Completing the 2,854 miles of the Tour Divide, a grueling father-son adventure
Published: Friday, July 26, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
For Gainesville's Peter Kraft and his son, Peter Jr., finishing the grueling race together is what mattered, not finishing first.
Peter Kraft Sr., 50, a Gainesville resident and co-owner of a Nissan dealership in Tallahassee, and his son, Peter Kraft, 20, a member of the Florida State University Cycling Team, took off June 15 on the Tour Divide, an arduous off-road mountain bike race from Banff, Canada, to the Mexican border.
Thirty days, two trips to the hospital, and countless memories later, the pair completed the 2,854 miles that carried them over mountain passes, dirt roads and jeep trails.
“It took everything I could,” Peter Sr. said. “I am so happy I did it. It was awesome. It was everything I expected. At times, it was more than I expected. One time to see the country with my son and to do it that way is unbelievable.”
The road began more than two years ago after Peter Jr. watched a documentary titled “Ride the Divide.”
“He said, ‘Hey, I want you to watch this documentary because I want to do this with you.' And I watched it, and when you watch it, it sucks you in. It's an amazing thing,” Peter Sr. said.
The father and son had ridden motocross and dirt bikes before, and they had started riding mountain bikes about six months before they saw the documentary.
“The big question was, could I possibly get in shape, and how long would it take?” Peter Sr. said. “I've always been in decent shape, but not that kind of shape.”
They sought guidance from Derek Bentley, a former Tour Divide rider from Gainesville who finished the race in 2011 (in 21 days), and the crew at Bike Works on Southwest 34th Street, who provided them with their bikes and other assistance.
Bentley asked the Krafts if they wanted to race or did they want to finish. They answered that they wanted to finish together. Bentley told them it would take about two years to train.
Peter Sr. said he spent eight hours a week training on his bike off road. His son, a biomedical engineering major at Florida State, trains on both road bikes and mountain bikes with his FSU team and also by himself. They both trained for about 2 ½ years.
Finally, the day came to start the ride, and they joined 141 other riders. Peter Sr. said about 20 bikers actually race the Tour Divide to see who finishes first.
“They fall asleep on the bicycle, they eat on the bicycle, they go, they go, they go. It's a different human being,'' he said.
He said about 40 to 50 percent of the bikers don't finish the Tour Divide.
Each rider wore one pair of shorts and one shirt the whole time, and there was no such thing as deodorant. They slept in tents, and if it rained or hailed the riders just had to deal with it. The weather ranged from 46 degrees and raining in some states, to 100 degrees and dry in others.
The Krafts biked 14 to 15 hours a day, and they tried to ride about 110 miles a day.
The riders have to sustain themselves without help, and Peter Sr. said a rider should consume 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day.
“Not every day you would come to a town, and by a town I mean maybe a little tiny grocery with water, Gatorade, candy bars, junk food. That's the kind of stuff we survived on,” he said.
The best thing a rider could find in a convenience store is a Honey Bun because of its high number of calories.
“You basically eat crap food. Calories: that's the gas,” he said.
Over the course of the tour, the Krafts climbed more than 200,000 feet of elevation. Put in perspective, that's the same as climbing Mount Everest seven times.
Toward the end, the Krafts started having problems. Peter Sr. fell off his bike and had to be taken to a hospital. A couple days before the end of the race, Peter Jr. got sick and also had to go to a hospital.
“I've been in an ambulance twice in my life,'' Peter Sr. said, “and they were within three days of each other.''
He thanked his wife, Dawn, for being supportive and putting up with all their “bike issues.”
She said the monthlong adventure was rough on her, as well.
“I wanted them back a lot sooner than they came back,'' she said.
But she said she thought about it from their perspective and realized they had to finish what they started. The Krafts ended up finishing 75th and 76th, with Peter Sr. finishing ahead.
When they got home, Dawn Kraft said, their hair, beard and faces looked different.
“They both looked like they had been through a lot,” she said.