Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat Springs resident Erik Lobeck, front left, rides with friends who came out to help him into Steamboat Springs in the 2009 Tour Divide mountain bike race, a nearly 3,000-mile trip that follows the continental divide from Canada to Mexico.
Steamboat Springs Erik Lobeck took a hug and kiss and soaked up what little time he could with his wife, Jessica. They spent a few minutes together at Orange Peel, had lunch in downtown Steamboat Springs, and that was that. He was off again, pedaling his mountain bike down the trail in one of the most challenging races on the planet.
The Tour Divide leads riders from Banff, Alberta, to the desert of New Mexico and the United States-Mexico border.
And on Wednesday, for a few short minutes, it led Lobeck to his pregnant wife.
"It was great to get to see him," Jessica Lobeck said. "It was exciting. He looked good and healthy and happy, so it was great."
Lobeck's training for the Tour Divide kicked off in the heart of the Steamboat winter, but it was his ambition for the race, built up throughout years, that helped him to the starting line.
To train for the nearly 2,800-mile adventure, he woke up early to get in conditioning workouts. He rode up the service roads at the snowy Steamboat Ski Area to the gondola. He rode all across the Colorado, turning short trips into long weekends on the road. He rode to Rangely and back, a 260-mile round trip, and to Lyons and back, a 300-miler that took him through Rocky Mountain National Park.
"But you can never do enough for this," he said shortly after arriving in Steamboat, about the halfway point of the trek. "It's not possible to do enough."
Lobeck launched into that stiff training regimen only weeks after learning his wife was pregnant.
She said she was never worried about letting him tackle his dream.
"He's never had a break," she said. "He finished graduate school last year, then went right into working. I miss him, but I have a lot of family and friends here keeping me busy."
For his part, Lobeck said the trip has been worth the sacrifice.
It's been everything he hoped for, he said, though perhaps a bit more difficult.
"I've had a lot of good moments," he said. "There were a lot of really great dirt downhills in Montana. You pretty much compress eight good mountain bike rides into every day on this trip."
The trip hasn't been without its problems, though. Lobeck said he's seen eight grizzly bears and even had to wait once as a family of the lumbering beasts took their time crossing the trail in front of him.
"I've only had one down day so far," he said. "Riding out of Rawlins (Wyo.) I didn't have enough food in me, so I crashed a little body-wise."
He said seeing his wife in the middle of the trip was a big boost, but he couldn't even fully appreciate it.
The Tour Divide is a self-supported race, meaning riders can't eat or take advantage of anything they don't carry with them or purchase themselves. He swung by the post office to pick up a package of new clothes he had sent to himself, but when his wife offered him a few pieces of fruit, he had to pass.
"I can't take that from you," he announced in mock outrage. "Are you trying to get me disqualified so you can have your husband back?"
She insisted she wasn't and that for now at least, she couldn't be happier that her husband is midway through the ride of a lifetime.
"In a twisted way, it's been really fun," Erik Lobeck said. "I'm glad I got the opportunity to do this because it's something I won't ever forget. This is a one-shot deal. Some riders do it more often, but with a kid on the way, this is a one-time deal for me."