2019 TOUR DIVIDE - 30 DAY FLAG
July 4th on the TOUR DIVIDE
In the past, most of the Tour Divide racers try to be near the finish line in Antelope Wells by July 4th to avoid the typical monsoon weather that hits the southern part of the route during that time. The rains create a muddy mess that can be at best challenging and most times impassable. This year's start date puts many racers still on route after the 4th of July and they're hopeful that the monsoon season holds off for a bit.
Although all the of racers have their own reasons and motivations for setting out on the Tour Divide. The race itself has some motivators. We may watch the racer's dots move from north to south but the racers also watch the indicator flags. These flags are either current standing times or they indicate a number of days out on route from the start. The front racers set their sights on the flags of the previous fastest times. The racers towards the back end focus on keeping the 30 day flag in their rearview mirror. Racers need to be inside the 31 day window to keep their dots registering either blue or pink otherwise it will turn orange on day 31.
At this point, the front end of the race has been very well documented. I look forward to viewing more coverage from those efforts in the future. I set out yesterday to catch up with some the racers riding hard to stay ahead of the 30 day flag. All of the racers being motivated by that particular flag were somewhere between Salida and Del Norte. The day was quite hot in the high 80's and the wind was very active.
The first racers I caught up with where on their way up to Marshall Pass from Poncha Springs. I went up the road a ways to wait for three racers that were just ahead of the 30 day flag. Since it was the 4th of July there was a fair amount of traffic on the main road as well as the dirt section. I hung out with some people enjoying a day of fishing and lounging by the creek. I told them a bit about the Tour Divide and they were impressed as most people are when they hear about it. The first of the three racers to appear was Jim Raddatz from Ontario Canada.
The next two racers were one behind the other Joey King from Wisconsin and Mikki Suvia from California. They just rode on by. They seemed to be riding in their comfort zones and enjoying the cooler temps of the morning.
I headed towards Del Norte to find the other racers that had spent the night between Salida and close to Del Norte. Upon arrival I checked the trackleaders site to find out a few had already headed up towards Indiana Pass and a few others having breakfast at a local restaurant and the remainder were making their way to Del Norte. As I fueled up the car and grabbed some snacks for my adventure of the day Nathan Franklin pulled up to the centralized gas station to fuel up before heading towards Abiquiu over Indiana Pass, the highest point of the route. Nathan regrettably was not a dot on the trackleaders site but did start at the Grand Departure. He has made a lot of discoveries this year that he will not repeat when he comes back next year. He's a road racer in Arizona so fortunately he understands the need for proper fueling so his cockpit was set up for easy consumption but some of his other choices can withstand some improvements. He made his own bags the week before which are working well but needs some tweaking and he's carrying a 12lbs tent, that for sure will change for next year. One thing that he commented on was the amount of fatigue that gets compounded after 15 days. His goal for next year is to be more efficient and faster.
Before leaving cell service I checked out trackleaders site again to get my bearings on the route and get a list of riders heading my way and their whereabouts. One of the benefits of Mike Dion's movie Ride the Divide and other bikepacking coverage has inspired many cyclist to set out on their own adventures whether it's riding the entire route or portions of it. The first riders I encountered were three guys doing just that I'd seen before on a previous outing just outside of Radium. They departed from Steamboat and are heading to Antelope Wells. After six days of riding I think they have a new found respect for all of the Tour Divide racers.
Heading northbound out of Del Norte the next racers I came across were Bonnie Gagnon and Gary Larvick from Minnesota. They're one of a few married couples I've seen this year, they train together and adventure together. They stopped very briefly before continuing on their way. My goal was not to interrupt anyones flow. Some people feel like chatting and others simply keeping trucking along. As I've done before I took a few photos of their cockpits and off they went.
This route is absolutely gorgeous, so while waiting for the dots to become actual racers sight seeing and hiking around is a bonus. I watched this group of big horn sheep exploring their playground.
After kicking back and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings for a few hours Hal came cruising down the route.
At 70 years young, Hal Russell is in his 6th Tour Divide. This is farewell Tour. He's currently ahead of the 30 flag and also ahead of the 70+ record. Without a doubt he's a reason I headed to Del Norte. This race has been there for him and he has been there for the race. Do yourself a favor and listen to the Bike or Death Podcast with him as the guest. Patrick Farnworth also interviewed a few other Tour Divide notables: Alexandera Huochin, Sofiane Sehili, and Lael Wilcox.
Of course, he stopped and gave me his famous smile.
We enjoyed a chat, he shared his day, which was challenging because of the heat. He was so thankful for all of the people meeting him on route to just say hi because as he says, "it's all about connections". He likes to ride alone, sleeps about 5 hrs per night and rides about 100+ miles a day. He simply enjoys the TOUR DIVIDE. How cool would it be for him to end in Antelope Wells with the 30 day flag in his rearview mirror and a flag with his time for others to set their sites on in the future.
I love that everyone's cockpit is different. Also most have racers have some type of motivating object or saying on their bikes, notice Hal's wrist band, DIG DEEP.
Hal's goal for the night was to make it a little ways up Indiana Pass before getting some rest, which he did.
Hal Russell is a legend.
All of the racers that were ahead of the 30 day flag are still ahead of it today. Please join me in wishing them dry roads and awesome tailwinds to carry them all the way into Antelope Wells.
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