The last two days have been amazing, to use a word that doesn't really begin to describe the vast array of sights and emotions. On Thursday Marni and I chilled in the afternoon at the Banff Hot Springs with Dave, Mary, Brendan and Matt. There was something very calming about lounging in those waters looking at all the beautiful mountains around us. Perhaps when I get back I'll talk a bit about my opinion of the two race "situation" but surely one just has to drive or ride into Banff with their eyes open to at least *want* to start there.That night the Tour Divide riders had their fireside pre-meeting. A camera crew was there to film the route and are going to be out on course here and there. I'm not sure if I'll see them much starting on Monday but they appeared nice and willing to work within the framework of the rules which is important. After some initial words from Matt Lee, the group got to hear from John Stamsted about his ground breaking 1999 ride, pretty much the reason we're all here even considering this now. I really enjoyed listening to John speak and also getting to ask a few questions as he shared some good advice and experiences with the group. I tried to keep my participation in the meeting from imposing too much on the TD riders but Matt did acknowledge my time trial to the group and wish me well which was appreciated.
When the meeting was over, Marni and I crashed out in the hotel knowing it would be a relatively early morning helping out with photographing the TD. We woke up and had a great friday Starbucks date before heading to the YWCA where the riders would being their adventure. Plenty of bike inspection, nervous chatting and last minute errands dominated the hour before the start. Just before 10am, they rolled out. Marni was up the road in the Element taking frontal pictures of the group and I rolled with Brendan and Matt taking pictures inside the pack and from the back. It was an impressive site with 16 riders and a few cameramen rolling past the Fairmont Springs hotel onto the Spray Lakes trail. Stopping for a camera switch with Marni, I caught back up to the pack who made a brief regroup 50 yards down the trail. After that the ride was on and although there wasn't any racing yet, the group began to spread out naturally. By the time I reached the first major road turn off, all that was left was individuals and maybe a couple pairs. I wished the racers around me good luck and headed, a bit half heartedly, back towards Banff. Along the way I made sure to wish everyone a most excellent adventure and took as many pictures of the racers as I could.
It started to rain after I had passed all the racers so I rode quickly and soon caught back up to Brendan and Matt. They had turned around early after Brendan said goodbye to Mary. I understand that powerful emotion and all those married couples out there who have separated so that one person could ride this route are very strong. Leaving my soul mate is undoubtedly the single hardest part of this entire endeavor. The three of us blasted back to Banff with the rain eventually subsiding. They headed back to the Y and me back to Marni at our hotel. We spent the rest of the day resting, eating and fastidiously watching the TD leaderboard for news of our friends movement.
With the Tour Dividers gone, it feels different here. I'm ready to focus on my ride hopefully headed out on Monday. The weather looks good and while the route is still unknown, at least the Canadian section looks good to go and I'll deal with the snowy passes when I get there. I feel ready, now I must continue to be a little more patient.
P.S. Gas is expensive in Canada, eh? Hosers.