Monday, 10 November 2014

Tour Divide 2014 - 1 Grand Depart or Bust

Flying is awesome!
Flying is awesome!
Leaving NZ was a surreal experience.  The culmination of many months of planning leading up to me watching my upset wife leaving the airport... emotions of excitement at what was to come and concern for those not coming jostled for attention... However - the family would leave for the US as I aimed to finish so it was possible to enjoy the bittersweet feeling knowing that we all had good times to look forward to.

The Canadian aiport of entry charged me 50 dollars for some undisclosed handling fee (it's a bike so there's a fee they said) Welcome to Canada! 

Meeting the shuttle, bike box at my side, I headed for my motel. Travelling with a bike box is always a pain in the arse but the next morning I would have the Ventana out and my gentle ride to Banff would begin. 

I woke to a beautiful, blue sky day - instant summer -  gotta love that! The bike came together quite quickly. The only slightly concerning aspect was that my hub had wept oil but my reading indicated that this can happen when laid down for any length of time. Given the problems I had later in the race - I'm not so sure this was the correct diagnosis.

Heading out the door and down the street I struck my first navigational challenge. The first intersection provided 3 possible directions to go. Sitting at an intersection having just left my airport hotel I realised I had no way of knowing which way to go. My GPS had no maps installed - I intended to load it once I reached
Banff...I had all the ACA TD maps but no map for the local area. My Travelsim in my phone would not connect with a provider so no Google maps. I had not realized how reliant on technology I had become.  I felt screwed from the beginning! Not a great start to my TD adventure!

I had flown to Calgary a week before the race start of Friday the 13th of June. The aim was to acclimate and to ensure  I had time to switch gears into riding mode.

That first day was in many ways the way the race played out for me - lots of riding and problem solving to keep riding.

First on the list was getting communications up and running. I could have gone back to the hotel and used WiFi and phone or just asked someone for directions but as with the race - going back was not an option:-) instead I headed in the direction that felt right and found coffee and free internet. Relatively quickly my data and phone were connected. Using Google maps I was able to find my way into the city.

Riding from Calgary to Banff
Sweet ride towards the mountains
I spent a couple of hours riding around, drinking coffee and generally enjoying the freedom of being somewhere new, alone and self sufficient. My life for the next month or so was literally all on my bike! I stocked up on supplies and followed my nose over local cycleways and eventually off towards Banff. That night I stayed at the Hostel Bear in Canmore.

Large animals on the road
Nope - Don't have these at home...

The next day I rolled the Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff. Sealed and gently climbing it was all the things the Divide was not - and I loved it! Plenty of time to get smashed around later! I rode this trail a couple more times over the week. It was a nice leg stretch with a decent coffee at Bicycle Cafe Canmore. Worth the ride!

It was great to be one of the first at the YWCA. It gave me time to meet some of the other riders and to get comfortable on my own again. My training had included a fair amount of solo riding but by far the majority of my training happens in our gym. Between spin and pump classes and working with clients there is a lot of contact time in my week. I did settle into my own space quickly though. What's not to like about doing your own thing;-)

Team NZ 1 & 2
Scotty and Geof - Team NZ together in Banff
A couple of days out from the start the other two members of 'Team NZ' arrived. Geof and Scotty had prepared and traveled over together. We all live in Alexandra and when the stars align get to ride together.. It was great to share the anticipation buzz with them over a couple of beers. Conversation naturally turned to our concerns around bears and other wildlife not found in NZ. Other 'helpful' riders and locals filled our heads with stories of Bear attacks and somewhere along the line Mountain Lions were added to the list. I'm still not sure if the suggestion to wear caps backwards because the mountain lions think you are looking back at them, was legit...

On the day before the start there was little to do. I did have some difficulty loading maps onto my Garmin 810. Got there in the end but I put myself through avoidable stress by not getting this done earlier. The library has a great computer setup that is free to use. I sent extra items home by surface mail. It took over 2 months for those items to make it home!

A few small purchases, stock up on food items for the first section, down for the unofficial/official briefing with Crazy Larry and try not to let nerves get in the way of a good nights sleep...

Pre-Race Hydration Strategy
Hydrate or die!

Crazy Larry - Big Heart!
Crazy Larry - Tour Divide Legend

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