Wednesday June 7, 2017: Ok, enough stuffing around! Despite my best intentions I had slid further behind my goal distance of 270km per day. Yes it was hot yesterday and yes there was over 2,200m of climbing but I had stopped at 7:30 pm with at least 2 hours of sunlight still left in the day. Besides, the lights on my bike weren’t for bloody show. It was well and truly time to harden the fuck up and put in a full fucking day!
Yep, I was pumped!
I was on my bike at 5:29 am munching on some leftover dessert from last nights feast. This simple act of eating “breakfast” on my bike had just saved me 30 minutes right there. The route trended downhill out of Halfway and I made very good time banging out the days first 30km in about an hour.
Unbeknownst to me at the time I had just passed the first of the races 10 checkpoints, Copperfield which was at the 635 mile marker (1,022 kilometers). It had taken me 4 days and 25 minutes to reach this point. To put this in some kind of race context it had taken the eventual winner Evan Deutch 2 days and 3 hours to cover the same distance…….Amazing!
The route then took two sharp right turns in quick succession just before the town of Oxbow (just as well I was paying attention to my Garmin), thus commencing a lovely 20km stretch along the Snake River.
My Own Private Idaho
As in the movie I was also on a journey of self-discovery. Onwards into Idaho.
The Idaho state sign photo was the first of 9 such photos that I would take over the next 21 days. I couldn’t help but giggle at the inaccessibility of these signs for the humble cyclist. A majority of the Trans Am Racers and indeed the hundreds of cycle tourers that tackle the route every year would have to scramble over rough, snake friendly terrain in cycling shoes, dragging their bikes behind them, risking injury to person and/or bike in order to immortalize the moment.
Gotta Keep Going!
About 10 km into Idaho I came across the Gateway Store and Cafe where there were at least 5 bikes leaning against the wall outside looking conspicuously like those of Trans Am racers. I hadn’t planned on stopping. In fact I had no clue that this place even existed having thought that the next services were in Cambridge 35ks down the road. Regardless I thought I’d head in for a quick G’Day and to top up my water bottles.
Before I had even dismounted Mike Benigni came running out and embraced me in a bear hug. Plenty of manly back-slapping involved. I hadn’t seen Mike since the first day of the race, 4 days earlier so it was really good to see him. So much to catch up on.
Yep, so much to catch up on but I had no time for chit-chat. He offered a seat at a table he was sharing with Jen Colestock but I politely declined; “Nah thanks mate, feeling good and want to give it a crack today. See ya down the road”.
Chris Stellato, Russell Jones from Scotland and Aaron Ehlers from Minnesota and a few other racers were also there. I could quite easily burn another 30 minutes to an hour settling into a full breakfast and associated conversation(s). I was absolutely committed however to putting in an effort today that I could be proud of. I would only stop when I absolutely had to and not for long at that. No regrets.
I bought a few snacks for the bike, filled up my water bottles then hit the road. Russell had just left anyway and Aaron was also making ready to leave so I rolled out with him. I had first met Aaron the day before in Baker City not realising that I had in fact already connected with him on the Trans Am Facebook Group page before the race. He had posted on that page about how his 2 young kids would be tracking his progress via a large National Geographic map of the US. I’d made a comment that my 2 young lads would be doing similar.
Anyway, we chatted about family and getting our kids into cycling. I then headed off in front to concentrate on the climb that loomed in front of us. It took a good hour to summit and then an extremely enjoyable 25km descent into the town of Cambridge.
I’d caught up with Russell Jones on that descent scaring the shit out of him in the process. I was whooping and hollering like a madman. What can I say, I was really enjoying going fast downhill. I’d seen Russell around but hadn’t really spoken with him. We had a good chat about all sorts of stuff; Rugby, Shinty (a mad Scottish sport – look it up), getting lost (he’d gone 30 miles off course that morning), support from home and living in Sydney which he’d done in the 90’s. Reckon we’d probably frequented the same pubs, particularly the Coogee Bay Hotel back in the day, completely unaware of each other’s existence or that our paths would cross 20+ years later riding our bikes across the US. Who would have thought?!
I’d see a fair bit of Russell over the next 23 days, lovely bloke!
It was getting hot and Russell and I pulled into a Gas station in Cambridge to get some cold drinks. Alistair McGregor, Rebecca Harrison and Jonathan Brown (aka “The Brits”) were already there kicking back out the front. Mike Benigni then arrived about 10 minutes later.
Attack, Attack, Attack!!
It was 10:30 am and I’d done just under 100km. I was still feeling really good. Time to put the hammer down and have a real crack for the first time in the Trans Am. Up until this point I had ridden hard every now and again but still very much within myself. Time to start racing!
To get me physically prepared for the Trans Am I had taken on the services of a virtual coach, an ex-pro British guy based in Taiwan, Lee Rodgers aka the Crankpunk.
The training sessions that I particularly enjoyed Lee called “Boonens”, that he named after the Belgian legend and breakaway artist Tom Boonen. The sessions were essentially teaching me how to ride hard for 2/3 hour efforts by simulating breaking away from an imaginary peloton.
And this is what I did for the next 80km and 3 and a quarter hours to New Meadows. Head down, hands in drops, legs pumping, attacking the hills and an imaginary peloton. A role played unknowingly by Russell Jones, Mike Benigni and “The Brits”….Thanks guys 😉
New Meadows to Riggins
I was definitely ready for a break in New Meadows. Rolling into the main street I spied David Barstow Robinson (DBR) sipping on a Coke out the front of the Post Office. I think he was sending some stuff home. Russell Slater (the other Russell from Canada) whom I had passed just out of town also rolled up and after a brief chat with David we headed across the street to a Gas Station and Convenience store.
I bought about 3 litres of various cold drinks plus some food and then sat out front with Russell to consume.
Russell was another guy I had seen around but hadn’t really spoken with. We put that right and had a good old conversation whilst mainlining our drinks and readying our bike for the next part of the days riding.
I’d also see a lot of Russell Slater over the next 23 days, another lovely bloke!
I was still feeling strong heading out of New Meadows and “attacked” again, taking advantage of a 20km flat section out of town and then a very long 4okm descent into Riggins. The descent was a tad sketchy, very fast with a fair bit of motorhome and logging truck traffic. At one point I had to pull over to chill for a while after some obnoxious f’er in a pickup truck towing a motorhome blared his horn whilst passing close, unnerving the crap out of me. I actually fell off the bike taking some skin off my knee in the process as the roadside gravel was rather deep.
Oh well, shit happens!
Riggins to Whitebird
I stopped at the scenic little town of Riggins for a brief yet much needed stop. It was very hot, pushing 40 degrees Celsius according to my Garmin. I needed drinks and ice cream which I purchased plenty of. Too many ice cream bars as it turned out so I gave one to Russell Slater who had just arrived with DBR.
Back on the 95 Highway running alongside the Salmon River (the Little Salmon River had joined the Salmon River at Riggins) I was starting to feel the effort of the day. 11 hours of cycling (not including stops) and 225km under the belt.
I was still determined for more though. I had heard of a big climb out of White Bird, a town 40km down the road. My goal for the day would be to get up and over that lump.
There was still a fair bit of vehicle traffic on this stretch but I was given plenty of room. No hassle.
In White Bird I fueled up on pie, ice-cream and plenty of Coke in a cute little diner on the Main Street and then made ready to get stuck into the climb. I was tired but had plenty of calories on board to get it done.
I bid adieu to Kevin McClain and DBR who had both just rolled into town and then headed off.
White Bird Pass
White Bird Pass on the old road out of the town of White Bird is a good 16km climb covering around 750m of elevation, complete with switchbacks and incredible scenery. It would not be out of place in a mountain stage of a Grand Tour.
I took plenty of photos. I’ll let them do the talking…
A Big Day!
The climb took me over 1.5 hours and after a sketchy descent in the pitch black (my front dyno light wasn’t working – I only had a helmet mounted light) I rolled into the Super 8 Grangeville at about 10pm. I was caked in salt and exhausted yet extremely satisfied with my effort that day. I had ridden hard and long. Just what I had planned.
But it would all be for naught if I didn’t put in another big day tomorrow.
Day 5 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview of Day 5:
2D overview from Strava
- Distance = 301km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 12 hours 43 minutes
- Stopped Time = 3 hours 21 minutes
- Elevation = 2,770m
- Money Spent = $163 ($45 on food, $118 on accommodation)