Steamboat Springs resident Leighton White rides last month in the Tour Divide mountain bike race, a 2,711-mile race that mirrored the continental divide from Alberta to New Mexico. White finished the race in just more than three weeks.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs resident Leighton White rides last month in the Tour Divide mountain bike race, a 2,711-mile race that mirrored the continental divide from Alberta to New Mexico. White finished the race in just more than three weeks.

Tour Divide conquered

White says 2,711-mile ride was experience of a lifetime

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— Steamboat Springs rider Leighton White said there was plenty of emotion when he finally pulled up near the end of the 2,711-mile Tour Divide mountain bike race July 7.

The race took White and nine others from Banff, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, N.M., on a trail mirroring the Continental Divide. The race took White 23 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes to complete.

With all that time to think, White said, there was plenty going through his mind. But one thought stood out the most.

"It was kind of a mixture of emotions, yet none of them were all that strong," he said. "Mostly, I was thinking 'Oh, thank God!'"

White, a firefighter who passed through Steamboat Springs on the ride in late June, said the massive trip was worth every cold night and snowy mountain pass.

He ended up finishing in a tie for third place. Matthew Lee was the first finisher, in 19 days, 12 hours.

When White passed through Steamboat Springs, he was a half-day behind Alan Goldsmith and Dominik Scherer, two European riders who traveled to the United States for the challenge. White made up the difference during the next couple of hundred miles, however, and also joined forces with Adrian Stingaciu. Together, the foursome rode the last several days in a pack and finished together.

"Riding with them made the last week much more enjoyable," said White.

Unable to train as much as he would have liked thanks to Steamboat's big winter, White was at first worried about keeping up with Goldsmith and Scherer.

"The day after I caught them, we had a huge climb out of Abiquiu, N.M., and they dropped me right off the bat," he said. "That was demoralizing. Here I finally caught them after all those miles and the second we're out the door, I'm off the back end. That crushes you emotionally and mentally."

But White didn't stay down for long. After that climb, he again caught up and then stayed with the group, regardless of the terrain, for the rest of the way.

"They helped me ride harder and longer than I would have alone," White said. "They helped me finish a lot quicker than I would have if I had been alone."

The only thing White said he regretted in the final stages of the race was passing on the chance to buy a new set of brake pads in Steamboat. He couldn't find another shop that sold the right kind the entire rest of the route. He had quickly worn out his own brakes and he spent several days piecing together partial pads for emergency help. He even rode without any brakes for one day.

But that didn't do much to taint his view of the Tour Divide.

"It was a great experience," he said. "Given my lack of training, the fact that I finished and finished with the guys I did was a surprise. When you're a week into it and your knees are screaming, and your body is revolting, and you're trying to sleep at night outdoors, the fact that you can finish it off and your body and mind will respond they way they do is surprising."

- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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