Who are those crazy people riding the French Divide 2018?

This third portrait is Lael’s. Some of you probably know her thanks to her incredible achievements. So humble and wise, that girl is the happiest only when she’s riding. Here are her answers to our interview.

By the way, come meet her and the FD team August 2nd 2018 at the Specialized Concept Store in Lille. Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2084053328334845/

(Rugile Kaladyte)

→ Hi Lael, could you introduce yourself?
My name is Lael Wilcox. I’m from Alaska, USA. I’m 31 years old (will be 32 on July 18). I’ve focussed the last ten years on traveling on my bike and I work different jobs (in restaurants or bike shops) to pay for it.

“it’s where I feel most at home”

→ What kind of rider are you? 
I spend most of my time riding dirt, but I like road riding too. I usually only have one bike at a time and this changes depending on what kind of riding I’m doing– changing from mountain to road to gravel to snow. After a few months, I’ll sell the bike and get a new one and change styles. I started cycling when I was 20 to get to and from work. I love climbing on my bike– it’s where I feel most at home.

Lael Wilcox competes in the Navad 1000 in Switzerland. The race covers 1000 km with 30,410 m (99,770 ft) of climbing. Lael finished the race in 4 days, 10 hours and 6 minutes, setting the new women’s record. She is the second woman to have ever completed the race. (Rugile Kaladyte)

→ How did you hear about the French Divide?
I first heard about the French Divide last summer from friends in France. It was something I definitely would’ve loved to do, but it seemed out of reach logistically. It came back on my radar when Specialized became a main sponsor for the event. Specialized is also my sponsor, so it is a good fit for me to enter the race. I am really excited because it gives me the opportunity to spend more time riding and racing in France– in areas that I’ve never seen.

→ What are you expecting from that adventure?
I plan to ride the route in July before the race. This will give me time to experience more of French culture and nature and get to know the terrain. During the event in August, I will ride as fast as I can. I think it’ll be really fun to see it for the second time around– to see how much the landscape and weather changes, to ride through places at different times of day and night, to cover more ground faster.

→ What is your bikepacking experience?
I have been bikepacking for about ten years. I began touring on the bike, riding over 150,000 kilometers in 35 countries for the first 7 years. I started racing in 2015. My first race was the Holyland Challenge in Israel. I raced the Tour Divide twice in 2015 and set the women’s record. I won the overall Trans Am Bike Race in 2016. In 2017, I set the fastest known time on the Baja Divide. In between races, I’ve been touring, hosting women’s scholarships and organizing a bicycle mentorship program for 13 year old girls. I’m passionate about getting more people bikepacking.

“It’s a real adventure where so many different things can happen.”

→ For a few years now, no assistance ultra-cycling has become something quite important, any thoughts about why?
It’s a real adventure where so many different things can happen. No one can predict what elements and challenges the riders will face. The riders must be self-reliant and able to respond to difficulties. It’s exciting to see these events unfold (and to ride them 🙂

→ What is you best cycling souvenir?
I don’t really think I have any. I don’t tend to keep thing for very long. I’m not very organized. In fact, I lose everything.

Lael Wilcox races the Navad 1000. (Rugile Kaladyte)

→ What is your training for the French Divide?
I’ve been touring the Navad 1000 route in Switzerland in preparation for the race that starts this Saturday. It’s 1000KM with 33,000 meters of climbing. Wow, it’s going to be an ass-kicker! After the race, I’ll probably be touring a bit more in Switzerland to finish filming a video for Pearl iZumi and Revelate Designs. Then, I’ll travel to France to tour the French Divide route before the race. I’m always riding and I always feel like riding.

→ What bike will you ride for the FD2018 and why?
Specialized Epic Hardtail with a Lauf Trail Racer fork and custom Revelate Designs Luggage. For lighting, I have an SP dynamo hub built into my front wheel and my light is a Sinewave Beacon. I’ve upgraded my brakes, bottom bracket and headset with Hope Tech components.

“Have fun out there!”

→ What would be your ONLY advice for the other participants?
Have fun out there! Never quit at night, get some sleep and see how you feel in the morning.

Lael Wilcox races the Navad 1000. (Rugile Kaladyte)

→ Do your have any sponsors or support?
Big thanks to Specialized, Revelate Designs, Pearl iZumi, Lauf, Hope, SP and Sinewave. I am set up with amazing gear and it makes my job so much easier– I just have to stay on my bike.

Thank you Lael for taking the time to sharing this with us!
The FD team wishes you a great adventure on these great french off-roads.