Fernie Search and Rescue (FSAR) is sending a message of warning to all 2022 Tour Divide participants following several rescues over the past few days for racers, most involving serious hypothermia.
Tour Divide is a bike race that began on June 10 and stretches from Banff to New Mexico. The race, involving around 200 riders, passes through the Elk Valley, according to bikepacking.com.
The race is passing through the area in the midst of prolonged rainfall, flooding, and snow in Elkford.
Simon Piney, head of the FSAR, said 10 people have been rescued so far. He was heading to another rescue around 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Piney sent a message to racers on a Tour Divide Facebook group Monday evening.
“There have been a number of rescues for Tour Divide racers in the Elkford – Fernie area in the last 72 hours. Six in the course of today.
“Most have involved serious cases of hypothermia.”
A top comment on the post is from Brittany Dawson, who said “My dad (Mark Beck) was one of the ones rescued for hypothermia. His tent was flooded last night and everything was soaked. He was riding today in wet gear.
“I’m so glad he’s okay and safe in Fernie tonight.”
Piney drew attention to the challenges of the route from Fernie to the US border, “which are potentially extreme with the current weather.”
“Fernie to the US border is typically 14-16 hours of riding. There is no food along the way. There is only one public shelter (Butts Cabin, about half way). The weather will be heavy precipitation for the next 24 hours, much of it snow at higher elevations.
“The risk of hypothermia is extreme and riders who are not sufficiently prepared are encouraged to delay this stage until the weather is more supportive.”
Another post in the group from Tuesday with comments from Piney says that people should be aware that a helicopter ride back to Fernie is ‘far from guaranteed.’
“It was a miracle that we were able to get to one of the rescues yesterday,” Piney said.
“Low cloud ceiling and snow means that SAR volunteers are risking their lives to get in there.
“If we cannot fly, which is very likely today (Tuesday, June 14), we will need to respond by ground and it will take hours, hours which may not conducive to a positive outcome.
“With flooding in the valley our crews are already stretched thin on other responses, so we continue to ask that riders properly assess the risks before committing.”
“Ride safe and enjoy!” his Monday post reads.