Alaska Sports Blog Feature From the Fall 2015 Newsletter: Wilcox Breaking Records
November 2, 2015
Lael Wilcox of Anchorage didn’t set out to break records on her mountain bike.
It just worked out that way.
Wilcox rides everywhere; to work, on errands, for fun. Unlike most commuters, though, she racks up miles like frequent fliers – 100,000 in the last seven years.
She has pedaled from Anchorage to Alberta, Maine to Florida and Canada to Mexico.
The 29-year-old college graduate owns a driver’s license but never gets behind the wheel.
“I don’t know how to drive,” she told me.
She’s driving her sport instead.
Wilcox, of East High fame, has become an instant celebrity in the world of endurance bike racing after breaking records in one of the longest, most grueling events on two wheels.
At 2,745 miles, the Tour Divide seems to be about survival more than anything else. In her first attempt in June, she finished in 17 days, 1 hour and 51 minutes and broke the women’s race record by two days.
In bikepacking events, riders travel light and are totally self-sufficient. It’s just you and your bike.
“In a way, it’s refreshing,” she said. “There’s no responsibility toward anything else. I just ride.”
Wilcox went back to the Tour Divide two months later for an individual time trial; riders can clock official GPS-tracked times any time. This time she broke her own record by 39 hours.
In all, she shaved more than three days off the previous record.
“It was cool. I hadn’t been competing for a while and I liked it. I grew up doing that and I enjoyed it,” she said. “I started racing this spring to kind of try it out. It’s a growing event, and I thought it could be fun and it’s something I do anyway.”
Wilcox and longtime boyfriend Nicholas Carman have spent the last decade exploring the world on their bikes. They’ve toured North America and traveled to Europe, South Africa and the Middle East.
“We carry everything we own on our bikes and live like this,” she said. “We’re currently riding the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff and it’s like a 750-mile biking and hiking route.”
The racing element has brought a different aspect to her way of life, but only because people are starting to take notice.
“I sleep outside almost every night anyway, and I’m comfortable doing that,” Wilcox said. “I don’t stress out about the elements, because I’m used to them. I kind of have that rhythm. As far as the success, I had no idea what I could do until I tried.
“That’s an exciting aspect – just go out and try and see what happens.”
Races like the Tour Divide and Holyland Challenge in Israel challenge a rider’s strength, stamina and spirit. There are no shortcuts, which is how she wants it.
“Whatever happens with the weather, whatever happens to my bike, my health, I just kind of deal with it when it comes up, which is cool because things always come up so that’s always a different experience,” she said.
“If I enter a race I’m totally focused on doing the race aspect and doing everything I can to keep going. If I physically can do it, then I do it, because there’s nothing holding me back and I’m excited to be racing and putting out my best performance.”