Not only did Lael Wilcox participate in the Tour Divide, she won it and set a new women’s record after riding over 2,000 miles from Anchorage Alaska to the Grand Depart in Banff.

Pretty good. I fell on the last day of the TD, getting off of the CDT section before Pinos Altos, so my right knee is a little swollen and sore. Other than that, I feel great.

I decided to race the Tour Divide while I was racing the Holy Land Challenge in Israel in April. We had a ticket booked to fly from Tel Aviv to Anchorage. I realized the timing was perfect. I could fly into Anchorage, put a bike together for the Tour Divide and then take off a week later to ride to the start. I’d never ridden or driven from Alaska to the continental US. It just seemed too great of a dream to pass up. In addition, during our nine month tour, we’d been riding lots of trail and not very much road. Most of the Divide consists of dirt roads, so I thought the ride down was a good opportunity for some road training.

It was awesome! The weather was unseasonably warm. I had lots of sun and 80 degree days. I saw about a hundred black bears (and even a white one) and camped out every night. I met great people along the way. The ride from Anchorage was actually more remote than the Tour Divide. There are a few hundred mile sections where I didn’t see any services. I generally resupplied at small stores or gas stations. I rode 100-130 miles a day for 19 days to cover the 2,100 mile stretch from Anchorage to Banff. I spent ten days in Canmoore resting before the start of TD. It worked out great.

I went out as hard as I could from the start. I was having a great time! During the first day, I started feeling my lungs burning. I figured they were just opening up and getting used to the elevation. In reality, I was actually fighting a nasty infection. In the evening, my breath shortened. I crossed a series of streams in the Canadian Flathead around midnight. It was pretty cold, but I was happy the night had cleared out, so I could sleep outside. I laid down around 1AM. By this point, I was gasping and wheezing. I couldn’t slow my breath enough to fall asleep, so a couple of hours later I got up to continue riding. I figured I’d get some cough syrup in Eureka and I’d be fine. I felt all right, but as the day progressed, my breath got worse and worse. I felt like I was breathing through a tiny coffee straw. I was trying as hard as I could, but no air was coming in. I had to climb three passes (Corbin, Cabin and Galton) before reaching the border at Roosville. By Galton Pass, my breath was so weak that I could no longer ride. I was slowly pushing my bike for five miles to the top. Close to the top of the pass, Rob from New Zealand caught me. He hopped off his bike, looked over at me and told me I was suffering. It was pretty apparent. From there, I cruised down to the border and struggled with the ten mile stretch from Roosville to Eureka. I called Nick along the way to tell him I was sick. I could hardly breathe enough to speak. He told me to lie down in a park in Eureka and take it an hour at a time. I really thought the race was over for me. I laid there for three or four hours, just focusing on my breath. Fortunately, I started coughing up loads of nasty bright green phlegm and I could breathe a little more easily. I called Nick back and told him I was feeling much better and that I planned to ride a few miles down the road, camp for the night and see how I felt in the morning. I bought Mucinex, Dayquil and several liters of juice and coconut water at the grocery store and headed out of town.

Not only did Lael Wilcox participate in the Tour Divide, she won it and set a new women’s record after riding over 2,000 miles from Anchorage Alaska to the Grand Depart in Banff.