Tour Divide 2011: Day 1 (Banff to Elkford)

On July 2, 2011 by Nathan Jones

After enjoying about 4 hours of dark/sleep time a few miles outside Banff, Peri and I drove into town and got some coffee and I did some last minute facebooking. I decided that I wouldn’t be ready to leave with the advanced 7:50 AM mass start and also wanted to spend some more time with Peri before leaving her for weeks! Also I didn’t want to deal with anybody who had a race face mentality, leads me to a sort of group thinking spatz mode and I wanted no part in that. So we drove to the trailhead, Peri heated up breakfast while I got the bike put together. I paused for a sec to harass the TD racers as they passed by, they were unfazed. Here is a video.

After scarfing down some tofu scramble it was time to say goodbye and hit the trail. But wait, a spectator had come to watch the proper scheduled start at 9:00 AM. Well turns out it was Tony Huston who had flown all the way from Houston, TX and had not been informed of the proper start time. Mostly absurd, kind of hilarious, and a bit of a bummer, but hey that’s divide racing if you ask me so… Tony snapped a pic of me still sporting the OGC gear.

Credit: Tony Huston

Tony was clearly following self imposed fan rules and made his conversation brief with me, knowing full well that a divide racer really doesn’t have time to chat no matter how much they would like to. It was a bummer because I was already ready to crack a beer and start shooting the shit, but that’s life on the divide, gotta MOVE!

As I’m getting ready one of the riders from the pack comes along, Paul from the UK/Germany, he had forgotten his “mobile” at the YWCA and had elected to go back and get it before riding across the country, smart move Paul! A rather cool guy named Bob from Virginia also elected to start late, I had the opportunity to lend him my floor pump before we darted off into the woods. Bob was a cool dude let me tell you.

So Peri snapped some pics. This one says, almost ready.

This one says rather mutedly, “Yup, here we go.”

And then one last pic with Peri to bring with me.

I made my way onto a singletrack trail and waved at Peri until I could see her no more. It was rough but I didn’t tear up, so that at least meant I was off to a good start. So out of 68 racers I was second to last on the trail as Paul still hadn’t made his way back with his “mobile”. It was a good feeling know that I was doing the chasing. I saw a ginormous elk about 8 feet tall withiin the first hour or so, pretty crazy. After a couple hours Paul had caught back up to me, he shared some stories about his custom packs and how he’s working on some sort of business involving them (ortlieb maybe?), I was starting to hit the first lowpoint of the day and didn’t really care too much at the time. We rode up the Smith Dorrian Spray road until running back into Tony again, we yelled/waved at eachother but I was too lost in race mode to even stop to yack, my brain was hell bent on catching up with the pack after starting late and I just recently had caught a couple racers so I was “ON”. I pushed for a good 50 miles and went through a crappy mud section before finally reaching a nice spot for a video.

Some vid of a river and a mountain and me ranting.

I pedaled along for a bit and then shot another rant/video.

The snow section turned out to be a non issue, it was muddy and some parts were deep slushy snow but it was your typical divide grab bag of course conditions. I like it when it’s diverse like that. After that was a 40 mile cruise to Elkford. I saw four black bears in the span of a couple hours, they seemed like the were scared and ran off. Black bears seem like no big deal, glad I haven’t run into any grizzlies. The roads to Elkford were rolling and mostly uninteresting in comparison to what I had just seen in Alberta. I was relieved to be through the first of the dreaded snow sections and cruised into town around 11PM. I was unaware of my exact placing until I talked to my parents at Roosville the next day. I judged at least 15 bikes at the Elkford campground so I knew I at least caught the back of the pack. This put me at about 46th place for the day, not bad since I started one spot of last! I bivvied quickly and plotting my morning attack, “How early can I get up, how quick can I get moving, and how many people can I drop?” It felt good to be racing on the divide as opposed to my solo effort last year. It was cool to be able to measure yourself against other nutjobs who ride bikes in the middle of nowhere for no pay and little recognition. I feel asleep pretty much instantly despite the fact that there was a major podunk town drinkathon going on at the bar/hotel across the street. They were loud and drunk, but I was exhausted, score one for me!

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