American Josh Kato laughs as he talks with New Zealand’s Steve Halligan. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

This could be the year that world records are broken.

The 2019 Tour Divide began in Banff this morning, and riders were blessed with near-perfect conditions. Sun throughout the day and a warm evening prompted riders to continue on past Fernie, where riders usually stop after the first day.

The top riders passed through the small mountain feeling fresh and energetic, 12 hours and 160 miles after they began in Banff at 8 a.m. They arrived about two hours ahead of schedule.

In front of them lies another 2585 miles (4160 km) of gravel roads and single-track trails, weaving and winding through the Continental Divide, before they arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. Not all will complete it, but those who do will be left with everlasting memories of what they accomplished.

The Tour Divide is a race unlike any other. There is no prize for first place, and the race is completely self-supported. The racing format requires no designated rest periods or set distances a racer must travel daily. The clock runs non-stop. The person who can ride the fastest while making fewer, shorter stops usually holds the course records.

With the average rider spending three weeks in the saddle, the Tour Divide is known as one of the longest and most challenging bike races on the planet.

This year there are 149 riders heading southbound. There are five riders taking the northbound route.

England’s Josh Ibbett, New Zealand’s Steve Halligan and American Josh Kato were the first to arrive in Fernie, followed closely by America’s Nate Ginzton, Dylan Morton and Lael Wilcox.

Lael Wilcox currently holds the women’s Tour Divide record of 15 days, 10 hours and 59 minutes.

This year, she’s looking to shave that record even more. The 32-year-old Anchorage native hopes to complete the 2,745-mile race in 14 days, and take first overall. The Tour Divide has never before been won by a woman.

(Lael Wilcox is looking to complete the Tour Divide in 14 days, and win overall. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)

Only a few riders stopped in Fernie on Friday, June 14. Many chose to continue on, likely because of the warm weather.

Many eyes will be on Josh Ibbett, the 31-year-old Trans Continental winner and rider known for his exploration of the globe via bicycle.

(England’s Josh Ibbett. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press)

Ibbett was first to arrive in Fernie, followed by Steve Halligan, who placed fourth in the 2017 Tour Divide. He decided to take on the challenge again this year.

“There’s something about it. It hooks you. Brings you back,” he said while resupplying at 7/11.

The hardest part about the race, explained Halligan, is the mental battle.

“It’s so mental, the game is so mental. As much, if not more than physical,” he said. “Just changing your thought patterns, thinking positive really, any sh***y moments, it’s not going to last forever. It’s going to change. Headwinds will change. Aches in your legs or wherever – that’ll change too.

“The weather changes. It’s not going to last forever.”

Just behind Halligan came Josh Kato, who is no stranger to victories. In 2015 he took first overall with a time of 14 days, 11 hours and 37 minutes. This set the record for fastest completion time. The following year, Mike Hall completed the journey in 13 days, 22 hours, 51 minutes, a record which remains unbeaten.

Kato was third to pull up to the 7/11 in Fernie, grinning ear to ear. Kato raced the Divide in 2017, but decided to skip 2018 because of the physical toll it took on his body. The 44-year-old said his body still hasn’t fully recovered.

He said the first day is far too early to tell how the race will pan out, but admitted there’s some strong competition this year. Kato aims to finish the race in 14 days.

“There’s a strong contingent of really fast riders this year,” said Kato. “It’s going to be curious to see how it all shakes out.

“It’s cool to see faster and faster people get out here. I’m always curious to see how fast someone can do it,” he added.

Follow the riders on their adventure: http://trackleaders.com/tourdivide19

More photos below:

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

New Zealand’s Steve Halligan. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Josh Kato’s setup, top down. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Josh Kato’s Salsa Fargo setup. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Kyle Lagemann arrived safely in Fernie but was dismayed to discover his GPS had not updated in over 65 miles. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

American Dylan Morton. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Cariboo, North Thompson region

Prince George, Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House all under watch

Interior Health will not expand Police and Crisis Team

Southeast Division Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli asked IH to expand the program

High water and flooding hits Clearwater

Potential for roadblock on Clearwater Valley Road due to potential washouts

District of Barriere Utilities Manager reports to council on Barriere wells

District of Barriere Utilities Manager Ian Crosson presented a verbal report during… Continue reading

Tk’emlups, Simpcw First Nations chiefs call on Tiny House Warriors to leave Blue River protest camp

“The Tiny House Warriors are not from Simpcw, nor are they our guests in our territory.”

Horrifying video shows near head-on collision on Trans Canada

The video was captured on dash cam along Highway 1

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Would you take a COVID-19 vaccine? Poll suggests most Canadians say yes

75 per cent of Canadians would agree to take a novel coronavirus vaccine

Budget officer pegs cost of basic income as calls for it grow due to COVID-19

Planned federal spending to date on pandemic-related aid now tops about $174 billion

Most Read