Tracking the 2022 Tour Divide (part 1): Light Stalking

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In part one of two documenting the 2022 Tour Divide, photographer Eddie Clark recounts his time chasing light and finding riders between the mud, mountains, and sagebrush along the iconic and beautiful route. Find his recap and an excellent photo gallery here…

Words and photos by Eddie Clark (@eddieclarkmedia)

Coming out of COVID lockdowns and a closed border crossing, it was refreshing to see a mostly full Tour Divide route with a deep roster of 172 cyclists lining up for the 2022 grand depart out of Banff, Canada. Tragic forest fires in New Mexico forced reroutes, leaving out several remote sections, including the rugged Brazos Ridge, which meant a race record would not be attainable this year. If anything, the Tour Divide has repeatedly shown that its records aren’t easily broken.

Severe weather served up plenty of cold rain and snow for racers to battle during those early days in Canada and Northern Montana. Supposedly, there were 15 organized search and rescue missions by local and regional authorities to extract TD racers from the backcountry. Not good. Within Canada and northern Montana combined, there were five unrideable sections of the route due to snow coverage. Not far beyond, Togwotee Pass in Wyoming made for a sixth unrideable obstacle.

With a premium on fuel prices time, I opted to cover some of my favorite portions as best as possible this year, leaving the start and finish for dot-watching imagination. That said, there’s been no shortage of social media posting from those sections if one digs deep enough on the internet, which is partly how I kept tabs on the pace of the race. I spent my first night on the Green River just north of Pinedale, Wyoming, while the pointy end of the race was getting up to pace in Montana. Usually, fire danger and a race against the clock don’t allow for the luxury of a campfire, but I had plenty of time and a pile of semi-dry wood left by previous campers.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

After waking up to a snowstorm, I’d spend the next day driving at a leisurely pace to increase fuel efficiency with a planned interception of racers in Lima, Montana. The route from Bannack, Montana, to Island Park, Idaho, is prime for the expansive photos I envision when thinking of the Tour Divide. I just missed race leader Sofiane Sehili at the only refuel stop in Lima, so I pressed on toward Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to photograph him before sunset.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Sofiane Sehili, Eddie Clark

There was still plenty of mud from the vicious storms that had pushed through in the previous days, which saw epic flooding and road destruction that closed all of Yellowstone National Park. Fortunately, the sun was out, and winds started to quickly dry the route, which loosely parallels the Red Rock River.

  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark
  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Luck is also required for my photography, which wasn’t favorable for this evening. Every shot I set up to capture Sofiane in the brilliant evening light was foiled by clouds at the very last minute.

At least the cows got some of that golden #lightbro.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

And just like that, the sun had set. So many memories to try and remember out here from having photographed this race ten times since 2009, but my thoughts were more consumed with where I would sleep this night.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Knowing Red Rock Pass may very well be covered in snow, I opted for a new-to-me spot at the Lower Red Rock Lake Campground just a mile or so off route. Despite arriving in the dark, I was pleased to find I had the place to myself. In the morning, I awoke to simply beautiful surroundings, a thriving estuary.

The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a seldom-mentioned gem on the route, and it was created in 1935 as a breeding ground for wild birds and animals, particularly the trumpeter swan. I enjoyed the morning with hot coffee and watching various species of birds and waterfowl living their best lives.

  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark
  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Knowing there was a significant gap between Sofiane and Manu Cattrysse, I headed to Red Rock Pass to find it was dry, and so I kept going until I got to this eroded and blown-out drainage culvert that was the aftermath of the massive storm system that’d just come through in the previous days. Manu made short work of it while all vehicular traffic like me had no chance of getting further. My Plan A of getting photos in Island Park was scrapped at that point.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Josh Ibbett, riding in third place, rolled up a couple of hours later and stopped to say hi while we all waited. In those couple of hours, an Idaho road crew showed up to work on repairing the blown-out road. Timing is everything out on the route, and Josh watched and waited while the road crew worked.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

At this point, it made sense to work my way back up the route and get what photos I could before sunset. I first crossed paths with Adrien Liechti, who seemed in good spirits despite the strong winds.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

The next rider through was Ben Steurbaut, and I only got a fleeting shot of him while a random cow watched inquisitively.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Abe Kaufman followed just minutes behind with a smile, probably because he was enjoying a momentary tailwind in this particular section.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

I then had a nice stop and chatted with some folks touring this section of the route. Noticeably, there have been a whole lot more people out touring the route than I’ve ever seen in previous years, which is pretty awesome.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

It’s worth mentioning that I consider everyone on the route to be a friend, whether they’re racing to win, to finish, or just touring outside of the race. I’m a cyclist and have dedicated a significant portion of my life to riding bikes, so as a photographer, it’s easy for me to have a high level of respect for others out riding or racing the route.

Over the years, I’ve come to respect the racers and the race itself more and more. I’m not a media crew, I don’t follow anyone for any length of time, and I keep my interactions random. My wife is the only person that knows my plans and exactly where I’m going while I photograph the Tour Divide. To be fully transparent, I photograph the Tour Divide because I am a fan of the race and route as much as the racers pushing themselves to extremes. I do it as ethically, fairly, objectively, and safely as possible.

Pressing on, I next encountered Andy Leveto just outside of Lima, who was also momentarily enjoying a nice tailwind.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

I stopped at the only gas station in Lima to fill up the gas tank and grabbed this token gas station shot of Ezra Ward-Packard getting some respite from the sun while filling his own tanks.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Turns out this route has been around a long time before people thought about riding bikes in these parts.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

From Lima, I kept driving up the route to work my way back toward the lead women. After cresting Medicine Creek Pass, I grabbed a couple of quick shots of Danny Green making a quick clothing adjustment as the temperatures dropped.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Next up was second-place (at the time) singlespeeder Andrew Strempke, who briefly stopped to say hello.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

It ain’t easy being a singlespeeder on the Divide, and a positive attitude helps immensely, which is something Andrew happens to have in spades.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Daniel Connell was also enjoying a splendid sunset as I crossed paths with him later.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Brian Toone from a distance.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

I was hopeful of getting the women’s leader with some golden sunset light but was just minutes late in making that happen.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Zoe Chauderlot, Eddie Clark

I caught back up to Zoe Chauderlot, who was leading the women’s race, just before MT Highway 324, where the Tour Divide and the Trans Am first share the same section of route. She was thrilled to finally be out of the rain and snow.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Zoe Chauderlot, Eddie Clark

I then called it a day and spent the night off route at a campground on the Clark Reservoir, listening to the waves lap against the shore as I drifted to sleep. It was the perfect place to sleep in. And, of course, there was also good cell reception for keeping tabs on the race.

The next morning, I made a quick trip up Bannack Road to grab some photos of Ana Jager, who was in second place among the women. It was as far north as I’d budgeted myself to go, and fortunately I rolled up just as she was making a gear change for the rising temperatures.

  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark
  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Instead of taking the interstate to get further down, I decided to stay on the route and grab some more photos, hopeful that I would get to the leading singlespeed racer before he got past the road closure on Ashton Flagg Ranch Road. I caught Zoe near Red Rock Lakes NWR and grabbed this quick photo.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

At Red Rock Pass, someone supposedly named Travis had put this sign up since I was last up there two days prior. There are also a few more “Welcome TD Racers” signs on the route, which I’m glad to see.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

In the nick of time, I caught Seth Michael, the leading singlespeeder, just as the sun was setting on the Teton Mountains.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

From Ashton, I bee-lined it back to Pinedale, slept right next to where I did a few days prior, and headed up to Fish Lake Rd the next morning. Considering I woke up to falling snow and socked-in mountains, I was unsure of how far I’d be able to drive before my lucky streak of not getting stuck would end. I quit driving while I was ahead and proceeded on a six-mile out-and-back hike, which was quite nice for stretching the legs after being cooped up behind a steering wheel for too many days in a row. Looks like the racers had some fun with the mud too.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

With my bear spray at the ready, of course I never saw any bears. It was still neat to walk up on these elk on my hike in.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

After quite a long walk, I enjoyed the alpine views of the high point on Fish Lake Road, which happens to be a newer addition to the route I’d never done before. The traditional route goes over the actual Union Pass, despite this section being incorrectly referred to as Union Pass quite regularly. The two places are significantly different in many aspects, with the most obvious being the views from Fish Lake Road are exceptional, and the second being Union Pass is where three of North America’s seven watersheds ultimately disseminate into the Mississippi River, Columbia River, and Colorado River.

Fish Lake Rd is one of the rare places where such significant mountain ranges as the Wind Rivers, Hobacks, Tetons, and Shoshone Mountains can all be easily seen. With storms looming in the distance, I started hiking back to my truck and fortunately caught Ezra Ward-Packard riding by. Thank goodness, as that would have been a huge commitment of my day not to get any bike racer photos!

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

Down toward the Green River, I caught back up with Ezra as he was filtering water. With open-range cattle ranching in most of the West, it’s not safe to drink unfiltered or untreated water from any of the creeks or rivers despite how inviting they may be.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

After a quick refuel and beer at Wind River Brewing in Pinedale, Wyoming, I headed out into the Great Divide Basin to set myself up for some sunrise photos of then third, fourth, and fifth-place riders Abe Kaufman, Adrien Liechti, and Ben Steurbaut. The original Tour Divide Route went through Rawlins, Wyoming, but instead now turns off Riverview Cutoff Road to take this obscure doubletrack section that’s literally on the Continental Divide before turning onto Bison Basin Road and on to Wamsutter, Wyoming.

I first mapped this out on my paper Wyoming Gazetteer before leaving home in case I had no cell reception when I got to Bison Basin Road. Thanks to modern technology and cellular reception in the Basin, which used to be non-existent, I was able to find this spot in the dark at 1 a.m. so I could see the racers coming from a distance in the event they decided to ride this before sunrise. Sure enough, that is what happened.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

This was the closest I’d get to a sunrise photo in the Basin this year, as the clouds covered the horizon before the sun ever had a chance at it.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

On my way out of Bison Basin Road, I started seeing big piles of manure, which meant there were wild horses nearby. By sheer luck, I stopped slightly off-route near a watering hole and came across four herds of wild horses taking turns visiting the watering hole. Through binoculars, I spent a couple of hours watching the interaction within the herds between the stallion, the mares, and their colts as well as the interactions between the different herds. There was also a herd of bachelors in the distance that stuck to their lonely selves and were last to drink from the watering hole. It was my most enjoyable experience of this, and possibly my last, Tour Divide.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

The stallion of the herd in the previous photos was bringing up the rear and just out of frame, but the stallion of the herd in this photo is on the far right. When another herd approached too closely, he quickly ran over to the stallion of the other herd and gave a quick kick at him to keep the distance between herds. All of that happened outside the range of a good photo, so you’ll have to take my word on it.

2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

After refueling in Wamsutter, I headed further south to get some daytime photos of the trio of Abe Kaufman, Adrien Liechti, and Ben Steurbaut, who were still riding somewhat together at this point. The sun was out, it was hot, and they found a Highway Department garage to nap under while the wind continued to blow. I left them alone, took this photo, and drove on.

  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark
  • 2022 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark

I’d heard about Brush Mountain Lodge potentially being closed but had to see for myself. There have been a lot of good times had by a lot of good people here, and hopefully the better days will return sooner than later.

Stay tuned for part two of this coverage next week…

TrackerCheck out the 2022 Tour Divide Tracker page to follow along on the live tracking map, find our Rigs of the Tour Divide roundups, and more event coverage. Find it here.

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