June 14, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 1 - Canmore to Round Prairie

The day had finally arrived and I actually slept well. The alarm chirped at 4:30a, which for me is 30 minutes later than a workday so I got to sleep in a bit!! Haha. I was up and gathering my stuff while K took note. This would be the longest we've ever been apart since we started dating way back in 1992!! I had hoped for good weather at least for the first hour or so, but it appeared our pleasant weather window had shut. It was gloomy in Canmore, light rain with fog hanging in the valley. I rolled my bike out into the parking lot of our condo on schedule, 5:30a. I wasn't feeling nerves at all, I was ready to go. It was nice being solo to shake out those initial 17 miles or so. Time to reflect a bit on what it took to get here. Nice easy cruise on a paved multi-use pathway all the way to Banff. K would then meet me at the YWCA where, I'm sure the air was buzzing with excitement.
Banff bound!!

But first a pic from the side of our condo. Clouds hanging in Bow Valley.

To my surprise, the gloomy clouds had dissipated and blue skies began to dominate the morning!!

Banff Nat'l Park along the Banff Legacy Trail (Bow Valley Trail near Canmore)

A few other riders make their way through downtown Banff.

Bikepackers everywhere in this town are carb loading!!

Route: Canmore to Banff
YWCA was quite the scene compared to a couple days prior.

Once again I found a cheerful Dave Wicks!!

Alexandera Houchin ready to stomp on fools.

Did someone say 'Free pie'??

Once again, Salsa handed out stem caps good for two slices of precious pie for riders upon arriving in Pie Town, NM.
I was able to track down K as she had no difficulties finding a place to park. It was quite the scene with some 150+ riders & rigs filling the small area. I was soaking it all in and looking for a few familiar faces from the interwebs. I spotted Josh Kato's famous orange jersey and introduced myself. We've been Facebook friends and Strava followers for a couple years now, always good to finally meet someone you respect and admire face-to-face. I figured it would be the only time I'd see him anyway. I found Josh Uhl who was getting set for round two of his Triple Crown Challenge attempt on a singlespeed. He put together a really nice run during his AZTR750 in April. I finally tracked down Bonnie Gagnon. We had collaborated on a Tour Divide t-shirt & stickers a few months ago, it was so good to finally meet her. She has such an infectious positive vibe.
Bonnie & K.

Josh Kato's signature jersey.
Before I knew it Crazy Larry was having everyone gather up for the group photo and final words. It was about to get started.
Packed in like sardines. At this time I only knew a handful of riders, but now looking through this scene I recognize a lot of friendly faces!!

Hi K!! (Center, back row)

Crazy Larry doing his thing.

The other side of the group. Not everyone squeezed into the area here, but Gumby made it!!

Look at all those TD rookies. There's your eventual winner, Chris Seistrup in red, far right. All smiles per usual.

Jennifer & Jason Hanson ready to roll and with a shower cap.

GO time, see you in a few weeks down on the border!!
We left the YWCA a few minutes before 8a so we'd arrive at the Spray River trailhead at 8a for the official race start. Considering the number of riders, it went very smooth. I rolled past the sign and that was it, the 2019 Tour Divide was officially underway and I was partaking. A bit surreal, but I settled into my pace quickly and just like that a bike ride was happening. Now, how far can I get today?
String of riders during the neutral rollout.

Plenty behind me too.

It probably took a few minutes for all the riders to ride through the trailhead and that's without bottle-necking.

Joe & Nathan from Flagstaff. At least the Spray River trail was essentially a dirt road with undulations, It helped the field stretch out without the riders feeling like we were on top of each other.

Paul Kruger!! Glad I saw him since I didn't see him at the start.

Only a few miles in and a moment of perceived solitude. Sure does feel like bear country.

It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day. So much for the gloomy forecast.

Boardwalk over a marshy section.

Pizza break as a few riders went on by.

Canmore is on the other side of this mountain.

Dry portion of Spray Lakes Reservoir.

Singletrack!! One of two sections of the High Rockies Trail.

Super loamy terrain skirting the edge of Spray Lakes Reservoir - now with water!!

Pro-tip: Don't touch the explosives!!

Rare action shot coming off the High Rockies Trail. Photo by Alex Cohen.

Martyn Gibbons and I sharing a section of the Smith-Dorrien Trail.

Lots of easy miles as we transferred from park to park. Unreal area.

Perhaps the forecast was correct...for Banff. This was looking back north, glad we were riding south!!

Nothing special really, but it was my first filtering spot.
Yet another park, keep 'em coming!!

The Canadian Rockies really blew away my expectations. I'm so glad it turned out to be a nice day.

I was so enthralled with the mountain views I blew right by the turnoff to the Chester/Sawmill trailhead. More High Rockies Trail singletrack awaited.

All the flowing water reminded me of the 2017 CTR. I really didn't have to carry much.

The trail ran directly across the base of the waterfall.

The riding surface was magazine worthy.
I knew there was a suspension bridge somewhere along this section. I had really hoped someone would be out photographing riders as they crossed. I saw a shot last year from my buddy, Greg Gleason, and I really wanted a pic of me cruising across the bridge. However, Greg was somewhere around 3rd place last year, I tend to hang at the back of the mid-pack and it's rare to get action shots like that.

I had been now riding mostly solo for the better part of an hour, but soon caught up to Andreas from Toronto. We rode together for a bit, then I began to pull away when I rounded a corner and saw the bridge. There it is!!! Andreas rolled up and I asked if he wouldn't mind swapping cameras for a glamour shot. He obliged. First I took a GoPro video of him crossing, then he snapped a few pics of me crossing high over Blackshale Creek.

Dropping in.

This thing was rad!! Felt like my tires were floating on air.

Thankfully, it wasn't really too narrow.

So glad this is part of the route, what a treat.
I rode off ahead and I wouldn't see Andreas again. Thanks for the photos, perfect timing.

The singletrack kept delivering the goods. 9 miles in total for this section.

Aqua blue Lower Kananaskis Lake.

Back to gravel on the Kananaskis Lake Trail.

First resupply of the route: Boulton Creek Trading Post. Just wanted something cold to drink and a few small items.

The first of many bike/signage pics. Lots of riders coming & going here.
Boulton Creek Trading Post roughly marked the halfway point to the first Trackleaders checkpoint at Round Prairie near mile 100. I was hoping to make it up & over Koko Claims the first day and it began right at Round Prairie. I'd take a wait & see approach as the day wore on.
Not long after Boulton Creek there was a fairly stout hike-a-bike to begin the push towards Elk Pass. Mikki Suvia & Bill Claridge assume the position.

Mikke Suvia & Larry Goodman. I'd end up yo-yo'ing with these two for the better part of two weeks. Come to find out Larry is a good friend of George - who provided my Binary Bicycles Havok for the race. Larry had a pair of carbon Jones Loop bars, but didn't want to use them for the ride, so he gifted them to George, who then put them on my bike!! Thanks Larry!! Small world indeed.

This section was mostly 2-track uphill rollers to the pass.

Elk Pass marks the border between Alberta and British Columbia.

Alberta, done. On to the next one!!

Some cool woodwork art.

What is this? Trail treat du jour. Thank you faster rider for the unexpected snack!!

Down we go into the Elk Valley.

More fast riding and huge mountain views ensued.

It was hard to stay focused on the road with towering peaks all around. What a day.

Some wild horses out for a stroll.

A severely damaged rim by another rider. Mikki tries to help out, but it was crunched. He ended up getting a tube in the tire & wrapping it in tape to hobble into town. Not sure what the final outcome was. Tough break on day 1.

An example of 'free' miles. Point and shoot.

A couple of young guys, Sam & Bryson from NC blast off on the gravel tarmac.

Golden hour over the Elk Range.

My camp spot for the night at Round Prairie.
I reached the turn for Koko Claims and it was still daylight, but sometime after 9p. There were a few riders setting up camp across from the turn in a nice open grassy area. I debated for a moment, but decided I was pretty beat from the day and could probably use a good rest before taking on Koko Claims. This would be the only night I slightly regretted not pushing later into the night.

Day 1 of the 2019 Tour Divide was in the books and I survived! No bear sightings either, but quite a few fresh scat piles along the way. Maybe I felt safe camping in the company of others that first night out, whatever it was, I slept great.

Stats: 100.43 miles & 5,969' gained.


Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route.


  1. Awesome story and pics....cant wait for day 2!

  2. Great write up!! It was so great to finally meet you in person! Thank you for the kind words!!
    You're an amazing athlete!

    1. Thanks Bonnie!! It was not only great to meet you at the start, but running into you a few times on route was a treat!! Huge Congrats on your finish, you truly amaze me.