch the Dauphine ( a week or two later) and THAT was really exciting. That last day was one of the most exciting days of racing I can remember watching. Fantastic.

    Was so sorry to read about the cancer in one of the other dogs, Matt. Gosh that is so hard to watch and try to help them through. I'm so happy that it seems to have been a full recovery. Are things still going well with her?

    For those of you from the original baby turned 5 last week! Wow......where does the time go?

    Hoping for a thrilling TDF and the chance to chat with you all :)

  7. Hey Janann, welcome back! Was worried you had fallen into a black hole or something! Congrats on getting the house ready to sell...that is a huge undertaking...especially WITH kids (and it being an old house). Jeanine wants a place with property (for horses) so bad she can taste it...but not gonna happen out here in Cali...ludicrous expensive. Horses will have to wait until we retire (somewhere else).

    Boy, le tour is coming FAST now!!! This weekend will be a whirlwind....hoping to ride all 3 days of the long weekend, AND watch the Tour, AND not totally neglect and ignor Jeannie and the babies (Sweet Pea is doing GREAT after her surgery btw, thanks for asking. Sydney just started a steroid treatment...she's the one who was paralyzed 4 or so years back...well, she's been losing coordination/control of the left legs on a seemingly increasing pace lately...the rear is the we are praying steroids will slow/turn it around some and give her a few more years...we'll know soon enough). And 3 legged PG is still the queen of the roost/empress of all she surveys...and doing quite well.

    Anyway, good luck selling the house and with the sweet living on 13 acres WITH your horses...and great for the kids too! And also, HOLY CATS....FIVE YEARS OLD already? OMG! I'm getting old FAST!!

  8. OH...and before I forget...Calvin Decker (2nd place in the Tour Divide Race) is about to finish...he's got 20 miles to go, should finish around 2:30 pm today (Pacific time). Way to go CALVIN!!!!

  9. I love the update on the fur babies, Matt. So glad that Sweet Pea and PG are doing so well!! Hope the steroids work for Sydney - you have really had a wide variety of experiences with those guys. Crossing my fingers for a good outcome :)

    We are super-lucky to be able to "take over" for my folks at that place. It has a view of the Mississippi and tons of wildlife. I can't imagine what that would cost someplace like CA or Seattle - yeow. One benefit to living where we do for sure! Remind me of that when I'm complaining of the COLD this winter ;)

    Speaking of that - we were shopping for an all-wheel drive vehicle today. I think we've settled on the Subaru Forrester and will try to get the deal made tomorrow. We'll need it when winter comes and we're trying to navigate the country lane!

    On a different topic......
    I was paying my credit card bill tonight and saw a $2622 charge to Air France. For a minute I thought "wow, maybe I AM going to the Tour!" but then saw that it had also been credited back to the card. Hmmmmmm. Called Discover and they couldn't figure out why it had been credited back - it was very weird. Have to get a new card now, just to be safe. Just another thing to worry about!

    Anyone else participate in Velogames for the TDF? I just picked a team last night.

  10. Howdy, howdy! I've been trying to get here all week to chat! So much to say. Thanks again, Matt for your write-up & pics of the ToC, they were GREAT! And so sorry to hear about Sweet Pea, but glad she is on the mend. You & Jeannie take such devoted care of your doggies, it breaks my heart to read whenever they have a health issue.

    And JANANN! So happy to see you here. I meant to write in a few weeks ago when you mentioned you were putting your house on the market, but life/work just hasn't been cooperating. (Nope, still no home internet or computer).And NO, your BABY can not be 5! That must be in dog years! :) :) Question - the 1930 house - is that your current house or the one you will be moving into? Did you grow up there too or did your parent move there later? Will your parents still be nearby?

    Can you BELIEVE the TDF starts in 2 days?! I'm excited but still torn about the sport, just like last year. Once again, I'll be rooting for, gulp, CONTADOR! And Talansky, I like that guy. Anybody but Froome & Team Sky, the biggest FRAUDS in the peloton. Still not a fan of Tejay. I was hoping that maybe he'd matured & I'd have another GC guy to root for, but I saw a bit of the Tour Preview the other night & there he was, actually trying to blame his TEAM for the LOUSY ride he did last year. Happy that Horner will be there, but worried about him too after that horrendous training accident. Hey, wasn't it a SHOCK that Garmin left David Millar off their Tour team?! I thought it was totally shitty. This is the guy's FINAL season, he'd already written a few things about his "last Tour ride", HE was one of the original Slipstream guys that helped get the team INTO the Tour when they 1st got to Europe a few years ago, & that's how they treat him? Plus, I'd thought he was part owner? Remember that when the team became more than a "development team" & CVV, Zabriske, & Millar moved over to that team from CSC? It's not like Garmin has a chance to actually win the Tour this year. Plus, they could use his experience & knowledge. Anyway, I was more shocked about this omission than Jensie's inclusion, although HAPPY-shocked about the latter.

  11. About the World Cup - LOVING it! So sad the USA is out of it now, but WHAT a RIDE! Before it began, I'd read & believed all the soccer "experts" that we had NO shot of getting out of the Group of Death. So, I strapped in for an 'It's a Small World' ride for this World Cup. Well, hell's bells, we went on Splash Mountain instead! If we'd actually gotten past Belgium to the quarters, it would have been Space Mountain for sure! And have you seen the 'Men in Blazers' guys? LOVE them! Wish I'd been able to watch their full videocasts each day on ESPN, but can't sneak that much time here at work.

    And Matt, I'd heard of RAAM, but not the Tour Divide. I cannot imagine riding that much EVERY day, especially up MOUNTAINS! How can they keep from getting saddle sores?! And did you convince your brother to do a write-up of his adventure at RAAM? Would love to read it.

    And finally, who is everybody's Tour picks? I'll be rooting for Cav in the sprints as I'm hoping he'll be able to set a new record in # of Tour stage wins either this year or next. That would be awesome. Last year, he had some bad luck & for the past couple years, he hadn't had a decent sprint train. Now that he's back with his Aussie leadout man, I'm hoping for multiple "fanks to the fellas" by Cav at the finish line.

    Also, what do you think really happened to Andy Schleck these past 3 years? Another year has passed & he still seems nowhere near the rider he used to be. I hate to say this, but you KNOW how this looks! Like his dominance (along with AC's) had to have been PED enhanced. I'll be rooting for him (not to podium really but to have a decent Tour), as I like the guy & LOVE a good redemption story!

  12. Oh, & I'll be even MORE frantic about the 1st few days of the Tour as I've read the British roads are even MORE narrow & MORE twisty!

    And can you believe there is only ONE time trial?! No TTT & not even a Prologue! Heck, if Andy was his old self, this Tour would have his name on it!

  13. Hey Susie! Glad to be chatting again. STILL no home internet?!?!? ;)
    The house I live in right now is a 1930 house with just gorgeous wood throughout. The one we're moving into is @ 1950 limestone ranch house w/ stone fireplace, pocket doors, very classic 1950s. My folks moved there when I was in college and I lived there after college until I could find a teaching job. My folks have purchased a ranch house that is one bluff over from ours - about 3 mins! They can have everything on one floor and not have the property to care for there. Now.....if we could get the right people to come look at our house!

    I was laughing as I read your comment about the Tour because I feel exactly the same way and have the same attitude. I just finished my Fantasy Tour team picks and went with Contador (grudgingly). I love Talansky and am really cheering hard for him! There is something about Froome and Sky that turns me off - I can't even put my finger on exactly what it is - but I didn't ever think I'd be cheering for AC again. I really hate that there is not a TTT and why only one TT? I also feel the same way about Tejay. I want to like him, but his attitude often turns me off. I'm hoping that Cav takes some sprints again too!

    A friend of mine from high school was heading over to England for the Tour yesterday and her flights were cancelled due to the hurricane and she got stuck in Philly! I felt SO awful for her, stuck in Philly with no luggage, no hotel room and no hope for making the start of the Tour :( She did get on a plane finally tonight, so will hopefully get to see the remaining stages in her plan.

    Oh, and I was really surprised that Millar was left off of the Tour team. I did think that he was part owner. Maybe JV really thinks that Talansky has a shot at GC? Unexpected decision for certain. What HAS happened to the Schlecks? I would love love love to see them get their form back and make a good showing. Glad that they're there together - they seem to do better that way. I'm watching the Tour preview right now. Getting excited!!

    A few short hours and the race will be ON!

  14. Oh - and Happy Independence Day all!!