In early June, a Bryan man entered the most grueling mountain bike event in the United States and almost three thousand miles later, he finished.
Aggie Billy Rice rode the Tour Divide race from Canada to Mexico. Now that he's home, he shares stories of his adventure and the real reason behind his run down the Continental Divide.
Cyclist, Billy Rice says, "As far as inspiration I needed something big that I didn't know that I could do. It turned out the race started on the anniversary of the Air Med 12 accident that occurred four years ago so that of course played a huge roll in my own psyche and trying to do something to remember that crew and that accident."
The crew that died in a PHI chopper crash were Rice's friends and co-workers and he dedicated his ride to them, but what he learned along the way as he honored their memory is that he was mentally and physically tougher than he realized.
"You go for days and don't see anybody. You have to realize that when were on the route we don't have news. We don't know what's going on and we don't know what's happening to anybody."
While on the solitary ride where there was only time to pedal, think, and take in the scenery, Rice noticed the horizon was hazy. Rice says, "riding through Colorado especially hitting Steamboat and just south of Steamboat we started noticing smoke and there times you couldn't see past from one mountain range to another. We never really saw where the fires were coming from but, that whole area filled with smoke pretty substantially so we all kind of wondered, if our route was going to get detoured. But since we had no way to know what was happening, we just keep going...not knowing if it was dangerous."
Now home, Rice has had time to relax and reflect on his adventure. "Realizing that it's over is tough and I'm just kind of in this emotional exhaustive funk," says Rice.
Though he was classified a rookie this year, Rice finished in an impressive 30th place out of more than 100 cyclists and says he's ready to ride the Tour Divide again next year.