Trans Am Bike Race Day 10 Report
Monday June 12, 2017: I was up just after 6 am well rested but feeling a tad lethargic and heavy in the legs. My knee soreness of earlier in the race had just disappeared however. It’s pretty amazing how the body just adjusts. Hatchet’s breakfast wasn’t until 7 am and I resisted the temptation to wait around for it. Given the lovely dinner I had the night before I was sure that they would have put on an amazing hot breakfast. However, I just wanted to get over Togwotee Pass and away from the cold front that may well be bringing all sorts of nastiness with it.
I also wanted to get to Lander, 200 kilometres up route by mid afternoon to get the preventative bike maintenance done that I didnt get a chance to the day before in West Yellowstone. I had already identified a bike shop; The Bike Mill.
I quickly ate a vending machine breakfast of Pepsi and chips (don’t judge me – needs must) and rolled out at 6:47 am wondering when or indeed if I would see Stephen Pope, Russell Slater and Chris Owen who had also stayed at the hostel.
The climb up Togwotee Pass started pretty much immediately. It is a solid 25 kilometre climb up a pretty damn serious mountain that apparently gets more than 8 meters (26 feet) of snow in winter. Blizzards in June are also not uncommon.
It turns out I didn’t have to wait long to find out when I would see either Stephen, Russell or Chris. About 30 minutes into my day I looked up to see a cyclist coming down the mountain towards me. It was Chris Owen. “WTF are you doing mate!?” I yelled out. I was incredulous at why you would want to undo all the hard work. It turns out that he had “blown” his knee and was heading back to the Hatchet Resort to rest up for a day or 2. I warned him about the bad weather that was due to hit later that day and tried to convince him to delay his convalescence to the other side of the mountain and just battle on for a few hours. He didn’t want to risk permanent injury however and after wishing each other the best we went our separate ways. It was sad to see him go.
I ground out only another 9 kilometres in the next hour fighting against the gradient and a stiff cross wind before deciding to stop at the convenience store at Togwotee Mountain Lodge for supplies and a coffee. I was chatting away with the clerk who was informing me that the area was world renown for snowmobiling when all of a sudden Martin Cox and Chris Owen rocked up. Martin obviously a lot more persuasive than me. Chris was going to push through the pain and rest up on the other side of the mountain in Dubois.
The three of us chatted away with the clerk for a while before riding off together into the clouds and into what had become quite a stiff headwind.
Still in photo taking mode from yesterday, I took a few on the climb…
The Descent to Dubois
The 25 kilometre climb up Togwotee Pass took me 3 hours and 20 minutes. Tough, hard slow going yeah but my spirits were high and I was really looking forward to the 45 kilometre descent to Dubois where I would hopefully reconvene with Chris and Martin who I had got separated from on the climb.
But as I crested the summit the headwind turned up a notch or 50 and started blasting me full frontal. I should have been coasting at 60 km/hr plus on the steeper parts of this downhill section but instead I was grinding away at below 20km/hr. It was demoralising and the frustration really got to me.
I caught up with Russell Slater about 20 kilometres out of Dubois. He had stopped as a local guy had flagged him down from his car trying to find Chris Owen. Chris’s parents in Michigan were concerned about his injury and were starting to worry as they were unable to contact him on the mountain to ensure he was ok. They had gotten creative with Trackleaders and Google and had managed to find this good samaritan to go out and try and find him. Parent’s eh. Mine would have probably done the same although I doubt they would have been as proficient with the internet. They would have just worried in silence.
Anyway, Chris rolled up soon enough with a big grin on his face completely unaware of the central role he was playing in this virtual drama. He spoke to his parents and all was quickly made good.
After what seemed like an eternity Russell, Chris and I pulled into a gas station on the outskirts of Dubois for some lunch and to recharge the soul. God knows I needed it, I felt wrecked by the effort. An effort that had yielded a paltry 73 kilometres in just over 5.5 hours.
Øivind Erevik who I hadn’t seen Day 2 was also there, finishing up his lunch and getting ready to leave.
Lunch in Dubois
We spent over an hour munching on not bad gas station pizza and chatting about our respective battles with Togwotee Pass. I was slowly but surely coming back to life. Martin had joined us and had somehow managed to charm the lady in the gas station into making him a fresh made to order pizza whereas us plebs had to order by the slice from what was on display. She then individually wrapped each uneaten slice with foil so that he could take them with him on his bike.
T’was quite an extraordinary level of service to behold. He either tipped like an NBA star or she was a sucker for a British accent. Whats your secret Martin?
And Then There Was 3
It was around 1:30 pm and the four of us hit the road within a few minutes of each other. Chris, me, Russell, then Martin. It was the first time since the first day of the Trans Am that I had been riding in close proximity to a few other riders. It felt good.
Unfortunately, however, only a few kilometres out of Dubois our little midpack gruppetto of 4 was down to 3. Chris had said over lunch that he was going to crack on and hope for the best with his knee but it soon became abundantly clear to him that it would have to be rested.
We bid our roadside adieus for the second time that day and he limped back to Dubois where he would spend the next few days resting and getting his knee attended to. It would be around 2 weeks before I saw him again. Plenty of water under the bridge by then.
Did That Even Happen?
The conditions and the scenery on the western side of Dubois along US Route 26 could not be more different to those on the eastern side. It was like night and day and at times I found it hard to reconcile that I had ridden through either within hours of each other. Did Togwotee Pass even happen?
Buoyed by the more cycling friendly conditions and my borderline obsessiveness to make up for lost time I upped the tempo somewhat whilst keeping a keen eye on the lovely scenery.
There’s a Storm Brewing
I caught up with Øivind in the town of Crowheart. He was pulling out from a gas station having just repaired a flat. We rode together for a while before it became quite obvious that he was the faster rider and off he went.
By the time the Trans Am course turned off US Route 23 onto US Route 287 I had I made reasonable time covering the 75 kilometres from Dubois in just over 3 hours. If I could catch a bit of luck, in other words a strong tail wind, I still maybe able to get to The Bike Mill before closing.
It was becoming quite obvious that a storm was brewing and I was thinking to myself that I had a 25% chance of having my wish of a strong tailwind granted. (Yes indeed a very basic approximation of the odds – I am neither a gambling man nor a Wyoming weather expert).
Riders On The Storm
The scenery all of a sudden changed quite dramatically yet again, to open grass prairie. I stopped to take a photo then……..BANG! A gust of wind from my right side hit like a runaway freight train. There had been some breeze about and my aero bars had been whistling a bit up until then but this seemingly came out of nowhere.
And it didn’t stop….
There was nowhere to take shelter so I had no option but to get on with it, leaning into the wind to prevent from being blown over, although the occasional gust would push me out into the middle of the road. Sketchy stuff.
It took me just over an hour of cycling and walking to travel the circa 8 flat kilometres to the town of Fort Washakie which was part of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Oh, the irony. I made my way over to a gas station to take shelter and spotted 2 other bikes leaning up outside. Inside was Øivind and another Trans Am Racer I hadn’t met before, Eric Fishbein (may he be resting in peace). Eric was to be hit by a car and killed in Kansas a week later.
We chatted away for a while all expressing our frustrations. We had no idea how long we would be forced to hole up. The gas station was due to close in a couple hours and the windstorm seemed to be getting worse. In fact trees were being blown over.
The Calm After The Storm
As it turns out we were holed up for just over an hour. No sighting of either Russell or Martin. They were behind me and the poor buggers were forced to ride it out with no shelter. Russell would send me this message the next day:
Back on the road it literally was the clam after the storm, the sun came out and the wind had pretty much disappeared.
That’ll Do For The Day
I finally rolled into Lander at 8:15 pm, over 5 hours after my original plan for the day. My brain was fried and I just needed to crash. I found a hotel which turned out to be the dodgiest of my whole Trans Am – it was filthy and sparks flew out of the power outlet when I tried to charge my gear. But I couldn’t care less at the time.
Eric had tried to convince me to share a room with him and Øivind but I declined as politely as I could. I just wanted to be by myself. I grabbed some food from the Taco Johns next door, brought it back to my room to eat and fell asleep not long later.
It had been a tough ole’ day.
Day 10 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview of Day 10:
2D overview from Strava:
- Distance = 195 km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 10 hours and 12 minutes
- Stopped Time = 3 hour and 12 minutes
- Elevation = 1,545 m
- Money Spent = $132 ($37 on food/drink, $95 on accommodation)
Keep reading…..Day 11.