2021 Trans Am Bike Race Day 10 Report
Tuesday June 15, 2021: Out of bed just before 5am. Another morning dominated by a sense of optimism. I am still riding high from yesterdays amazing day through Yellowstone and past the Grand Tetons. I definitely feel like I am entering a new stage of the race. The first 5 days a tale of pushing too hard through illness, falling in a hole, recovery and consolidation. The next 4 a period of increasing strength and moving up through the field. Accordingly my average daily distance is improving, 229 kilometres per day over the former period, 268 over the latter.
A quick review of Trackleaders whilst chewing on buffalo jerky and a plan for the next week or so is formulated. Stay ahead of Sonny, Hunter and Lance, who are 60ks behind me and hunt down Mike Robison and Jon Bell who are 190ks in front. Get ahead of either of those 2 lads and I am in the top 10 of the race.
….or would it be?
From Hatchett Resort the climb up Togwotee Pass commences immediately. I got stuck in straight away, pushing harder than I had on the climbs thus far in the race. It was cold and I wanted to warm up as quickly as possible but I was also keen to make hay while there was negligible headwind. My experience of four years ago had educated me as to the possibility of an insane south easterly that could rip down the mountain, making progress very tough.
As an indicator of how tough, the full 27 kilometre climb past the summit of Togwotee to the Continental Divide sign had taken me 3 hours and 15 minutes in 2017, but just over 2 hours today. And that in the context of me generally being heavier and slower this time around.
The weather can definitely come into play on this climb. I copped a tough wind in 2017 but the racers that came through a day later got caught in a blizzard. It snows a lot up here, 25+ feet in the winter and a good reason why the area is a top destination for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
From the Continental Divide sign it is a very pleasant 40+ kilometre descent down into the valley, joining the Wind River off to the right as it snakes its way down the mountain from its headwaters on Togwotee Pass, to the town of Dubois. I have since been interested to learn that a significant proportion of Dubois’ population of around 950 people are writers, artists, photographers, musicians and songwriters. Makes sense given the remoteness and the inspiring scenery of the area.
I pull into a gas station on the outskirts of town, keen for a hot meal and to replenish my supplies. I am happy with my progress. 75 ks in 3.5 hours, a third of which has been climbing.
So far so good with the plan.
Into the Wind River Indian Reservation
I keep the stop to 30 minutes, halving my recent average.
From Dubois the landscape changes dramatically. From the densely forested mountains of yesterday afternoon and this mornings riding I am now pedaling into an increasingly wide open expanse of rolling grassland and the occasional rocky butte. The Wind River Basin. I am noticeably out of the high mountains for now but there are subtle reminders of the not yet fully traversed Rocky Mountains, with the Wind River Range out to my right and the Owl Creek mountain range on the horizon to my left.
This is Native American owned and administered land. The Wind River Reservation which is shared by 2 tribes, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho. It is the largest Indian Reservation by total area and population that the Trans Am route passes through and I will be riding through it for the next 100 kilometres or so.
About an hour past Dubois my mate Scotty rang. He has been keeping in regular contact, calling at least once per day but recent cell coverage has not been conducive to lengthy conversations, or any conversations at all actually. I have been lamenting my choice of carrier – Verizon just ain’t cutting the mustard vs AT&T who I used in 2017. Anyway, this time around he has patched in Tom Moody – not his real name but named such due to his very close physical resemblance to the Australian cricketer of the 80’s and 90’s. I’ve known the bloke for years but don’t think I actually know his real name. The comedy duo are back together. Statler and Waldorf. In 2017, Scott and Tom worked in the same office and would call me multiple times a day for a chat, offering their support but mostly them cracking jokes at my expense.
“You’ve finally pulled your finger out mate” said Tom.
“Yeah mate…..(heavy breathing)…..trying”
T’was a short conversation but it put a big smile on my face. It is such a nice feeling to know that there are people out there who really care about and are interested it what you are trying to achieve.
Another hours riding and I was almost out of water. It was getting damn hot – late 30s Celsius. A stop at the tiny little town of Crowheart an absolute necessity. I bought Pepsi, apple juice, water and ice-cream.
“You don’t sell Coke out here mate?”
Obviously not the standard query or delivered in the standard manner.
“I don’t see any Coca Cola products in the store. Only Pepsi”.
The clerk thought about it for a while and eventually smiled and said, “We only drink Pepsi around here.”
“Ah ha. Interesting”
I then sat out the front of the store on a bench in the shade, gulping down all that stood in front of me. I contemplated the next part of the day. It was just after 11:30am and I had already banked 125 kilometres. A realistic end of day destination was either the picnic area at Sweet Water Station 135ks up the road or the Bike Hostel at Jeffrey City 30ks further on. Either way, given my solid progress thus far today maybe I should burn an hour in Lander 60ks on and get my bike looked over at 1 of the 2 bike shops in town.
The peace of mind knowing all was well with my bike would be invaluable and achieved at minimal downtime.
I Googled both bike shops but remembered Gannett Peak Sports had been active on the race Facebook Page welcoming all racers and letting us know that a keg of beer would be on hand at all times. It was an easy decision. I rang Gannet Peak Sports, spoke with Ed and told him I’d be popping in mid afternoon.
Awrighty then, back into it.
Not long out of Crowheart I spotted a cyclist coming the other way. Very obviously a tourer given the significant baggage strapped to the bike. They even had multiple flags flying from the rear. I made ready to wave and yell out my customary “Looking good…..go get it!” but it soon became obvious that the cyclist wanted more and after a cursory glance over their shoulder came careening across the road, pulling up right in front of me.
Oh for fuck sake I thought to myself…….I’m in a bloody hurry. No time for idle chit chat!
The chap was so incredible friendly and enthusiastic that my uptightness soon melted away and we had a good chat. He even conducted a brief roadside interview of me for his Youtube channel. Turns out he was touring the Trans Am route east to west and was having a blast. The flags and so forth strapped to the back of his bike which he was quite proud of represented the states that he had ridden through so far – 3 days in Wyoming and he was yet to track down anything suitable with the bison on it.
10 minutes burnt (yep I was being hyper vigilant on downtime) and it was time to get back into it, now armed with a couple of pieces of info for the next section to Lander. There was a 15 mile stretch of roadworks apparently where the road surface quality was very poor. That was a nice to know but I was more keen to find out about the wind once the route bent around to the south. In 2017 a ridiculous cross wind (yep, it had been a windy ole’ day) from the west, the likes of which I had never dealt with before, or since had literally come out of nowhere forcing me to walk for an hour or so to a gas station in the town of Fort Washakie, to take shelter. Some riders behind me who were caught out in it for longer actually had to lay down on top of their bikes by the side of the road to stop them from blowing away! The memory was still firmly imprinted in my mind and I had been thinking about it for the last couple of days.
Anyway, according to my new mate there was no real wind to worry about.
As it turned out though the wind did pick up a little but it was the roadworks that slowed me down considerably. The cut back and riveted surface a proper pain in the arse. My third water bottle cage, on the underside of the downtube actually shook loose, almost causing me to crash. I lost the bloody screws too so I would have to find alternate storage for my third water bottle.
After a couple of tough hours I finally made it to Fort Washakie, the tribal headquarters of the Eastern Shoshone. Its only 15ks to Lander but I’m in need of a cold drink – warm to hot plastic tasting water just ain’t working for me.
I finally rolled up to Gannett Peaks on Main Street, Lander just after 3pm, greeted by friendly, smiling faces and ice-cream. No beer available just yet.
Alas, the one hour turnaround did not materialise. Far from it. I was there for 5 hours!
The 2,400 kilometres of racing had not been kind to my bike:
SRAM 12 speed chain – completely worn. No SRAM or Shimano 12 speed chains in stock but the other bike shop in town had a 12 speed KMC heavy duty chain. I borrowed a demo electric bike and Ed’s Croks and went cruising down main street to retrieve.
Rear Cassette – worn badly but no 10/33’s in stock.
Brake pads – front and rear worn almost to metal. None in stock but I had one in my pack so Ed fitted that and left on the one that had less wear. He kindly rang a couple of bikes shops further up route and tracked down more SRAM brake pads in Silverthorne, Colorado which he reserved for me.
35mm rear tyre – worn badly but no tubeless tyres in stock. Swapped for a new tubed 28mm.
Ed had decades of industry experience but had never come across SRAMs AXS electronic shifting system so there was a bit of a learning curve involved in getting that chain back on etc. I can’t fault this at all – I knew the risks of choosing the latest and “greatest” group set. It was always going to be an issue getting it maintained out in the sticks.
During all this I was dying with frustration inside but channeled my inner stoic to remain as cool as I possibly could. Besides, Ed, one of the loveliest blokes you are ever likely to meet was very obviously going well beyond the call of duty to get me back up and rolling as quickly as possible. He felt terrible at the delay and kept apologising – not that he needed to at all. My niche equipment selection and the greater bike industry supply issues had nothing to do with him.
I should of planned better.
Anyway, I finally shook Ed’s hand for the final time and pedaled away from the shop 2 hours after its scheduled close, to the hotel I had just booked. I was richer for having met such a lovely bloke but I was devastated at the loss of time and the fact that my bike was seemingly riding a lot rougher than before the maintenance. The chain was not playing at all nicely with the rear cassette.
My mind was fried and I could only see the negatives. The optimism of the morning had disappeared. The only hunting down of dots that had occurred that day was that of Hunter Shaak’s hunting down of mine…….pun sort of intended.