Tour Divide starts on Friday!

Well I wasn’t too good about sharing training updates and all of a sudden the Tour Divide is a short few days from starting.  I started my training with a lot of miles on the road to build base miles. I rode El Tour de Mesa and the Tour de Cure which really help me get back my form.  I also rode a hard 200k, a 300k and part of a 400k.  On the 400k I didn’t keep up with my electrolytes, wound up with some bad cramping and DNF’d.  Bit of a yellow flag for the Tour Divide.  

After the 400k I transitioned to primarily training on my full rigid Niner.  The first trip was a quick over nighter with Leonard Zito from Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt Lake, up the back side of Four Peaks, camp at the top and return via the Beeline Highway the next morning.

It was a great learning experience.  The rough road kept causing my bag straps to come loose so I had to figure out how to get them secured. We refilled water at Roosevelt Lake, but didn’t bring enough to get all the way home, lesson learned is to carry more water than you think you need.  In the morning I had no energy and Leonard was kind enough to share his electrolyte drink. My legs came back quickly after drinking that.  I had only been drinking water and that’s just not good enough, so I will be carrying an electrolyte mix with me on the Divide.

My next training trip was a solo ride across the Mogollon Rim.  I parked at my brother’s house  in Show Low, rode to FR300 and followed that all the way to SR87 outside of Strawberry.  I took one wrong turn on the way out that added about 8 miles, but I’ll be following the Tour Divide route on my bike computer so I’m not anticipating a problem with Navigation.  That trip went really well. The only real problem was that I ran out of water at SR87 where I had planned to turn around.  The closest water was in Strawberry so I went down the hill. I could have ridden the 11 miles back up to the top of the rim, but decided to get a room, get cleaned up and have a nice dinner.

The climb out of Strawberry was a hard 6% pretty much constant for 11 miles. I was pleased that I didn’t have an issue riding up. There were a couple spots that tipped up to 8-10% and I’d get off and hike-a-bike up those.  Same thing when I got back on FR300. If the road tipped up over 6%, I’d walk.  Slow but steady progress.  In my lowest gear I ride at 4.5 mph. I walk at 3-3.5 mph.  The way back also had some really hard cross wind. I took my time and finished strong. 2 nights camping and one night in a hotel.  Key lesson on this ride was to be flexible and change you plan based on what you need at the time.

I was feeling pretty confident after the Mogollon Rim, so I decided to make a more challenging route as an out and back starting in Sedona, going up Schnebly Hill, crossing I-17 and following various forest roads to Lower Lake Mary, camp at Marshall Lake, go through Winona, pass through the Cinder Hills and pass by Sunset Crater, go to the endo of Shultz pass, turn around, find another place to camp then turn around and go back the way I came.  Good plan, right?

The ride up Schnebly Hill really wasn’t bad. I was following a route on my Garmin computer, so I never got too far off route.  The first problem was that there was a big snowstorm the weekend before my ride. The temp had really come up, but there were several sections of deep mud that I couldn’t ride through, so I got some good hike-a-bike practice.  I got to the store at Lake Mary just before the store closed. So I was able to refill fluids, get an early dinner and use the hose outside to wash the mud off my bike before heading to Marshall Lake.

Marshall Lake is where the real problem started. The area had a thick clay that clinger to my wheels and just kept building up until the tires literally wouldn’t turn.  I spent a lot of time scraping mud off my tires and walking until I found a flat spot to setup camp.

The next morning I wound up carrying my bike for a bit over a mile to get through that section.  There were a few more spots where I had to carry it, but I learned how to be comfortable carrying a fully loaded mountain bike! So great learning experience.

I made it through Winona and to the Cinder Hills OHV area pretty quickly, then my progress went way down.  Cinders are a lot like sand…deep sand.  I wasn’t able to ride very much through that section.  Walking definitely takes more out of you than riding. When I got to the road leading to Sunset Crater I took a break to enjoy the afternoon for a bit.  I knew I needed food and I was running low on water so I decided to change my plans and hit a Subway just outside of Flagstaff and spend the night at my friends Dave and Jackie Flake’s house.

I knew a storm was expected later in the week, but when I checked the forecast it showed a wind advisory expected with 40-50mph gusts and potential for hard rain in the afternoon.  I knew I didn’t want to go through the Cinder Hills again, nor did I want to deal with that clinging mud so I decided to take the express route through Flagstaff and ride the pavement back down to Sedona. It was a quick 45 mile ride and I got back to my jeep right about noonish.

Unfortunately between regular daily training rides and my training bike packing trips my small chainring wore out and caused my chain to get sucked up between the crank and chainstay, crushing part of the carbon on the chain stay.  Thanks to Mike Cox at Curbside Cyclery for getting that fixed for me! My bike was in the shop for about a week, but came back good as new!

I planned to do one more multi-day bike packing trip, but knew that might be tough with some family events. I had hoped to do that ride the week it wound up in the shop, so I decided to shorted that ride to be a quick over nighter leaving my house, riding through Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt and see how close I could get to Young.  I thought I knew this route, so I didn’t load it on my Garmin.  

I had planned to go through part of Bulldog Canyon and take a dirt bypass to get closer to Saguaro Lake and avoid some pavement. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn that took me up a super steep hill that deadended at a campsite.  When I tried to ride back down, I wasn’t far enough back on the saddle or my front tire hit something and I wound up doing an endo. Sprained a couple fingers pretty bad on my left hand and road rashes on bothe knees and my right shoulder.  

Nothing seriously injured, but I had trouble riding with my hand, so I turned around and headed home.  Not much of a training ride, but better to heal and be at 100% for the big ride instead of risking further injury.

Last week we had some family trips planned so I wasn’t able to ride at all. Forced recovery time. I’ll be well rested and ready to ride this Friday in Banff!  My bike is all packed and ready to go! 👍😊

    1 comment to Tour Divide starts on Friday!

    • Eddy

      Great ride reports. Cheering you on in the Tour Divide. Go get ’em Mike, you’re an inspiration to us Clydesdales!