2013 Tour Divide Finisher – Scott Thigpen

by Andy Amick on September 5, 2013

in Bikepacking, Cycling, Interview

If you follow the Tour Divide at all, you know how much training and work riders put into the race.  If you don’t follow the race, you’re missing out.

Earlier this summer, Scott Thigpen finished his Tour Divide in Antelope Wells, NM and was 4th place in the singlespeed category.  It’s a incredible feat to finish the race on a singlespeed, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of Scott.  In the last few years, he’s transformed his life from one of being sedentary and fueled by junk food to one filled with endurance bike rides on a singlespeed.

On his site, he has interviews with other 2013 finishers, but he didn’t do a full interview with himself.  I guess that would be a little too weird and Bob Dole-ish to interview yourself.  So I asked him it he would answer a few of my questions here are his answers.

ScottThigpenInterview1

Having grown up in South Carolina, I liked the reference to “Come to Jesus” moments in your post Tour Divide writeup.  To continue to Southern theme, how were you able to survive riding out West for 3 weeks without your daily dose of boiled peanuts and pork rinds?

Gag.  I hate southern comfort foods and try to stick to things that won’t end your life early.  I was more worried how I was going to survive without coffee but like most things, you adapt and move on.  If I did eat fried food (and I did once or twice), it’d eat at my stomach for the entire day with all those nasty greases swishing around.  I also couldn’t take chocolate anymore either and mainly just stuck to sour patch kids.

You are a fairly recent converter to the dark side of singlespeed.  Are you happy with the choice to ride the Tour Divide singlespeed and would you do it again? Were there a lot of climbs that involved walking due to your gearing?

No I was not happy with the choice of gear I chose (34×22) and wish I’d gone heavier but I was very happy with the single speed.  I couldn’t imagine riding on a geared bike and in fact when I’m on a geared bike I get all kinds of confused to be honest.  It’s funny, it’s now over a year since I converted to single speed and couldn’t imagine going back.  I’m currently considering changing my roadie bike and cyclocross bikes to single as well.

So with that singlespeed gear, were you are to ride all or almost all of the climbs?

Oh god no, I suffered through a ton of them…hence why I wish I’d geared heavier so I could have kept up on the flats.

I’m sure it wasn’t fun riding those last miles to Antelope Wells with that gear?

It was a level hell I hope I never experience.  When I get the book written, I’ll give the gory details… just know, lots of blood…lots of blood.

ScottThigpenInterview2

Anyone that follows your blog knows that bears were one of your big concerns. After all of that worry, are you disappointed that you didn’t turn a corner and run smack into a large bear?  Or maybe a little disappointed that you didn’t see a few bears from a distance?

Yes very disappointed.  How can you ride through “Bear country” and not see a bear? Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy to not be mauled by a bear – but no one ever is, you know why? Because they are wild animals and get spooked easily just like any other animal.  So if you make a lot of noise, they will run off (generally).

There is a lot of thought that goes into every little piece of gear for a ride like this. Did you have a piece of gear that became a favorite for you during the ride?  On the flip side, was there a piece of gear that ended up not meeting your expectations?

The gear that was the simplest and easiest to use ended up being my favorite.  Anything that was an extra 2-3 steps to figure out was hard to deal with.  My favorite setup was my Revo Dynamo light hooked up to the Shimano Alfine hub (that powered it).  It was rock solid and never failed.

From all of the race reports that people write, one thing they mention is all of the great people they meet along the way.  For you, was there one person or group of people that stand out above the rest?

I rode solo a lot because I was either faster or slower than any group I was with, so it never worked out.  I rode with Kristen, Taylor, Ty and Joseph a lot. They’d drop me everyday but I’d catch them by the next stop and we’d chat, laugh and hang out for a while.  At the Gila National Forest I decided to take the reroute while they took the original route.  I knew it’d be the last time I’d see them so I gave them all a big hug and shed a tear because I’d enjoyed their company so much.

I think the most meaningful person I met was Billy Rice (the YOYO Guy).  He was the coolest guy ever and really enjoyed hanging out with him.

ScottThigpenInterview3

I remember seeing one of your video updates during the race, where there was an intersection that had trails going in 4 or 5 directions.  Did you find others like that and did you have any good Chevy Chase movie moments where you got lost, went around in circles, and passed the same tree several times?

Honestly the route finding wasn’t bad, I just had to follow the purple line on my GPS and I was fine.  It was there “here and there” parts that were hairy at times.  I’d get confused at a split and would have to ride down the rode a little ways to make sure I took the correct side of the fork.  One time was particularly upsetting because I went down a huge downhill only to find out I was supposed to not do that and had to climb back up it.  I was very frustrated that I’d wasted that energy.

What did a typical re-supply for food look like for you?  Don’t worry, I won’t tell your coach.  And really, who cares, because you rode a great ride and earned those thousands of junk calories during the race.

Kelli Jennings, my nutritionist had me on a plan which was to drink most calories during the day with some well timed solids and then at night it was “all u can shove in ur mouth.” I didn’t adhere to that totally but generally I’d take in Gatorade or Coca Cola (I was addicted to Cokes) and would graze on Sour Patch Kids because they packed so many calories in a tiny little piece of candy.  And it was sour, would hold together well and didn’t melt like chocolate.  For dinner (or when I stopped) it was what I could get my hands on.  One night it was a buffet feast of pasta and one night it was one stick of beef jerky.  The funny thing is, I gained five pounds.

ScottThigpenInterview4

How did the Tour Divide compare to the insane training loads you were riding?  I mean, you did one week of 4 centuries on a trainer with several of those without any music or movies.  Were those training rides harder than the actual task of riding for 23 days straight?

The trainer helped some with monotony, it didn’t prepare me for the outdoors.  When I was on the trainer, I simply had water and food at my disposal.  I could stop and take bathroom breaks and adjust the temperature if I needed.  There was simply no other way for me to train as I couldn’t have spent hundreds of miles in the woods each week because I had to take care of my freelance business, so stuck in a trainer was the best I could do.  It did develop my legs, but I could have stood to be out in the woods more in less-than-ideal situations.

Next year, when you race the Divide again, what will be your goal for finishing? You could use all of that night riding experience from New Mexico and ride for 22 hours a day.  Doesn’t that sound like a great plan?

Next year for the Divide I plan to turn on Trackleaders.com, prop my feet up on the couch and relax while everyone suffers.  I understand people’s need to go back but I’m fulfilled and do not feel like I should go for a repeat.  I saw a lot of people doing it a second time and quitting because they weren’t going to beat their record or simply were not having a good time.  That said, if I were to do it again, I’d plan to ride two days straight and sleep eight hard hours continuously until finish.

These days I’m enjoying casually riding around with my wife, Kate (who was an absolute rock star during the entire race) and not feeling the need to race anymore.  Sure, I’ll race again but I’m taking a well deserved break!

Thanks Scott for answering the questions and for being an inspiration.  You did an amazing ride this year.  And yes, I guess you have earned a well deserved break to prop your feet on the couch.

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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  • tracymckay

    Scott is awesome, He has made incredible life transitions… honor to have coached him… You tell Scott to do ABC and he does EXACTLY that… cool dude

    • Yeah, he’s a great guy. Very cool to see people transform themselves and have fun doing it.

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