Despite brutal cold and sloppy conditions, the leaders of the men’s and women’s races in this year’s Tour Divide are setting record paces, and the singlespeed race is even more heated, with a Croc-shod skipper in the lead! Find our update from the fourth and fifth days of the race with photos by Eddie Clark and some on-the-ground insights and interviews from Jay Petervary here…

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Photos by Eddie Clark; lead photo: 46-year-old Raymond Friedrich from South Australia; additional insights from Jay Petervary

While this year’s Tour Divide started on the latest possible day, as the second Friday in June landed on the 14th, there was no guarantee of better weather than if the race had started earlier. In fact, riders may have actually gotten better conditions starting a week earlier. But this is why we race—to see, when leveling the playing field as much as possible with a grand depart and all riders facing the same daunting 2,700 miles at the same time—how everything shakes out.

As forecasted, a wet and cold storm moved into Montana, hitting many riders hard on Monday. If they thought the first few days of the race were cold, they were in for a harsh surprise about what June in Montana could hold. Most of the photos and videos coming out of the area show cold, wet, heavy snow coming down and riders in their full rain kits, bundled head to toe, dealing with temperatures well into the low 30s Fahrenheit and below.

2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
  • 2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
  • 2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
Top: 36-year-old Robrecht Paesen from Herent Belgium aboard his 2017 Orbea hardtail; Lower-left: 24-year-old Cade Reichenberger from Lakewood, Colorado, riding a colorful Rodeo Labs Trail Donkey 4.0; Lower-right: Ed Pickup from Alexandria, Virginia, riding a Curve Big Kev.

While Tour Divide is never a good-weather race from start to finish, some years are more challenging than others, and this race is shaping up to be one of attrition for getting through Montana. This type of weather, wet and cold, very quickly shows who came prepared and who skimped on their cold-weather kit for the sake of saving a few ounces.

Most riders seem to be taking the weather in stride. Jay Petervary, multi-time finisher of Tour Divide and former course record holder, caught up with Jackson Long on Priest Pass north of Helena and recorded a quick video of him in his full rain gear. Long, the recipient of one of Petervary’s Be Good Scholarships, noted that he was “grateful for the moments, both the ups and downs,” and went on to say, “I think it just makes you realize just how special it is to be able to do this.”

Men’s Race

The big obstacle facing the leading men on Monday afternoon was Fleecer Ridge south of Butte. Justinas Leveika, the men’s leader, left Butte around 11 a.m. after a brief stop to refuel. Butte used to be home to the Great Outdoorsman, a critical bike shop stop for many Tour Divide riders that was operated by Rob Leipheimer, who would go out of his way to help riders get in and out of town as quickly as possible. Changes to the route detoured it from passing in front of the shop, and it has since closed.

Ulrich Bartholmoes trailed by under two and a half hours and stopped in town only briefly before rolling out around 2 p.m. He posted on his Instagram that he was concerned about the weather heading south of town, as they were forecasting snow at higher elevations. He was well aware that the approach to Fleecer Ridge was quite exposed. He mentioned that he contemplated whether to stay in town or push on, given the severity of the conditions.

2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
Ulrich Bartholmoes from Girona, Spain, at Priest Pass; he seemed to be in better shape since getting some sleep, and he was also over his stomach problems.

Ultimately, he chose to continue, writing afterward, “There was a snowstorm and a lot of wind, the wet ground was soft and made progress extremely hard and strenuous and in case I haven’t mentioned it yet: it was freezing cold.”

He notes, “No matter what equipment you’re wearing, being out in the wet and freezing cold all day was more than just unpleasant,” and goes on to say, “Fleecer Ridge, I didn’t think it could be harder than last year, but it is. But it’s beautiful.” He finishes one of his Instagram stories by saying, “This is probably the hardest day I’ve ever had on a bike,” something worth giving credence to given his bikepacking experience.

2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
Laurens Ten Dam from oudorp, Netherlands, at the top of Priest Pass; he reported hurting a little with the slow miles, but is still feeling solid.

Behind Bartholmoes, Laurens Ten Dam continued his march with his newly purchased gloves. Petervary, who is out on course taking videos of riders, intercepted Ten Dam on his way into Helena and wrote of the encounter, “I respect everyone out here. When I hear a World Tour Pro rider say ‘it’s hard,’ it makes me smile… in a way that I know he’s growing from this.”

Ten Dam trailed Bartholmoes out of Butte by an hour, undoubtedly wanting to get over Fleecer Ridge with as much daylight to spare as possible. Leveika made it over and into Wise River just after 6 p.m., Bartholmoes was just over two hours in arrears, and Ten Dam made it off the ridge before dark, arriving to Wise River just shy of 10 p.m.

2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
Justinas Leveika from Tolga, Lithuania, on Fleecer Ridge was in his typical good spirits. Eddie: “It’s pretty gnarly up here, and I gotta go before I get royally screwed and stuck up here!”

All three continued down the pavement and over a cruelly steep climb to Elkhorn Hot Springs for a well-deserved respite. Leveika arrived just shy of 10 p.m., Bartholmoes came in around 11:45, rejoicing that “after 20 hours of freezing I finally had a warm bed and could sleep for a few hours,” and and Ten Dam rolled in around 1 a.m. One can only assume that this was a much better way to spend a night together than in the port-o-potty that the Leveika and Bartholmoes shared in the Great Basin during a storm in the middle of last year’s race.

Leveika rolled out just shy of 4 a.m., Bartholmoes was less than an hour behind, while Ten Dam took a relatively leisurely morning, departing around 8 a.m.

In many Tour Divides, there’s often a weather event that separates the lead pack from the rest of the field and often forces the front riders to regroup together. Last year, it was the weather through the Great Basin. In 2019, it was the storm in northern Colorado that saw much of the field backed up at Brush Mountain Lodge.

Bartholmoes posted a photo this morning of riding through the Bannock Valley south of Elkhorn Hot Springs, an area known for its peanut butter mud when wet. But his photo shows cloudy skies and no precipitation, indicating that the weather may have relented and provided the lead trio with relatively easy passage. Heading out of Lima, the top two have ridden over 900 miles and have less than 10 miles separating them. They will be out of Montana in just a few hours.

2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
Tomas Fabian from Kraliky, Czech Republic, crested Priest Pass and was loving the conditions; he ssaid it suits him well.

Behind them, Tomas Fabian, women’s leader Meaghan Hackinen, and Jimmy Ashby all opted to spend the night in Butte rather than tackling a wet and snowy Fleecer Ridge in the snow, probably a smart choice given the conditions the leaders found. Earlier in the day, Petervary caught up with Fabian and recorded a video of the Czech racer in full rain gear saying, “I’m happy that it’s snow because I think it’s more fun,” and looking in good spirits.

Both Leveika and Bartholmoes are currently ahead of the Mike Hall record dot.

Women’s Race

Meaghan Hackinen and Ana Jager continue to light up the front of the women’s race and mix it up in the top 10 of the race overall. The two have very different feelings about the cold, with Jager far more comfortable in the below-freezing temperatures. The Alaskan just finished a solo tour of the 1,000-mile Iditarod trail this winter, an experience that probably is coming in useful given the snow on Tour Divide this year. Meanwhile, Hackinen readily admits that she doesn’t do well in the cold. She told Petervary out on course on Monday that she expects the next couple of days to be challenge for her, and that she was incredibly grateful for her mittens.

She also told Petervary, “That was a challenge. But a surmountable one, apparently.”

Running into a dot-watcher south of Helena while riding through atrocious weather, she told him, “It could always be worse!”

Meanwhile, a few hours back, Jager told Petervary, “It’s been kinda snowy for the past 24 hours, but that’s okay. It just adds to the excitement.”

2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
Ana Jager said she hasn’t seen anyone in a while and was enjoying herself.

The two women remain incredibly closely matched in many aspects of their ride. They both found themselves in Lincoln on Sunday night, Hackinen arriving a bit after midnight and Jager trailing her less than two hours back. Hackinen slept less, leaving at 5:30 a.m., while Jager stayed a few more hours, not departing until after 8 a.m.

Those extra hours gave Hackinen a jump and allowed her to make it to Butte for the night after a day of riding in sub-par weather. She was stopped from about 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., her longest stop of the race thus far. Meanwhile, Jager stopped in Basin, a much smaller town with not much beyond a post office and a bar, and stayed for a mere four and a half hours from 12:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.

2024 Tour Divide Day 4-5
Meagan Hackinen on the dirt road leading to Ovanda.

As of early afternoon on Tuesday, Hackinen has cleared Fleecer Ridge and made it to Wise River, while Jager is approaching the base of the Fleecer Ridge climb, about 35 miles back.

Hackinen is currently ahead of the Lael Wilcox record dot.

Singlespeed Race

While it’s all good fun to follow the men’s and women’s races, it’s maybe the singlespeed race that has been most exciting in the past 48 hours. As of early afternoon Tuesday, the top three singlespeeders, Zachary Del Greco, Jake Colantonio, and Johnny Price are all within seven miles of each other, nearly 650 miles into the race.

For the first four days of the race, Del Greco of Canada held a tenuous lead over Colantonio, who is sporting a bright yellow rain jacket, blue gloves, and what appears to be a leopard-print frame bag. Colantonio finished the 2023 Tour Divide in 17 days, 22 hours, and 58 minutes on a singlespeed. He’s also riding the entire race in Crocs!

Photo of current singlespeed leader Jake Colantonio from Marquette, Michigan, looking like a boat captain at the Blackfoot Angler in Ovando, Montana. Photo by Kathy Schoendoerfer.

Del Greco and Colantonio spent the first and third night together in Fernie and near Seely Lake, respectively, but Colantonio has been sleeping significantly more than Del Greco. Then last night, Del Greco made it to Helena just after midnight while Colantonio and Price both opted to stop shy of the big city at the Lama Ranch, Colantonio arriving just before 9 p.m., and Price following around 1 a.m. Both started moving together just after 6 a.m. and made it to Helena with Del Greco still there.

Del Greco and Colantonio appear to be riding together south of Helena, and Price has dropped just slightly off the pace. However, having three singlespeeds close together is a good indicator that the singlespeed race is going to be just as contested as the men’s and women’s.

TrackerCheck out the 2024 Tour Divide Tracker page to follow along on the live tracking map, find our Rigs of the Tour Divide roundups, and stay tuned in for more event coverage. Find it here.



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