Gareth Pellas (Gary P) is a 31 year-old pen-pusher from Melbourne, Australia, who has found bikes to be an ideal way to stave off adulthood for as long as possible. He's racing the 2016 Tour Divide on his Curve Cycling Uprock 29er. Don't know about the Tour Divide? Look it up. Just quickly, it's a 4,500km mostly off-road ride from Banff , Canada to the Mexican border in New Mexico - the route criss-crosses the Great Continental Divide on dirt tracks and forest roads. We sat down with Gareth (Gary P) not long before the 10 June start. You'll be able to track all riders here and on Instagram @gggpellas. Read on to find out his thoughts...
Curve: Why do you like going long?
Gary P: It's really just an extension of that sense of freedom that grows with you as grow up. Really mum? I can go down to the shops by myself? Of course there's also the paradox of escaping from humanity for a short while, but at the same time meeting lots of rad humans.
Curve: You're about to race the Tour Divide, the most hotly contested bikepacking race in the world. What experience do you have?
Gary P: I've really only been riding bikes for about five years. Mountain bikes for about two. Last year I did a 3,000km+ bikepacking event called the Japanese Odyssey that spanned Japan from North to South. More recently I completed the Great Dividing Trail race in Central Victoria. Other than that I've just been exploring the Victorian bush with mates.
Curve: Why are you doing the Tour Divide?
Gary P: I guess the whole mythology of it has just slowly sucked me in over the last few years. Except the myth wasn't conjured from someones imagination and written in a book, it sort of grew out of the ground slowly as more and more people thought, 'I'm going to do it my way', and then did. You can't make that stuff up. Then more recently, as I've grown in confidence I've become more keen to give the race aspect a bit of a go.
Curve: Wouldn't it be more fun to do a bike tour somewhere?
Gary P: The Tour Divide will be a very different kind of fun. One day I'd very much like to learn how to do a slow tour.
Gary P getting some tough training miles
Curve: What are you looking forward to the most on the Tour Divide?
Gary P: Obviously the breathtaking country I'll be riding through. I've also heard a lot about the generosity and warmth of the North American people as a whole. Also the kinship of a few hundred people taking on the same adventure as you at the same time.
Curve: What do you fear the most about the Tour Divide?
Gary P: As anyone who has done any substantial amount of riding in the bush, post-sunset/pre-dawn times, the wildlife. We have a lot of things that could take you out in Australia, and some of them will bite you, but none of them will tear you limb from limb.
The master and his hut
Curve: What's your race strategy?
Gary P: Try not to get sucked in to anyone else's race strategy. Keep moving, like a hot potato.
Curve: What do you have to say to all the armchair experts out there, who love to comment on racers' bikes, set-ups and styles from the comfort of their lounge rooms?
Gary P: RSI is a serious issue for people who are desk-bound for long periods of time. Be careful, take regular breaks, hydrate, stretch.
Curve: We think you could be a bit of a "dark horse" in the Tour Divide? What do you think?
Gary P: No Idea! This is going be an interesting experiment either way.
Curve: The field is STACKED this year. Are you looking forward to racing bikepacking legend, Mike Hall?
Gary P: Yeah! I don't want to sound like a fanboy or anything (I think the fact is widely accepted), but how many sports allow you to race the best of the best in your first race?
Gary P on a long grind in the Otways
Curve: How do you feel about racing one of your riding buddies, Liam Crowley?
Gary P: It's just unfortunate that I won't get so see him crush it! There's a few blue dots that I'd be very keen to follow this year if I wasn't preoccupied with being a blue dot myself.
Curve: Is there anyone you'd like to thank?
Gary P: The folks at Commuter Cycles for the generous use of their time and resources, Curve Cycling for making nice bike parts, Rapha Australia for making nice threads, and all the various people that made the last six months of training fun instead of a chore!
Thanks for your time, Gary P. All the best for the big off-road blast down the spine of the U.S.A.