At certain times, Alice Drobna readily admits, she had to stop for a few minutes and cry. She was reaching the end of her rope, but she had no choice but to push on.
Quitting was not an option, because she was in the middle of nowhere and nobody would be coming to get her.
“You just have to keep going,” Drobna says. “That’s what got me through.”
The 39-year-old Bend resident this month won the women’s race in the Tour Divide, a 2,745-mile mountain bike race along the Continental Divide from the Canadian Rockies to the badlands of the Mexican Plateau. The annual event bills itself as the world’s longest mountain bike race.
Drobna also set the women’s singlespeed (one gear) record for the race, which she finished July 5 in 22 days, 6 hours, 36 minutes — averaging about 123 miles per day. She placed 11th overall out of 135 riders, including 17 women, who started the ride June 13 in Banff, Alberta. As of Monday, 42 cyclists had finished, 42 were still en route and 51 had dropped out.
The self-supported bikers surmounted nearly 200,000 feet of elevation gain by route’s end at the U.S.-Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Most of the race is on dirt roads through the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and the states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
Drobna survived six days of nearly nonstop rain in Canada and Montana, and excruciatingly steep and long mountain passes in Colorado and New Mexico, to be the first woman across the finish line.