Mike Curiak Wins 2004 Continental Divide Race|
Sunday, July 11, 2004
The Great Divide Mountain Bike race is the world’s longest mountain bike race, starting from Roosville, Montana and ending in Mexico. The course follows the steep Continental Divide. There are no entry fees, no sponsors, no prize money, and only ten hard-core riders. Each rider will attempt to break the course record set by John Stamstad who took only 18 days and five hours in 1999.
NOTE: MIKE CURIAK HAS WON THE RACE AND SMASHED THE OLD RECORD. HE COMPLETED THE COURSE IN 16 DAYS 57 MINUTES!
Photos of the scenery
Race Photos Thru July 2nd
Vital Race stats:
Start: 6/18 at noon.
Route length: 2470 miles with 200,000 feet of climbing
Record: John Stamstad completed the ride in 18days 5hrs.
Thanks to Mathew Lee and Trish Stevenson, DirtWorld will be posting regular updates so be sure to check back often.
7/8 and 7/9
With my last good opportunity to work on my bike and get caught up on communication, I remained in Salida until afternoon. I need to bring Trish back there for a visit. Great place! I researched the eastern most section of the Monarch Crest Trail ready for a quick assault once I summited Marshall pass.
Let's just say it was delicious, and I'll be back to finish it off next summer.
My riding from Salida to Del Norte should have taken 1.5 days but with side trailing it turned into two. No biggie though, It was one of the most awesome sections. Big 14'ers and alpine all the way. Then huge basalt/redrock canyons into Del Norte. Southern Colorado rivels Montana for remoteness/scale - I only wish it was as wet. Water is becoming more necessary as it gets hotter.
I rolled into Del Norte on Friday just out of time to get my food drop at the Post Office. Frozen till the morning! I go into NM tomorrow. Psyched for the last section except the heat. I shaved my head in Steamboat and I keep burning my forhead. Time for more powerful sunscreen. Jan Kopka, the other racer to finish should be done. I haven't heard yet. Everyone I talked to that met him had great things to say. He has been a fine Chech Emabassador, what a treat this tour must have been for hime - for all of us. It's so cool, it's hard to race-pace it. There's so much to see. Mike Curiak and Basinger exercised so much discipline in their flight to new records. I'm still amazed.
Boreas Pass out of Breckenridge was glorious. I felt the elevation at the top. The 10-mile downhill reward was excellent. I finally had the wind at my back all the way to Salida, CO. Como (highest incorporated town in the US at 9,800ft) was cool, but Salida was very cool. It has a great boating (whitewater) scene. Sean Gillis at Absolute Bikes was great to me. An old friend of Trish’s, he was bummed she didn’t make it down. A local let me camp in their yard with good friends in town from Colorado Springs. We all had fun catching up. Today, I go to Storm King near La Garita.
My luck with muddy roads would continue today. Over breakfast I was greeted with water trucks and road graters. It was a soft ride through some beautiful Colorado River tributary country. The Williams Fork looked like great fishing. Finally to Ute Pass, I was psyched to see pavement.
I rolled into Dillon / Frisco around noon ready to hit the famous "Peaks Trail" single track from Frisco to Breckenridge. Finally, a day without rain! The alternate route was tough with gear but I promised myself I would hit at least one section of good trail along the race route.
After that I ended my day early in Breckenridge. That town is retail kingdom. I met lots of cool biker folks and picked their brains about single tracks for return visits. The peaks looming above town still have lots of snow. The biggest friend I made in town turned out to be one of the most dialed locals around. He knew every trail, everybody; he put me up for the night in Blue River and then escorted me on a sweet single track (his daily commute) all the way to Boreas Pass (my route for the day). He was as genuine Breckenridge like as one can find. Thanks Dave G. for everything including breakfast shared over live Tour de France team time trial coverage. For a while, I felt as "at home" as I have all race. Dave has a place to stay in North Carolina anytime. I’ll be in touch!
I found out this morning that Mike Curiak and Pete Basinger finished yesterday within an hour of each other. Amazing! After 16 days, that’s a miniscule gap. They shattered the old record. Being out here on the route I realized what an incredible time they posted. They suffered constantly. What an amazing accomplishment. Major congrats to both of them. I’m especially happy for Mike. He really wanted it.
Lots more climbing and more storms was my story today. I’m about ready to be featured on Weather Channel’s "Storm Stories." The descent into and climb out of the Colorado River were gorgeous. I hit heavy rain once out and it ended my day before I could get over Ute Pass into Dillon. I would have to wait for the roads to dry.
Steamboat Springs is a great little town; not too big, but sophisticated enough to have good food and good culture – except the honky tonk band I heard "try" to cover "Rocky Top." They ought leave that to the south (east). The fireworks were cool and provided early punctuation to the day. Tomorrow’s ride to Dillon, CO has three big climbs. I need to start early.
The climbing, the wind and the storms really took their toll on me today. It was 130 miles from Rawlins to Steamboat Springs. There must have been 12-15 thousand feet of climbing. I rolled in very late. I decided towards the end that I was going to take the 4th off and kick it with friends. Once I got into Medicine Bow National Forest the scenary got nice. Lots of Aspens. My last climb of the day came over Hahn’s Peak Basin into Steamboat Lake. It was beautiful. Lots of elk and mule deer. Columbine everywhere. It was nice to finally be in Colorado.
I could not have ridden too far last night. Today was brutal. I didn’t sleep well as a rain storm with high winds moved through overnight. I let the road dry out until 8am before heading out. By then, it was already hot. The winds cranked and the sun banked. The only highlight was seeing several packs of wild mustangs up close.
I went anaerobic leaving the desert as I was running desperately from a big storm. The only cool part was surfing the leading edge (outflow boundary) all the way to Rawlins…almost.
Every time I dropped below 20mph the rain would creep up my back. Riding the Great Divide route requires endless clothing adjustments due to weather dynamics. I must stop 10-plus times a day simply to add / subtract layers, put on rain gear, change lenses, etc. Very high-maintenance, but worth every effort.
I wonder where the other racers are. I think Mike and Pete are in New Mexico already. Maybe I’ll catch Jan by the end, only four of us left. I’ll be halfway tomorrow in Steamboat Springs. I’m excited to get alpine again – and to Colorado. Farewell, Wyoming. It started and will end well, but the Great Divide basin in between was rough for an Appalachian boy used to trees.
Today’s high desert riding was beautiful. Pronghorn and grouse (or something like it) everywhere. There’s something spiritual about the desolation. I paid $1 for the South Pass City gold mine tour. Interesting story. One of the first gold boom towns. It wouldn’t have been complete without some saltwater taffy for the trail.
On to Atlantic City, another boom town. Only old folks still live here. I met the innkeeper that hosted Mike Curiak and Pete Basinger (the race leaders) when they came through. She said they got up at midnight to knock out the last long desert stretch to Rawlins.
There’s a full moon tonight so when I’m done writing, I’ll get as far as I can to minimize heat tomorrow. The Pony Express, Oregon and Mormon Trails passed through these high desert passes. Lots of unmarked graves are out there, I’m sure. Their challenge makes my assault on the Great Divide Mountain Bike route seem trivial.
I finally got an early start this morning. My oatmeal came back to my palate quickly.
I began with an obnoxiously steep, very soft climb – last night’s rain had things oozing. At the very top, I met up with two horsepackers from Pinedale. Great guys. Chuck was dressed like Jim Bridger (full mountain man look). After chatting them up, I learned Chuck is one of the resident mountain men at Pinedale’s Mountain Man Museum – a must visit for a "History of the West."
I got to roll on an incredible downhill into Green River off Union Pass. From there it was road to Pinedale. I got nailed with more hail and rain. I am starting to get used to it. Right now, I am chowing tonight’s special at "The Wrangler." A cheap, but tasty home cooking joint favored by locals. I met a guy named Matt who grades roads for the county. He gave me the lowdown on tonight’s and tomorrow’s ride. I’m headed for the high desert. I’ll be in it for two full days. I hope the rain stays away. The roads are unrideable when wet.
Pinedale is a quintessential cowboy town. Very cool. There’s even a surfing wave on the local creek running through town. Off for some moonlinght miles. Cheers.
I caught up with Trish last night in Moran Junction. We talked about her injury and me moving forward. She’s okay with how things should / will proceed – her going home and me racing on. I hope she follows my progress with anticipation. She will. As I make phone updates, she will be first on my list.
Again, I was up late and started late – must break this cycle before storms catch up! And today, they finally did. It rained all afternoon and night. I’m from North Carolina where we get something like the same thing here. Sunshine early, but as soon as it warms up just a bit, KABOOM! Today, I had hail, lightning, and heavy rain.
My second pass of the day, historic Union Pass, was Peanut Butter. It’s still raining at 9pm as I write this. Not the drought-prone west I know. It’s humid!
I have to give a shout-out to two "trail-angel" couples I met today. First, at Pinnacle Butte Lodge, the Millets took great care of me in the first storm, serving me great chili, good well water and even better, small talk as I waited out heavy down pours. They had good bear stories. Second was Dave and Rose Sowers, who have a nice place up here on Union Pass where I got pummeled in my second storm. They passed me up the climb and suggested their floor space might be my driest option of the night. Everyone I’ve met so far on the route would bend over backwards for us. Its been compelling, not to mention at times, propelling.
I was up late last night, so I didn’t get going till 10:30am. The 115 miles from Big Springs to Turpin Meadows would run until dark. In the first 25 miles I kept looking around for Trish. I also needed company for my misery. I was riding a converted rail bed of volcanic soil, ridden almost exclusively by 4-wheelers. It was trashed. There should be a "time-out" on 4-wheel trails, where after a few years they have to re-route and re-configure. They can make sand out of the most solid surfaces.
I made good time most of the day. I had time to bust off route quickly to snap a picture of upper / lower Mesa Falls and stop at Flagg Ranch for a "catch-up-on-the-world" quick read of USA Today. The route brought me around the north flank of the Tetons / Cascade Range from Idaho into Wyoming. I thought the Idaho side was equally as scenic as the more famous Wyoming view. The Snake River at Oxbow Bend is hard to beat, though. I still haven’t seen a moose all route. Looking good…
We woke up in the Centennial Valley next to a fox den. They were so cute and inquisitive. We watched them over breakfast before bumming water from these salt-of-the-earth ranchers from Roberts, ID. The stories on their faces beckoned – but no time!
We made it to Big Springs around 4ish. Trish’s Achilles was in need of a rest so we decided to camp. On the way back from the bathroom, she severely sprained her ankle. She was in incredible pain! The ankle had surgery history. She thought it could be broken. A night of elevation did it some good but x-rays were the only conclusive info on its status. I stayed with the gear while she got a ride off-route to a hospital in Rexburg, ID. It wasn’t broken but is severely torn.
A reality we never wanted to visit was upon us. Lots of tears were going around, but neither of us could bring ourselves to iterate what the future holds. We both believed that if one of us could not continue the other should press on for the good of our sponsors and families, but in practice, it was agonizing. Trish finishes everything she starts. She’s tough as nails. This was not about those mental / physical fortitudes. It was about following medical advice and looking towards the World Solo 24-hour Championships in B.C in September.
I’m losing my best friend from an effort that, although solo in concept, has been made exponentially more fun and real through companionship. Tomorrow when I ride from Big Springs to Black Rock bike campground, it will be difficult. A scenic stretch through Yellowstone / Teton country won’t be near as sweet as it should. I hope I can adjust. She’s getting a ride to Moran Junction where I’ll meet her and decided if I am pressing on. I know I should, but I will revisit then.
From Lima to Big Springs, ID, it looked easy on paper. It wasn’t with 1/2 inch of hail and rain. Sleeping in dropped us right into afternoon thunderstorms. They were viscious. It rendered the road impassable. Big Springs would have to wait until tomorrow. Our bikes were a mess.
From Elkhorn Lodge, we had one of our more emotionally challenging days. We rode all the way to Lima, MT but it wasn’t without issues. First, Trish and I got separated near Polaris when we each stopped for adjustments without communication. It was really my fault as I went beyond the next turn when I should have waited. Once over that, we began the mentally challenging Sheepcreek / Medicine Lodge scenic byway. It’s a very exposed 60 mile fire road with imbedded river rock that just hammers your body.
We dodged storms and stopped for knee and achilles pain along the way. Our spirits picked up around dusk as we descended the lower canyon of the byway, which was spectacular. The rock was all rotten so it made for bad climbing, but coral-like formations that were awesome. We could have ben diving in one of the great trenches beneath the sea if it weren’t for badgers running around. We limped into Lima late knowing we would have trouble doing a full day tomorrow.
The big day we needed from Butte didn't quite materialize. It was an awesome
riding day and fun cultural cross-section, but we decided to end it early at
Elkhorn Lodge Hotsprings. What a cool place! Situated near Maverick Ski Resort,
this 1888 built lodge has more stuffed animals than a kinder-care. What make it
special, though, was the hot springs and the plate-size buttermilks they flip
up for breakfast. We racked in our bags out behind the corral and a donkey made
it his mission to get us up early. Still, we hung out in their "sitting room"
digesting and wasting morning light. On the way up Wise River Scenic Byway
towards Elkhorn, Trish started experiencing the dreaded achilles tendon pain.
We decided to rest it and exercise our stomachs on Hi-Bar-J's (??) famous 16
ounce Montana beef special - the best burgers we've had in a long time - not
said under caloric duress.
Today we encountered a four-wheeler trail that was very technical and sandy. Being techy east-coasters, I'm proud to say that I cleaned the entire climb and descent and Trish came very close to perfect also. With all the gear we're humping it was a feat. My guess is that all the other racers running 29-inch wheels had trouble with it. It was one of very few places our 26-inchers excelled. The dividends for all that work were quite tasty. We descended for nearly an hour into Sleepy Basin, Montana for a snack at the Leaning Tower of Pizza. Food is becoming an issue for us. We crave fat constantly. Oatmeal for breakfast doesn't complete us. After riding a cool rail trail now used to drive cattle through the mountains, we made it to Butte, Montana. We planned to ride till dark, but a giant hail storm told us to stay put. We need a big day tomorrow. We trail the next racers by nearly a day. We got the bad news tonight that one person had to drop out due to achilles tendon pain too unbearable to continue. It's a real
bummer. I had picked him, Steve, to do very well. He's a messenger from Portland and a world-class athlete. Pain can break you quickly out here. It has certainly diminished our pace. We hope to be the tortoises, steady chasing the hares. Will the hares need time off? Who will know. We wish everyone the best. If John Stamstad reads this, John - you were "The Man" in '99. Even if your
record is eventually eclipsed - no one will ever match your pioneering spirit. An original gangsta, he is ...
Man, Montana is very tough on the Great Divide route. Leaving Lincoln, MT late, we only made it to Helena by dark. Epic, steep climbing most of the day. We were rewarded with an awesome downhill at the end, though. We entered a new, different climate zone from the juicy Glacier area. Now it's buttes and sage, aspens, cattle country, mining ruins. Clint Eastwood would have felt right at
home. Sun/heat was a factor for the first time. We saw a great sunset on priest pass above Helena. Lots of deer, elk, nothing too dangerous except excessive speed on the downhills. We're beginning to realize how special the Montana section of this route is. We hope all the other racers are doing well and staying healthy. We'll try to check in online when we get to the Butte, MT tomorrow
We left the state capital this morning - last night’s late meal at pizza hut was our first fatty, comforting food in awhile. We climbed up what seemed like all day. It culminated with parts of lava mountain trail land N. Fork of Quartz Creek (transmission ended abruptly).
This was our most scenic day so far. The Swan Mountains South of Glacier are fantastic. The trail was very difficult - single track climbs, descents, some loamy slow. We made good time and had a blast descending the Richmond Peak Trail into Seely Lake. The last pass of the day into Lincoln turned into night, but we didn't want to sleep up here as we saw lots of bear tracks. 3am, we racked hard and slept in. We're still having trouble adjusting physically after a 36 hour blitz drive from NC just 1.5 days before race start. That poor Chevy never stopped running all the way across the country except to fill up for gas. If our bodies hold up, perhaps we'll make up time down the road on the others out in front.
Saturday began by picking up a food drop in Columbia Falls, outside Glacier Park. Jerky, pasta, oatmeal, bars galore, etc. What we could not eat on the spot we loaded in the bags. It would be a hard day with all that food. We are going to grow to dread food drop days. Maybe the "eat Twinkies on the run" plan of other racers is the way to go? Anyway, today was again, another spectacular day if you like big snow-covered peaks, cascading waterfalls, wildlife, severe knee pain, sore bums and sutures in your ankle. Towards the end of a 50 mile stretch of dirt in the beautiful Mission range we rode up on a big momma grizzly and her cub spaced several hundred yards apart. Fortunately, they were both on the same side of the road and exited stage left without the small talk. It jazzed
up our pace for awhile. We were almost to Holland Lake when Trish fell with her bike while coming around a gate. With the awkward weight, the bike fell downhill onto my ankle. I got chain ring in the ankle. New, sharp XTR aluminum. Ouch! Before we left we got schooled on how to install stitches if one of us needed them. That was a good thing. This cut required several. After cleaning
things up, it took two stitches. We rode on into the night, but with only small headlamps. It wasn't efficient. We plan to stay away from night riding.
The relay from the Canada border finally arrived for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race. 12:03pm was the official time-check after a few pictures and well wishes from each other. We all stayed together until the first big climb of the day when things broke-up in foreshadowing of the weeks to come. Almost immediately those going ultra light opened up a gap. Trish and I expected this as we're carrying full gear lists relative to some stoves, tents, food for as many as 3 days. We're hoping to split the difference between almost no gear and too much to move fast. We "want" to cover 100-130/day miles if possible. We will probably end up slimming down on a few things as our weeks become clear in the first week.
Our two big climbs of the day en route to Whitefish, MT looked into West Glacier. What an impressive horizon! We rode along the North Fork of the Flathead River and through last year’s massive burns outside the park. Tomorrow we enter even more serious bear country. We'll be making lots of noise if it doesn't make us go anaerobic on the climbs. We suppose its nothing compared to running from a grizzly, though.
Profile on Matthew Lee:
Matthew Lee `02-`04 Cannondale Factory MTB Rider, Catering Conmpany Manager, Chapel Hill, NC
`02 Cane Creek Cup Champion
`03 4th overall Pro/Expert VA State Series
Numerous top 5 and top ten finishes in off-road metrics and centuries.
MTB Columnist, Endurance Magazine
Race Promoter, Soup Bowl Off-Road Duathlon
Profile on Trish Stevenson
Trish Stevenson -`02-`04 Cannondale Factory MTB Rider, Bartender/Wait, Fine dining in Chapel Hill,
`02 NC/SC State Champion (Cane Creek Cup Winner)
`03 VA State Champion
`03 Record Breaking winner Shenandoah Mountain 100
`03 Amitri World Champion Solo Women 24hrs (Moab, UT)