At 9:45am on July 2nd, Leo Pershall crossed the US / Mexico border, having started in Banff, Alberta June 14th. 18 days, 1 hour 45 minutes. That’s how long it took Leo to ride 2,859 miles of continental divide dirt on Nano 2.1 29” TCS tires and a Silverado SLT saddle.
What’s all the more impressive about this feat of biblical proportions is that Leo isn’t a pro athlete that gets to spend all waking hours of the rest of the year training for this event. Leo works two jobs, one of which is at Village Peddler bike shop in Larkspur, CA. He raced against famous racers, one of whom looked as though he could set the course record this year, were it not for a mandatory reroute based on fires in New Mexico. This was Leo’s first bikepacking race and he came in 7th against the world’s best.
New Mexico’s Gila reroute entailed uncharted waters for Tour Divide. Leo climbed out of the desert at night in Abiquiu, New Mexico – think orange flat topped bluffs like in cowboy movies. The route steadily climbed. Soon there were pine trees. Then there were eyes. Green eyes that followed him. Eyes that wouldn’t run away when he turned to look back. Eyes that reflected in his light’s beam. Leo continued upward and onward. The eyes got to the point where they bothered him. What were they, why wouldn’t they leave? Finally, Leo had to deal with it. He quickly dismounted his bike and stormed the darkness, in pursuit of the eyes. The eyes ran. Then they crept back.
At some point, Leo lost the eyes. But seemingly only shortly after he lost them, he ran into an entire fleet of them. Green eyes reflected back from blackness in a wall of uncertainty. He seemed to be at the summit of whatever this unknown reroute was, all 9,000 feet of it, approaching the wall of eyes. Fortunately, it was a herd of elk that reluctantly parted upon his approach.
Need proof that Leo did it? Take a look at that tan line - that's what happens when you pedal all day long for 18 days in the sun. Your knees turn brown and your shins actually don't get any sunlight. Crazy.
At dawn, on the side of the road, Leo passed a pack of coyotes, yipping with nervous delight in a ball of chaos. You really never know what you’re going to stumble across on Tour Divide and Leo mused that that’s part of the beauty of it. From there he powerfully and quickly cruised to Mexico, his body now a machine.
The next morning, he awoke harshly in a state of panic. He was late, man was he late. He had to be riding. Then he looked next to him at his wife peacefully sleeping in the hotel room. The race was over.
Leo Pershall is a hero of mine, I couldn’t be more proud to know him, couldn’t be happier he did so well. A couple days later, Leo let me know that it was a good race – a race where hard work pays off. That’s definitely an understatement.
From all of us at WTB, congrats Leo. Enjoy some rest, you deserve it.