Here i go now
On my epic adventure
Chasing the dream
Living the dream
Tour Divide time is here ,
Seeds were planted years ago,
They germinated and became a force,
I knew quickly, i had to do this race ,
this ride , this personal quest.
I was hooked .
Hammer Springs , New Zealand .
My home now ,
Perfect base for Training with long rides amongst the mountains and river valleys .
I am Truly Grateful.
This will be my biggest meditation,
Every single moment ,
Every single day,
Present moment focus.
I am both nervous and excited now,
Days away from spinning out of Banff, Canada.
A journey to enliven the senses,
A personal challenge, physically and mentally.
A journey through immense landscapes,
Connected with animals, nature and the elements.
I will ride the trails on a wave of discovery.
Thank you to all for all your support,
Thank you family in the Emerald isles,
And my Vibrant family and friends in Hanmer Springs , NZ.
See you all soon !!!
I had 3 days in Canmore and Banff before the Grand Depart , i was relaxed and super excited for my Rookie ride of the Divide ..
From reading most of the excellent Cordillera books i knew that plans can get blown apart and that riders need to be adaptable and flexible to many potential scenarios that can occur on this mammoth 4400 kilometre journey .
This rang true for me after about 80 miles . After riding fast with the front guys i came unstuck in the infamous Peanut Butter mud , it really is super sticky !
This sticky mud was enhanced by the persistent cold rain that was falling , i was not expecting to encounter this mud so early in the race .
After pushing , pulling and looking for a better path along the roadsides , i was coming to the end of this section . I just kept saying ‘ its the same for everyone today ‘, This too shall pass'.
I scraped as much mud off the important parts on the bike for forward movement . I threw my leg over the bike , engaged with the pedal , put pressure down as i lifted the other leg to clip in to the pedal . A horrible sound arose from the rear of my bike , Looking down at my badly twisted Rear Derailleur my heart sank . The mounting bracket was badly bent and the inner plate was totally smashed . Damn it !! Damn mud!!
A few deep breaths were required, i needed to remain calm , i then pushed my bike down the road to look for a river or stream to wash down the bike . Not far away was a fast flowing river where i cleaned up. Close by, there was a big Digger parked up along the road, i used this to prop my bike against. Plenty of racers had already passed by , some checking i was ok and others head down on their Day one mission
Time to assess the damage . I had never had to or attempted to change a bike to single speed , now i was faced with the challenge . Ultimately, after an hour or so , i was in the same place , no success . The chain would either slip down the sprocket , become incredibly tight or just snap . I’d had enough , I had to move , i pushed on up the road with dark thoughts complementing the dark skies that were releasing the cold rain . Many more racers passed , with many stopping to see if i was ok . Obviously there was nothing they could do , but i did appreciate their concern and encouragement .
Day one turned out to be the first mental test of the Tour Divide , and I admit I was cursing my luck and was very disappointed as i walked along in dreary conditions knowing that I would be losing so much time .
I trudged into the small town of Elkford just before 10pm , got some food at the Gas station and got a room in an overpriced run down Motel . Before sleeping , i talked with my wife, Mary Jo back home in New Zealand . This was an incredible boost , as she reminded me of my bigger 'why'; why was I on my bike in the first place ? For the pure adventure, exhilaration and freedom.
Up early the next day ,i knew i had to get to a town called Fernie, the nearest place with Bike shops to repair my broken bike. I hung around the Gas station in Elkford asking various people , were they heading to Fernie…? It was pretty quiet in this sleepy town on an overcast saturday morning , i went across the road to another Gas station / Cafe and went inside to get a coffee .
I started chatting to a friendly 84 year old man named Albert , After telling him my story , he said he would bring me too Fernie . Amazing ! Even more Amazing , he brought me back to Elkford a few hours later , after i got my bike all fixed up . Albert had given me his phone number and went to visit his brother nearby . The guys at Straight line Bicycles were really great , putting my bike on the stand immediately . A big thank you to the French mechanic ,sorry, forgot his name, who improvised brilliantly to build a custom cage around the bottom jockey wheel , so the chain would not keep dropping out . The reason this was necessary was because they did not have any inner plates of Di2 specific derailleur and all the ones they did have were very slightly different . Another case of big Brand companies not making components compatible, even if its the same brand,? does not make sense . This improvised cage lasted brilliantly , all the way to Salida , although the two previous days , it had started to annoyingly jump off the jockey wheel .
I rolled out of Elkford before 3pm on Day two and headed down the road to rejoin the route . I was so happy to be on the move , back in the race and riding my bike . I was reinvigorated , my chat with Mary jo and the kindness of Albert had boosted my mood hugely. I was feeling strong after my easy day , and started catching riders through this very tough section . As i gained elevation , the skies became dark , the temperatures dropped and the trail became increasingly rough. It was snowing and cold through the gnarly terrain of this re route ,as i made my way back to Fernie , this time on two wheels ! I did not stop long in Fernie and rode maybe 60 kms past into the night stopping at 1am , camping along the roadside . I was on the move again at 4.30 am .
I was really enjoying myself now . I covered lots miles in the next few days , i was feeling really strong and passing lots of riders . The weather was mixed to say the least but i did not mind, i was having fun .
I remember catching a Canadian rider just before the border at Roosville, he must have being keeping a check on Trackleaders as he said we were now in 47th and 48 th place. The sun was out as i rode into Eureka for a big Breakfast .
The next week flew by with so many memorable moments , too many to go into here but here are a few vivid memories .
Day 3 was a great day with spectacular scenery , plenty of snow on the Whitefish and Red Meadow Passes and some great riding . I was ready for sleep once i got to Whitefish .
The next day , the weather was good all the way up and over Richmond Pass , as i was flying down this super fast descent i noticed dark clouds of an approaching storm. I got hit by torrential rain about 20 kms from Ovando as thunder rumbled loudly and bright flashes lit the dark skies. I arrived at the store /Hotel between 6 and 7pm , absolutely soaked and cold. My plan to get to Lincoln went out the window as i decided to stay in the comfy Horse Carriage across the road . Glad i made this decision as i later heard the ride over Huckleberry pass that evening was very tough with torrential rain and big lightning .
The next day I stopped in Helena , cold and wet , getting a motel earlier than i would have liked, although it was great to get warm and dry out before arising very early to make the steady climb up Grizzly Gulch road.
Another massive day and spectacular scenery as i headed towards Polaris. Eventually i reached The High Country Lodge, where Rus had stayed up late to welcome me with food and a bed .
A couple more huge days through huge mountains with plenty of rain , i was at the Lava Mountain Lodge , wet and cold once again , my fingers were so numb they would not function properly . Earlier as i was descending fast off Togwotee pass on the highway in the sleety cold rain i missed the turn to Brooks lake rd . Luckily i had just gone a couple of kms past the turn before realising , although a headwind going back up was tough going .
There was plenty of snow on this section , it took a lot longer than anticipated , i would not be getting to Union Pass this evening .
Another very early start on Day 9 , still raining and i was headed for Union Pass. There was a couple of nasty sections of mud before i came to the snow on the higher ground . Lots of shiny glaring eyes were watching me as i ascended in the dark , bright and curious in the beam os my head torch . I wondered what animals these eyes belonged to and at the same time it was best not to overthink it . Just keep moving !! This was a very tough section that took hours to get through . Even after getting through all the snow, the descent on the other side was a challenge as it was very wet and muddy .
Finally as rode down off the mountain , the skies cleared and the sun was shining . I vividly remember the feeling of the warm sun on my skin , it was amazing after all the cold and wet of the previous days .
I was rejuvenated and felt great as i hammered it into Pinedale . The terrain now was so much different than what I had just come through . I sped along these dusty roads in the barren landscape as the sun warmed my tired body. After a long day I camped at Diagnus Well , 40 or so kms out of Atlantic city .
By now I had passed many riders on my mission to get into the top ten . I really enjoyed chatting to most people as I passed . Really cool to see how the other riders were doing , all on their journeys and aiming to achieve their goals .
My race was now a lot different than if I had'nt lost 24 hours on Day 1 with my Derailleur issue , I was meeting more riders than I might have if i had being chasing at the front of the race . I had to adapt and accept and just get on with it. My mood changed hugely after meeting Albert in Elkford , who had given me the lift to and from Fernie , to get my Derailleur fixed. Also my short conversation with my wife Mary Jo back in New Zealand helped immensely propel me into week one .
I was riding the Divide , my Dream of many years , i just had to ride my bike , find food and water each day and of course breath . Breathing in this stunning scenery , absorbing this experience , taking each moment as it comes . This was my biggest Meditation so far .
The ride to Wamsutter and on to Brush mountain Lodge was tough with Hot and windy conditions , this was the first day that my legs felt like they had no energy . I got to the Lodge and was greeted by a super hug from lovely Kirsten . After food and a shower i decided to sleep and get up for an early start . I needed this re set after pushing hard for 9 days solid . Once again , i made the best decision , as i was totally rejuvenated on the morning of Day 10.
It was a great feeling to be in Colorado , i was feeling great as i flew down to Steamboat Springs , resupplied and headed out into the lush green valley .
As the terrain changed once more to dry and dusty , i caught up with Kiwi Rob Davidson , 3 time finisher of the tour , as he cleaned his drive chain . It was great to chat to Rob , someone i knew from riding Brevets back home in New Zealand . Eventually i pulled away as we settled into our own rhythms once more.
The next few days were hot , but i did not mind , i was feeling good and happy with my pace , i had achieved my goal of getting into the top ten and was going to ride to the end as fast as i could .
I really enjoyed the ride from Breckenridge , through the expansive barren lands to Hartsel ,after this the tough rolling hills towards Salida were starting to take their toll, i was happy to have an extended rest as my bike got some TLC at Absolute Bikes .Thank you to the friendly people here.
After getting bike repairs done, having a rest and plenty of food i was ready to leave early evening for the long climb up over Marshall Pass . I remember feeling so strong as i rode up , that i had thoughts of riding through the night to gain more time on those in front . However a few hours later on the gravel road somewhere past Doyleville , i was almost sleeping on my bike with early signs of Hallucinations . It was time to stop and camp roadside in the bush .
In Del Norte i heard that we needed to do a re route further on because of bush fires . I pushed on over Indiana pass. Eventually i got to Platoro, bought some supplies at the small store in the friendly lodge and got some more details of the fire re route that lay ahead.
Another couple of days riding in the searing sun with angry Thunderstorms never far away , i was in Pie Town , just before they shut . Food and free pie and i was all set to leave about 6pm as it rained lightly . I stopped in to check out the famous Toaster House . Nobody was around , it was tempting to stay and sleep , but i decided to push on to an empty campground where i slept well on the floor of a Toilet block .
My Day 16 ride through the Gila Wilderness was another long hot day on the bike with plenty of climbing . I knew the end was near , i was super motivated , even thinking i could get to Silver City that night . This did not happen as i got caught in huge thunderstorms about 60 kms before Sapillo campground . As i was getting pelted with pretty big hailstones i looked for shelter , i jumped into a large under road drainage tunnel , my bike even fitted in , it was dry, perfect to sit this out . Unfortunately after 10 minutes , my Tunnel refuge started to fill with water , Fast ! Damn, Time to move.
Back out into the torrential rain , thunder and lightning . Over the next 20 kms the storm eased as i rode to the Sapillo campground . Decided to camp here and rest , ready for the final push to Antelope wells the next day .
I started my final day very early , eventually finding the trail for the CDT alternate route . I quickly realised that i was not feeling great . I was fatigued , no energy . I felt unsafe to ride in the dark and must have taken 5 power naps along this section . I cannot remember how long it took , but it was the longest night of my Tour Divide Adventure . My legs were so dead i had doubts that i could reach The border that day. Time for focus and positive thoughts once again.
Thank fully as the day got brighter with the glorious sun , my energy came back and my legs finally fired up as i rode into Silver city for a late breakfast .
At this stage i was in 4th place in the race , my final position as i would not catch anybody else .
I was delighted with this as i looked forward to enjoying my last day on the trail .
I stopped at the store in Separ for 30 mins or more , i had cold drinks and ice cream. As i was lying on a bench on the shady verandah outside the store, one of the sales persons came out and asked 'Are you Steve Halligan'? A bit perplexed , i said "yes" . There was a phone call for me .It was a friend , Cliff , from Western USA , whom is a regular visitor to New Zealand to do some of our long distance Brevets. This was a really brilliant surprise call out of the blue. It was great to have a brief chat with Cliff before setting out into the heat once more.
I was tired and excited to be almost at the end of the race and at the same time a little sad as i knew that tomorrow , i would not be riding my bike on this adventure . But also knowing that new adventures will be created .
From Separ i had called Jeff Sharpe , asking him for a pick up from the border and for a place to stay for the night . He , of course was willing , as he does every year , he goes out of his way to look after weary Tour Divide Riders . As i rode into Hachita , Jeff himself was there on the roadside taking some photos . I stopped briefly at a small store , looked like it was the only place open in this dry dusty outpost town , and enjoyed the best can of coke that i ve ever had ..
Jeff enthusiastically informed me that it was downhill all the way to the border ( not entirely true , but its what i wanted to hear i suppose ) and i d be there in 3 hours .
It was a beautiful evening as i rode the sealed road on my way to the Mexican border . The sky was a dramatic mix of colour as the sun went down interspersed with some dark clouds lingering over the distant mountains . It was a perfect evening to ride the final hours of this journey.
The mile markers ticked by , one by one , i was getting closer . Thoughts of finishing this incredible journey brought up many emotions , tears welled in my eyes , looking to escape into the dryness of New Mexico .
Everyday i was Grateful , grateful to be out here doing this amazing ride through amazing scenery and meeting some very cool people . Gratitude for all the support , Grateful for my body , my breath , my bike, my resilience and focus……….. everything .
I arrived at the border about 10pm , it was eerily quiet , Jeff had not yet arrived , i was the only one there , it was perfect . I sat and looked up at the expansive starry sky and enjoyed just sitting , just being , not having to pedal anymore .
Jeff arrived with sandwiches, water and soft drinks . What a legend !
Ten minutes later my wife called me from New Zealand , she was very excited and happy . Jeff insisted i pose for some photos at the sign with my bike , before we loaded up and made our way back to Jeffs house near Hachita .
Back at jeffs place was Stefan Marrtens and Ben Steurbaut , two fellow TD racers from Belgium . Stefan unfortunately had to pull the pin in Abiquiu , a couple of days before and Ben has finished in Third place .Jay Petravy arrived the next day after smashing out a brilliant ITT. Rob Davidson also finished later that day just before i left for Tuscon . He was shattered but happy after completing a fantastic strong ride .
This Journey had come to an end , i was onto the next . So many memories , that i am still putting them together in my mind , a couple of months after finishing .
Any one thinking of doing the Tour Divide , should definitely do it .It is a challenge on many levels , its transformational and it will change you . Its an opportunity to challenge yourself to do something so epic thats its beyond the realms of most people .
Going into this my aim was to ride as fast as possible to the end , have Fun and Finish . I achieved all this and more , every day was an adventure , every moment was lived to the fullest out there in glorious nature embracing the elements . I do intend to come back and do it again .
Thank You Mathew lee and Team for looking after this beautiful ride …. Thank you to my wife , Mary jo for her unwavering support before, during and after and the team at Vibrant Living Retreat for looking after the place so well while i was away . A big Thanks to Andrew, Peter and the team at Hub Cycles , Christchurch for putting all my bike together and making it a super comfy ride for adventures like this .
Thank s to AWAKEN Bars , from Nelson who very generously sponsored me some Nutritious goodness that was very much appreciated on the long remote sections.
Thank you to everyone who made it all unforgettable .
Steve Halligan (17.14.01)
Discover more great endurance and updated cycling blogs from Steve at his personal website. www.selfpropelled13.com
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