This Friday, June 14th, is the start of one of the toughest bike races/rides on the planet. Most riders will "tour" this ride but there are a select few out there that will go all out and attempt to ride 2,745 miles of fire roads, jeep trails, single track, and pavement from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico and break the current record of 17 days and 21 hours. They will travel down the spine of the great west - the Continental Divide and end up with almost 200,000 feet of vertical climbed from start to end.
They will have views of the Rocky Mountains in Canada, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and finally New Mexico.
They will carry all essential gear on their bikes because the race is self-supported. That means they are responsible for carrying enough food, water, clothes, sleeping gear to get them from one town to the next without any outside support. If they leave the route for food or a repair or to sleep they must return to that departure spot and continue on or they are disqualified.
From the Tour Divide website: The Tour Divide challenge is simple: Race the rooftop of North America by mountain bike; travel self-supported along all 2,745 miles of Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Mountain Bike Route; keep moving and be moved; exist well outside one's comfort zone in tackling a cross-continent bikepacking odyssey; finish as fast as possible without cracking.
Speed may be substance when it comes to Divide racing, but a flexibile, sang-froid style is the best attack for the Route's multiple personalities. Divide racing format requires no designated rest periods or set distances a racer must travel daily. The clock runs non-stop. She and he who can ride the fastest while making fewer, shorter stops usually hold the course records. With an average time-to-completion of three weeks in the saddle, Tour Divide is the longest–arguably most challenging–mountain bike time trial on the planet. It is a challenge for the ultra-fit, but only if ultra-prepared for myriad contingencies of backcountry biking.
The riders will carry maps/gps to receive their directions down the route and must consider that snow is quite possible at the higher elevations along the route. They will have to push their bikes through snow covered roads for as long as 5 miles if necessary. There will be riding through darkness, rain, thunderstorms, heat, dryness and the best part of it all - GRIZZLY COUNTRY!
I have been following the Tour Divide for about 6 years now. Always contemplating if I am capable of finishing this race if I ever get the courage up to travel to Banff for the start of it. The men and women who attempt to complete the race come from such diverse backgrounds and from around the world. I know people who have attempted it and this year I have a good friend heading west to make the journey southward to the Mexico boarder.
Just because you are fit does not mean you are a given to complete this race. You can have a mechanical issue come up and have to find a way to get to the closest bike shop which could be 1 mile or 50 miles away. Your knees can just up on you and cause so much pain that you just cannot bear to turn the pedals over again to climb that 11,000 foot pass in front of you. You can dehydrate or suffer from malnutrition and have no ability to continue on. Heck you could even be eaten by a grizzly bear - tough way to go but just think of the press you would get!
If you have an interest in following these super athletes click on the website and there is a tracking link. You can read up on the history of the Tour Divide and dream of your own journey down the Divide. You can even stop by the shop and look at a bike capable of carrying you and your gear for the journey of a lifetime. And if you are really excited you can even let me know you are coming in and I will bring my maps and book about the tour and we can sit down and talk about how to proceed in preparing for your own attempt next year!
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