Eddie O’Dea is an accomplished ultra endurance racer from Georgia who has set records in the Trans North Georgia, the Huracan 300, and other events. He’s currently racing the pinnacle of all bikepacking races–the Tour Divide–in an effort to raise money for the Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League (the Georgia branch of NICA). Assuming he completes the entire course, donors have pledged over
$16,000 $17,000 (and counting) to the Georgia NICA League. Specifically, this money will go into their bike scholarship fund, to ensure that all kids have a chance to participate in high school mountain biking if they’re interested.
However, most of the pledges are mile-by-mile, which has changed Eddie’s approach to this year’s race. After losing time early on, he determined that his number one priority is to finish the race so he can raise the maximum amount of money possible. Otherwise, he may have tried to make up time by riding through the night and skipping sleep, but the risk of blowing up and dropping out wasn’t worth risking the potential donations.
If you want to help support Eddie’s efforts and the high school mountain bike racers in Georgia, you can donate here.
I caught up with Eddie around mile 1,700, in the middle of the desolate South Park Valley in Colorado, to hear about his race thus far. Since that interview on Friday he’s made several hundred more miles, and at the time of this writing he’s up to about 2,100 miles of roughly 2,750 total. Keep tabs on Eddie’s exact location as he finishes the last few hundred miles through New Mexico, here.
Here’s my full interview with Eddie O’Dea, conducted on the bike as we pedaled south toward Mexico.
Greg Heil, Singletracks.com: So you are a little over 1,700 miles in, correct?
Eddie O’Dea, Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League: I’ve got 1,765 right now.
GH: What are your impressions so far of the Tour Divide? It’s your first time out here, and having set course records on other ultra long distance races like the Trans North Georgia and the Huracan 300, can you compare this to those?
EOD: Not much the same really. I’ve always treated those as just very long rides. This is like a big ride stacked on top of a big ride times, at this rate, 20 days.
GH: Did you have a [time goal] going into this?
EOD: With the reroutes I was definitely thinking more like 17 to 19 [days], but I pretty much lost a day–I lost my money.
GH: What has been your biggest challenge so far? Losing your money, or something else?
EOD: Losing my money was [tough], and the day before that was my biggest day, about 175 miles. Slept in the woods and I got up, ate a Clif Bar or something, and just started rolling.
I was about 90 miles to Ovando (the next town) from where I slept, with Richmond Pass in the middle of that. Richmond Pass is one of the first big passes–high altitudish. So I roll into Ovando and I am starving. I haven’t had a real meal all day. I had pretty much eaten everything I had in my bags. I pull up to the little general store and start looking for my money, and just begin to melt down.
I tore apart my bags three times looking for everything and never found it. I lost it where I camped which was a little bit off route, so I was not real hopeful that anyone would find it. So I do all the, you know, calling the banks, make some IOUs to the folks in Ovando so I can have some dinner and a place to stay.
I get up the next morning and I get a text from someone I don’t know and it says, “Hey, this is Alex on the Tour. I picked up your money. I’m heading towards Ovando and I can meet you wherever.” It was like quarter to eight in the morning and I was just about to leave, to go to Helena to get some money wired to myself.
I hung out, met up with him about 9:30am. It had been raining all night [and was] still raining.
So I jump on my bike all excited. Within 15 minutes said excitement is gone. I’m just soaked.
The big climb over to Lincoln, Huckleberry Pass I think it was called, was not horrible–it was chilly, but the rain kind of stopped. So I get down the descent–it was like 5 miles after the actual descent into town–and… [unintelligible].
So it took me 6 hours to do 44 miles. So that whole 18 hours right there was brutal mentally.
I cut it short that day and ate and slept.
There’s a lot of huge highs and huge lows.
GH: What was one of the highs?
EOD: [Feeling good] while climbing at altitude.
Doing a six-hour dirt century across the Great Basin–that was great! A lot prettier than what I expected. I don’t know why–I’ve heard a lot of bad things about the Basin.
GH: Did you get a tailwind?
I was just flying along. It was awesome!
Then I turned south. . .into the wind, with. . .about 30 miles of big trucks kicking up dust. So it went from this awesome high to this awesome low.
GH: As you head south, any concerns about the hot weather we’ve been having?
EOD: No, I’ve actually been looking forward to it. I saw it was 102 down in Antelope Wells today. That’s a little much. I tend to do better when it’s hot. I don’t know, I’ve been so cold now that maybe I’m not acclimated and I’ll fall apart. Who knows?
We had a couple of really good hot days, and I usually do so much better when I’m warm. Even if I’m sweating too much, if it warms up I can ride at night. . .I tend to really enjoy riding at night.
GH: So you’re doing this ride to raise money for the Georgia NICA League. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
EOD: Our chapter, the Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League, [has] about 700 kids. I’ve been involved since, well, before the beginning.
So the funds that I’m raising are for our scholarship program [for bikes], to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to [participate].
Last I heard, I’ve raised $16,520 if I make it to the finish. Most of that is pledged by mile so if I don’t make it, I don’t make as much money. Definitely changed my tactics a little bit!
I could go ride all night and make up some miles, but I could [risk collapsing] the next day. As we get closer and closer to the end and it stays warmer at night, I do have some plans to push on for some long days.
Mostly to get it over with. To get back. I’ve got things to do, I’ve gotta go to work. . . .girlfriend, I’ve got a dog. I have a business partner who probably wants [me to come back] and do my share.
GH: Where can people go to donate to support your mission?
EOD: If you go to http://georgiamtb.org/tour-divide/ you’ll see the information page with a link to donate. If you don’t want to do the pledge per mile–right now it definitely looks like I’m going to get to 1,800–you can go to the regular pledge and put my name in the little comments section.
GH: Any other thoughts?
EOD: Folks should try bikepacking, it’s a blast! I don’t know about signing up for the Tour Divide and doing 150 miles a day, but loading your stuff up on your bike and going somewhere is pretty exhilarating! Very satisfying.
I have my own little motorhome right here!
Last updated by Greg Heil on June 26, 2017 at 3:24pm MDT.