Midday, June 17th 2005 - Port Rooseville, US Canadian border.
"It's very hard in the beginning
to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the others. Eventually
you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you
that wants you to quit." George Sheehan
It's raining, hard at times. A southerly wind is driving US
raindrops horizontally into Canada. 7 bikes are propped against the
wooden wall of a bar out of the rain. 7 riders, one female, make final
preparations. I adjust my Endura shorts, zip up my Montane rain jacket
and leave a pair of old sandals by the door for someone to find. No one
is overly enthusiastic about turning pedals today but everyone is
cheerful. Stamstad started his ride at midday and the unwritten protocol
states that we do the same.
One by one we roll out onto the road and line up; we have so little gear
we look like a bunch of day trippers. There is one spectator who takes
the official photographs and 2 minutes after midday by mutual consent we
ride south into a headwind that was to blow and blow and blow.
I hardly know myself sometimes yet I look at the other racers and try to
fathom their being here. I'm not the oldest by a few years but the
youngest is maybe 18 years my junior and I have immense respect for that
youngster. Pete Basinger soundly beat me to McGrath the previous year
and in him I saw determination and character. When I would catch him at
a checkpoint resting he would pack up and go knowing I would have to
stop for an hour or more to eat and dry clothes, I would see his
tiredness but more obvious was his mental strength. Trish Stevenson,
tall, athletic, strong, she's here to finish the race that she
abandoned through injury the previous year. Brad Kee a kayaker from the
East coast, a big guy with not a huge amount of big rides behind him.
Matthew Lee, finished the race last year but cruised it, why is he here
again? Scott Morris, unassuming, quiet, a wizard with a GPS he rode the
route the previous year from south to north mapping the entire route.
Last but not least is Kent Peterson. The oldest, shortest and by a wide
margin the most eccentric of the line up, he has ridden the 600 miles
from his house to the start line. I look at him, I look at his bike. I
believe in study, preparation and finding the best tools for the job, my
rear hub was worth more than his whole bike and that is the truth. He is
riding a steel rigid singlespeed with 26' wheels, he has whittled a
pair of aero bars from sticks found in his back yard, attached with
string and tape he has various paraphernalia swinging from bike and
body. He has flat pedals with powerstraps, he has one of those small
mirrors on a thin wire protruding from his helmet, who the hell does he
think is going to be creeping up on him in the middle of the desert?
In a 'Tortoise and Hare' way I respected Kent Peterson. Some
months earlier he had sent me an email, in this he wrote:
"As for myself, I'm pretty sure
I'll finish but I'm not figuring that I'll be the speediest
rider out there. I'm more stubborn than speedy so I hope that'll
be enough to see me through."
For someone to make such a statement they knew themselves well. Looking
at the bike you'd assume impending doom, looking at his list of
achievements you'd put good money on success. Kent Peterson was a
bit of an enigma.
Author Alan Tilling
Author Alan Tilling
The first days riding, as in any race, was fast. We rode some flat
tarmac and six of us on our high tech 29ers predictably dropped Kent and
his small wheeled monocog. We cruised alongside rivers and climbed
through dense forest. I chatted a bit with Pete and for a while I
climbed with Trish, eventually I settled into a rhythm with Scott as we
beat our way to Whitefish in the wind, rain and bitter cold.
On a long straight descent I saw my first bear; a black bundle of fur
came crashing out onto the trail and straight into the woods on the
other side; it was a wake up event to remind us that today and for
several days to come we would be in brown and black bear territory. As
the group spread out I continued to ride with Scott until the day ended
around 2am when we both checked into a Motel with about 150 miles behind
us. If there was an opportunity to get a bed for a few hours I would
generally try and take it; I imagined Kent out there with his one cog
probably bivied down in some swamp with the mosquitoes and bears.
Matthew might be ahead or he might be behind. I had visions of Pete
riding through the night and a hundred miles ahead by dawn, it was all
speculation, I might not see any of the other riders ever again.
Hazards of the trail
Hazards of the trail