Rickie Cotter and Lee Craigie arrived in Antelope Wells in the early hours of Thursday the 30thJune, after racing in the 2017 Tour Divide, a 2,700-mile self-supported mountain bike race that takes riders from Banff, Canada to the Mexican border, via the trails and back roads of the Rocky Mountains.
Cotter and Craigie, members of The Adventure Syndicate’s race team The Quad, completed the off-road route in an eventful 20 days, which saw both riders being disqualified from the official classification, Craigie because she skipped part of the route in Wyoming in order to get treatment for a pulmonary oedema, brought on by an allergic reaction to ibuprofen, and Cotter because she accepted a lift in Colorado, in order to backtrack and fill in a 10km section of the route she had accidentally missed.
“I was gutted when I found out my time had been DQed,” says Rickie, “but regardless of the official race outcome this has been a fascinating and fulfilling journey that I will never forget.”
The Tour Divide is generally acknowledged to be one of the most challenging of all self-supported races, taking riders from the snow-covered mountain passes and dizzying altitudes of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, to the baking hot deserts of New Mexico, where Lee and Rickie had to endure temperatures as high as 40C, with up to 100 miles between resupply points. As well as altitude, isolation and extremes of temperature, riders frequently encounter bears, rattlesnakes, and electrical storms.
“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Coming down with oedema didn’t help. Nor did the catastrophic failure of my bike’s bottom bracket but I can honestly say that as a result of these things happening to me, I’ve had a richer experience. The kindness I’ve been shown by complete strangers has been overwhelming and more than makes up for the challenges I’ve had to face among the way. Rickie and I never set out to break any records on this route. We were focused on self-filming in order to document our journey for others to see and in this we have been successful. We now have quite a story to tell!”
Completing the Tour Divide is just the latest in the pair’s long list of achievements. As well as twice coming second in the World 24hr Mountain Bike Championships Rickie has completed the Transcontinental Race, the Highland Trail 550, the Ironbike stage race, the Andalucia stage race, the Tuscany Trail, TransWales and New Zealand’s Tour Aotearoa.
Lee raced professionally for many years, representing her country in the Commonwealth Games and Team GB at World and European Championships. More recently she has returned to her adventurous roots, becoming the first person to fatbike the GR5 hiking trail between Geneva and Nice, and racing in the Highland Trail 550. She is a founder and director of the Adventure Syndicate, and recently published her first book: Joining The Dots.
The two have both been British 24hr Mountain Bike Champion, and were part of a team of seven women who covered the 518 miles of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route in 36 hours back in 2016, to launch The Adventure Syndicate, setting a new record in the process.
“Since finishing our journey we have been doing very little, surprisingly enough,” reports Lee. “We’ve continued to be swept up by the kindness of others and taken into people’s homes and communities all over New Mexico. We’ve really enjoyed having a few days to just come down after our intense experience and enjoy the feeling of not having to get up at 3am to start riding our bikes.”
A film of their experiences on the Tour Divide will be released early next year.
Rickie and Lee’s Tour Divide adventure was generously supported by title sponsors Leigh Day,Apidura, Exped and Findra. The two also rode Shand bikes, wore clothing by GRN Sportswear, Swrve and Endura, and used kit from Time, Exposure, Optimus, Schwalbe and Enve.