A number of years in the past, the mountain biking haven of Prescott, Arizona, welcomed a brand new rider to the fold. No stranger to a motorcycle, even Christopher Seistrup would admit he was a bikepacking greenhorn. However he discovered shortly. Final month, only some seasons after dedicating himself to long-haul racing, Seistrup entered the document books because the winner of the 2019 Tour Divide. Arguably the hardest self-supported race in North America, he crushed the course in 15 days, besting among the strongest riders within the sport.
Extra than simply the primary to succeed in the Mexican border, he generated $35,000 in donations for Save One Life, a corporation devoted to serving to folks with hemophilia. It’s a situation he’s is aware of all too nicely, not that he lets it gradual him down. Now that he’s rested and recovered, he took time to inform us about his huge win and the lengthy highway main as much as it. “The competitors half simply felt so much like being a fugitive on the run.”
AJ: The Tour Divide (TD) is billed as probably the most difficult self-supported bike race in North America, and but a number of riders received on their first try. Does a rookie have a bonus? It absolutely can’t be newbie’s luck.
CS: Seeing so many rookies have profitable first runs made me really feel like I had an opportunity if I labored arduous sufficient to organize. In recent times, rookies have received different main extremely races. Believing it’s potential is one factor. Having no expertise on the route meant I had no actual information of the terrain. With out expertise, it was arduous to make any concrete plans. With the proper mentality, I believe this could possibly be a profit. Possibly some racers do nicely when they’re keen to let the journey unfold in entrance of them. With fewer expectations, there are fewer disappointments. Maintaining a constructive perspective is large on this race. All this stuff come collectively to be a profit to the proper rider.
You didn’t begin bikepacking till a couple of years in the past. When did you resolve you needed to sort out the TD? Higher but, when did you resolve to make a bid for a high end?
Simply listening to in regards to the TD received me actually excited. As a child, I at all times needed to see how far I might experience a motorcycle. Once I noticed folks using far on mountain bikes, and tenting for days on finish, I turned infatuated. Earlier than transferring to Arizona, I used to be already in love with the concept of bikepacking. After I moved there and realized the probabilities had been infinite, I felt the TD could be a actuality ahead of later. Since quitting my regular day job I noticed I had the chance to coach the way in which high riders prepare. About two years in the past, I made a decision I’d do no matter I wanted to do to be considered one of “these guys.” Those I noticed within the films pushing their limits.
Everybody makes sacrifices within the title of their passions. To position nicely within the TD, you needed to make huge life modifications, however what was your most important?
Shifting my spouse and youngsters away from our prolonged household in Illinois was the largest sacrifice, but additionally a reward. It took turning into self-employed, promoting my automobile, and making biking as severe as a traditional job could be.
In 2017 Brian Lucido received the TD as a newly recognized type-1 diabetic. You received as a rider with hemophilia. You two are sending highly effective messages about overcoming what some would possibly understand as medical limitations. Did you assume your hemophilia would possibly stymie your ambitions to put nicely?
Rising up with a bleeding dysfunction, you’re continually instructed all of the issues you possibly can’t do. I really like biking a lot, I’d have taken no matter steps essential to see what I might do. Even rising up using BMX and dust leaping mountain bikes, I did it in a method that was so gradual, I used to be comparatively secure. I’ve solely had one biking harm that required therapy. That was final spring. I had been coaching for the 2018 Grand Depart, however in March I fell on my hip in Sedona, resulting in an unlimited hematoma that left me bedridden for weeks. The price of therapy was an excessive amount of, and a while off work was the cheaper choice. Sadly, that meant suspending my race till this 12 months.
You’ll be able to’t spend this period of time on a motorcycle, getting ready after which finishing the journey, and not using a deep love of lengthy rides, quick naps, and a must repeat them. What’s it about bikepacking that spoke to you?
For so long as I can bear in mind, I’ve simply needed to see how far I might experience. Once I moved to Arizona, I purchased a Jeep to discover the world, however quickly realized that my bike would take me to locations the Jeep couldn’t. As I continued to push my limits, I stored discovering new locations to attempt to get to. There are areas throughout Arizona that aren’t designated wilderness, however nonetheless have solely singletrack to succeed in them, or locations the place accessing them with a automobile would require particular permits. Making it into these areas, beneath my very own energy and carrying capability, opened up a world of potentialities that simply retains increasing as my health and luxury ranges allowed.
It’s getting a bit loopy what some think about “outdoors help.” Some even assume having a cellular phone is a bonus as riders can name dwelling for inspiration. Do you assume self-supported racing wants extra outlined guidelines?
There are completely different perceptions of how deep the self-supported ethos runs. Some folks assume inns or lodging are help. Once I’d name to test in with my spouse, Sarah, I’d begin off with, “don’t inform me about anybody else. I’m solely telling you what I’m going to do.” Having a bleeding dysfunction is disturbing on family members as nicely. I believe extra outlined guidelines might remove some grey areas, however there’s nonetheless no method to make sure they’re enforced. I didn’t even wish to take meals from dot-watchers for worry somebody would possibly suspect I had prearranged one thing.
Did something go wonky through the experience?
Driving into Ovando on fumes and attempting to stretch the energy to the subsequent city taught me an necessary lesson. I attempted carrying sufficient meals, however when timing runs lengthy, you begin to assume, what if I run out, what if I’ve to attend for a retailer to open? Expertise in creatively discovering options was an enormous plus. Discovering various makes use of for gear you deliver is enjoyable after they work. Shedding a second pair of sun shades in New Mexico and using all day with out them was robust. Each hour, I needed to cease to eat with my eyes shut to provide them a break from the solar. Saddle sores weren’t a lot of a difficulty till the final couple days. I used to be in such discomfort, I lastly discovered the answer was to make use of a strip of duct tape to drag my rear cheek up, transferring my saddle sore away from my sit bones.
Many individuals assume occasions just like the TD are extra about racing than journey. For a lot of the starters, these occasions are like mountains with summits they really feel compelled to climb. Do you do it for the journey or the competitors? Is the competitors with different riders, or principally with your self?
On the TD, the journey undoubtedly got here first. All the route was unknown to me. I had checked out maps, tried planning refill places, discovered campsites, however actually didn’t know the way any of them would pan out. The competitors half simply felt so much like being a fugitive on the run. I hoped to do nicely, I felt I had skilled for a 15-day end, and for probably the most half, I used to be simply out to have a very good time pushing myself. In the course of the day, I used to be consuming and using my bike, at evening was when the race strikes offered themselves. Pushing myself to go only a bit farther. I used to be at all times out to see what I used to be able to. I really like using so far as I can, and the TD gave me a experience with out limits. I didn’t need to dwelling by a sure time, I didn’t have work the subsequent day, I had all of the bases at dwelling coated, I had the liberty to push my limits for greater than two weeks. I used to be by no means attempting to satisfy a mileage objective, I needed to see if I might experience for nearly twenty hours a day, with minimal cease time except I used to be consuming or sleeping. If that put me into a very good race place, that was a bonus.
What’s it like spending all of these hours on the bike alone on forest roads and trails? You will need to feed off the solitude and interface with nature.
I don’t thoughts the solitude in any respect. Having the ability to experience my very own tempo, cease after I wish to soak it in, experience after I’m within the groove, is my favourite option to go. Driving technical singletrack, one needs to be very centered on the path. Driving dust roads, it’s far simpler to go searching and benefit from the surroundings. Spending two weeks rolling by means of the mountains, there was by no means a boring second—apart from the flat terrain. I believe I’d a lot relatively be going up and down. In the course of the winter and spring, I put myself by means of each kind of climate I might, snow, rain, warmth, and wind. I made certain all of my gear would handle me when wanted. Once I confronted all of these challenges through the race, I used to be nicely ready to take them on. I used to be in steadiness with nature, relatively than hating it.
There are some superb sections of the TD course. It traverses lovely landscapes. What was your favourite part?
The Canadian Rockies had been actually superb to experience by means of. I had by no means been uncovered to such steep mountains surrounding either side of the roads. An in depth second would have been using alongside Large Sheep Creek throughout sundown on my option to Lima, Montana. I really like using with cliff partitions on either side of me. It was a pleasant change of surroundings after using Outdated Bannack Street. for what appeared like an eternity. It’s actually arduous to select although since wide-open areas all have their very own uniqueness to them. The fixed change in surroundings, seen at a cyclists tempo, is actually superb. You discover so many particulars, sooner than strolling, however slower than in a automobile. I believe it’s the excellent tempo to expertise nature.
Bike setup is so important to a very good consequence within the TD. What was the primary goal along with your setup? Did it take lengthy to land in your remaining rig and kit choice? Something you’d have modified?
I went by means of two drop-bar bikes searching for the proper setup and eventually determined flat bar MTB could be the most suitable choice because the route began to put on on me. I needed to keep up the nice braking of hydraulic brakes and the precision dealing with of a traditional mountain bike, although I’d be useless drained. Previously, drop bars had been high quality, however when it got here to path using, there have been too many compromises.
I had been eying a titanium body for some time and had a reasonably good thought of what I used to be searching for. I’ve at all times been in between sizes, so after I reached out to Binary Bicycles, I used to be completely satisfied to study customized geometry body was a chance. We measured my physique and sorted out the dealing with traits I used to be searching for they usually engineered the right machine. I put collectively the elements that had been dependable prior to now and constructed a motorcycle I might service simply, if wanted. On the finish of the experience, I had solely changed a derailleur hanger and the chain.
What would you want folks to learn about your fundraising efforts and about hemophilia? What particular concerns do you could have as a rider with that situation?
I labored with the charity, Save One Life, who assist folks with bleeding issues in creating nations. I’m lucky sufficient to have solely wanted therapy for hemophilia a couple of occasions in my life, others want it thrice every week. I’ve the flexibility to assist them, and I really feel obligated to take action. Collectively, we raised over $35,000 to assist ship remedy, sponsor youngsters and younger adults to get to therapy facilities, and to supply grants in order that these affected by the issues can begin small companies to supply a life for themselves. As somebody with hemophilia, I’ve to be very cautious to not crash. I’m very conservative on tough terrain and downhill sections. I’ve to make time up climbing and with environment friendly relaxation stops. I take fewer probabilities and don’t experience if I believe I might go to sleep on the bike. Good, secure choice making is paramount to my well being and success.
What number of miles did you common per day? What number of hours of sleep did you get through the experience? Any thought what number of energy you crushed?
I averaged about 176 miles a day, slept perhaps Three-Four hours an evening. In the direction of the top, I took a couple of 15-minute energy naps, and on one event I hit the snooze button as a result of I used to be constructive I used to be dreaming after I awoke. It was tough to maintain up, however I attempted arduous to eat 300-400 energy an hour, even when I needed to cease to take action.
Realizing how arduous you labored to not simply experience the TD, however win it, the query now’s, what subsequent?
I’d like to attempt one other enormous journey earlier than taking a second shot on the TD. The Transcontinental Race throughout Europe is extremely intriguing to me. In the course of the first few days, I used to be studying place with Stefano Roumaldi from Italy. He spoke little or no English. I ponder how I’d cope with that using throughout a slew of nations with completely different languages and cultures. All of it appears very thrilling and would make for an exquisite expertise.