Hugh Harvey still struggles to get his head around what he has accomplished, even now, 40 days after the event. "I'm struggling it let it go... I slowed down way more than I should have in the second half", Hugh explains. Now that he is back at work after completing the adventure of a life time he is constantly wondering "what if?".
There are really only two words that need to be said when it comes to Hughes adventure, Tour Divide. The grand tour of mountain biking with over 4,400km of non-stop unsupported solo racing, it follows the rough trails traversing the Great Divide from Canada to Mexico. This would have be one of the best self-finding events, you ride every day to its own, you live in the present and are heavily connected to moving forward. "What has happened is in the past, and there is just no predicting what may come in the future," Hugh reflects, "there is much zen in just pedalling when you are on the bike, and eating and sleeping when you are not".
It has taken Hugh some time to recover and he finds it difficult separate the Tours days, let alone one climb from another. How ever he does remember the toughest days, "they were early on when it wasn't clear how hard to push". With 143 at the starting line in Banff, Canada, there were over 50 riders scratched by the time they hit the boarder. It was this last section of the race that Hugh found difficult too, as the towns were a long way apart. At this stage when eating junk food from the gas stations just wasn't enough, especially after eating big and often on most days leading up. There is a fine line between exhaustion and broken.
The Tour Divide is virtually all off road and the weather conditions you may have to ride in extend from snow and golf ball sized hail coming off Fleecer Ridge through, gail force head winds off the Great Divide basin in Wyoming through to the 40 degree heat for the whole of New Mexico section. As a cycling enthusiast this was Hugh's first serious bicycle race that he had ever been in and he agrees that this format of event seems to have suited.
"You just get out there and ride for as far as you can and then try and grab a couple of hours sleep before jumping back on the bike", Hugh explains, we are sure it may have been a fraction more than just that, with the complexities of navigation, resupply and avoiding wildlife.
Following the race by afar is easy with the Spot GPS Trackers carried by all entrants, these devices give an almost instant position of all the riders at any one time. We could follow the blue dots as they slowly progress south across our computer screens in their two dimensional landscape. On the flip side the riders were negotiating more than just the landscape, the wildlife had many worried, especially the grizzlies. "Most people carried bear spray and were blowing whistles that kind of thing. We pass through a couple of grizzly hotspots, Whitefish Valley which is where the US National Parks Service relocate the grizzlies from the other parts of the country if they have become a problem" Hugh goes on, "I spotted a couple of cougars, all the locals say they are much more dangerous than the bears".
Unfortunately Hugh's mate Walter was hit by at ute 20 miles from Rawlins and it took some effort for him to push on, especially with the thought of a whole lot more cycling on his own. But a new found personal discipline created by days and days in the saddle where the distractions were enjoyable settled to far more constant forward momentum. Basically, Hugh describes, if you can keep the body, bike and brain in the right spot then that is what the Tour Divide is about.
Finished a midfield 23rd in a little over 21 days, Hugh is now finding himself obsessing about the race, far more than he did before the event. While exceeding his own expectations during the initial days, there is just a seed of disappointment having not pushed and ridden as hard as he could. "I'm still struggling to get my head around what happened out there, the event, the course and the knowledge of self that I now have, it means that I am constantly wondering "what if?".