Saturday, 9 July 2016

Tour Divide 2016 - Canadian Section

After some photos and chat in front of the Banff YWCA the ride out to the start commenced. Sarah was waiting at the trailhead for a last goodbye - I stopped for a quick hug and kiss and then set off down the trail.

For a while I was in the middle of a big bunch of riders, but within a few miles this had thinned out. The rain started and set in pretty hard. I stopped to add a waterproof jacket, probably leaving it a little longer than I should have done.

By the time I arrived at the Bolton Trading Post 60 miles in I was cold and soaked. I grabbed a coffee and a microwaved sandwich and put on some more clothes. Then I set off over the Elk Pass which included the first steep uphill push of the ride. After a while the rain eased off and there was a chance to enjoy the scenery.

Some nice downhill cruising was brought to a halt by a section of sticky wet mud. My rear tyre was picking the mud up and lumps of it were landing on my helmet. The mud got worse and my tyre was throwing it into my chain so that the chain derailed repeatedly. I couldn't ride and had to get off and push to the next stream where I used the water to rinse the bike off.

After this I was extremely careful to avoid the wetter patches of the trail and managed to keep myself moving. At one point I saw a couple on the side of the trail who were touring the route and had succumbed to the mud. The chain on one of their bikes had broken multiple times and they couldn't get it to stay together. I wished them luck and pressed on carefully.

Soon I arrived in Elkford, where I washed the mud off my bike at a convenient garage, grabbed some food and carried on over the next hill.

Mountains around Elkford

I hit my first navigational problem - the GPS trail I was using had 10,000 data points, but spread over 4,200 km that's not actually all that many. There was a network of small trails in amongst the forest roads and it didn't seem all that clear which way we should go. I took what turned out to be a dead-end path and had to retrace my steps, wasting a few minutes.

All was well though and I arrived in Sparwood well before closing time at the burger stop. I scoffed a couple of burgers and plenty of fries as it went dark outside and discussed sleeping plans with the other folks who had made it. Most seemed to be heading for a motel as it was raining on and off.

Terex 33-19 "Titan" with my bike looking very small beside it.
I had spotted a (somewhat hard to miss) dumper truck which is supposedly the biggest in the world and decided that underneath it would make a good place to sleep.

I slept pretty well under the Titan, and was in the Tim Horton's coffee shop by 4.30, ready for day two of the ride.

During the next road climb I started to feel pain in my left knee, so I stopped to do some stretches which seemed to help a bit. The day involved a lot of climbing - 3 large passes and my knee started to feel worse the more I rode.

The descent of the first pass was very cold and wet for my feet as the track had been washed out by the river in many places. At one point it seemed like the wet section was over, so I stopped to wring the water out of my socks. This proved a complete waste of time as five minutes later I was splashing through another deep river crossing.

Yes, that's the trail. You just have to share it with the river.

The next pass came and went and then the trail took a turn off the forest road onto some interesting looking singletrack. This led to the famous "wall" section which involves a mandatory push/carry for a few hundred metres.

The start of the "wall". Bloody steep! Up you go!

I met Jacqui Bernardi here who had just discovered that 3 of the 4 bolts holding her chainring in place had fallen out on the trail and was going back to look for them. Unsurprisingly she didn't find them. I heard later that she managed to borrow a bolt from another rider and managed to ride for another day to the nearest bike shop with just two bolts and some zip ties holding her chainring in place.

On the final ascent I struggled upwards with my knee feeling like it was full of shards of glass. I knew the top of the climb was not far away, so I kept going and finally made it there. A 1,000m descent followed which felt like bliss by comparison, and this led to the road and a few miles later the Roosville border checkpoint and the United States.

Next section: Montana

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