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The Great Divide

IN 2008, JENN HILL RACED THE GREAT DIVIDE RACE, DOWN THE SPINE OF THE AMERICAN ROCKY MOUNTAINS, FINISHING 2,400 MILES AWAY AT THE MEXICAN BORDER A MERE 22 DAYS LATER. ON A SINGLESPEED. WE’VE DECIDED TO RE-RUN THE ARTICLE SHE WROTE TO REMIND YOU (AND OURSELVES) WHAT A ROCK-HARD RIDER SHE COULD BE.

Leaving Del Norte under cover of darkness, we spin out of the desert towards the mountains. Cacti and sage brush give way to pines, packed dirt to loose gravel, and we start to climb as the sky reddens behind us and the horizon resolves into morning.

The gradient is harsh and my legs refuse to wake.The strip of grey rubble breaks what little resolve has crept back into the reserves over night. I walk stretches where the steepness increases the hurt beyond what is sustainable. Start riding again when the walking twists my calves into coils of tight wire.

On and on it goes, for hours.There is nothing in the UK that can prepare you for a climb this intense. No number of interminable road drags into blasting coastal headwinds, no quantity of impossibly steep hills failed and failed and finally conquered as the strength grows in painfully small increments. Switch your brain off; let the hurt go as easily as it comes. Resistance is futile. Crest the hundredth false summit and catch your breath, look around in disbelief as gravity grabs hold of your wheels and starts to turn them without effort. You’re standing on the roof of America and there’s nothing left to climb.

Brake. Feet down.The silence comes barrelling over the mountains in waves. Lean on the bars for a moment, blood pounding in my ears. Raise my head and stare at the snow patches still clinging to the alpine meadow, silver grass and muddied meltwater reflecting the light of the sun. This is the high point, 11,910ft up in the sky, and it’s all downhill from here to Mexico.

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About Singletrack

Here at Singletrack Towers, Wordsworth's words on the death of his son perhaps capture some of our feelings on Jenn's death: ...he is taken from me—yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it. We've tried to do as Jenn would have wanted, and got on with doing what we do in every issue: bring you an array of adventures, features and product reviews to inspire you to ride your way through the winter. However in this issue we also pay tribute to Jenn and hope that it gives you that extra bit of oomph to get out there and get doing. We bring you: Singletrack Heroes - it could only be our own Jenn. Written by her husband Tom Hill. The Great Divide - one of Jenn's most popular articles, and one of her many amazing riding feats. We reprint this article in full. Mark's Mountain - Mark says 'no more maybe tomorrow' and heads of to the Alps to go up, up and up... The Matterhorn - Swiss cheese and chocolate pale into insignificance as Daniel Klawczyński finds himself face to face with the mighty Matterhorn. We join him as he explores the epic trails on all sides of this classic mountain. We Work Here - Hope​ Technology​ - Go green with envy as Hopetech invites Sam Needham to tour ​its factory. 24HR Pedal People - Chipps takes a look at the sleep deprived world of 24​hr​ racing​ and how it has evolved over the years​. He gets advice from the experts, including Guy Martin and Jason Miles, and puts their knowledge into practice​ by pitting for a soloist rather than riding for a change. ​ Classic Ride - Rachel Sokal and Olly Townsend head to Nottinghamshire to bring us a classic ride full of ​a​utumn ​c​olour. Bike Test: The Middle Ground - Bikes with 130-150mm rear shock travel. Where do they fit? Are they neither here nor there, or is this a happy medium? Low Carbon Adventure - Chipps and Beate go on holiday without costing the earth.
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