Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat Springs resident Dave Meissner packs up at Orange Peel Bicycle Service in downtown Steamboat Springs after taking a pit stop in the town while riding in the Tour Divide mountain bike race. Meissner was in 19th place as of Thursday evening.
Steamboat Springs Dave Meissner sat in the back of an ambulance in the dark early morning hours one night last week in Wyoming.
As he struggled even to breathe, stricken by asthma-like symptoms, he was unsure whether the dream into which he’d invested three years of planning, the dream to ride the Tour Divide mountain bike race, was about to vanish at the hands of a mysterious and sudden illness.
The worst moment of the race, however, was Father’s Day, Meissner said Thursday while enjoying a final few minutes of relaxation in his hometown of Steamboat Springs before he set out again.
“I was away from family and it would have been nice to spend the day with them,” Meissner said, referring to his wife, Liz, and their two young sons, Mitch and Tommy. “That was rough.”
Meissner was one of a number of Tour Divide riders who made and then left Steamboat Springs on Thursday, arriving shortly ahead of a larger pack of racers and savoring every moment he could.
He was coming off his hardest days of the ride so far, where he’d amped up his mileage to nearly 200 per day. He slept Wednesday night on the banks of Steamboat Lake and early Thursday made his way into Steamboat, soaking up what he said has so far been the best part of his adventure.
“As soon as I got back into this area, I was pretty pumped,” he said. “It’s nice to be close to home.”
Meissner hasn’t been among Steamboat’s many prolific racers, though he said he’s clicked off a few 100-mile races. He’s never done anything like the Tour Divide, however. He first decided he’d like to try the event three years ago, and ever since it’s been a major focus.
Things started out slow for Meissner and all the riders in this year’s race. They battled snow and bad weather near the race’s start, at Banff, Alberta, but things improved as the miles added up. The 2,745-mile self-supported race ends in Antelope Wells, N.M.
Meissner — a real estate appraiser, volunteer firefighter and ski patroller — said he soaked up as much advice as he could from fellow firefighter and two-time Tour Divide rider Leighton White. On the course, he found himself with just the right supplies and equipment. He’s currently in 19th place.
Aside from that one nasty night in Wyoming — likely the product of a dusty, pollen-filled day of riding, but something that was all better when he woke up the next morning — things have been good, he said.
“I don’t want to curse myself, but I’m surprised more hasn’t gone wrong,” he said. “We had a few days of challenging weather, but other than that, it’s been pretty smooth.”
On Thursday, he got the crew at Orange Peel to perform a quick overhaul on his bike, stopped by Big Agnes headquarters for a quick tuneup on some camping gear and was soon ready to go again.
It hasn’t been easy, he explained. The hardest part, however, isn’t all the climbing or the lonely backcountry trails. It’s being away from home and his family.
“It’s hard to check out of life for three or four weeks,” he said.
He left Steamboat before noon Thursday, headed for Silverthorne, and hopefully is on track to finish in about 10 days.
“It’s been the ride of a lifetime. It’s been everything I’d hoped it would be,” he said. “It’s pretty fun every day waking up and knowing my only responsibility is to ride my bike as far as I can.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com