The Tour Divide is a mountain bike race unlike any other, andthe 2011 grand dpart is Friday, June 10th. It’s a self-supported race along Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which is a patchwork of mostly gravel roads, some singletrack,and just enough pavement to connect everything while more or less following the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. Racers start in Banff, Alberta (Canada) and follow the route 2,745 miles to the US/Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. The route has over 200,000ft of climbing, which is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest. From sea level. Seven times.
There is plenty of climbing on the GDMBR. Photo: Nathan Jones
The Tour Divide is 100% self supported, meaning the racers must take care of themselves. There are no pre-arranged SAG stops or feed zones, and support crews are forbidden. Racers must carry what they need with them and resupply along the way. It is a bikepacking race after all.
Racers are allowed to use any services along the route that are available to the general public. They can eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, or get mechanical assistance at bike shops. But much of their time is spent alone in remote, beautiful,areas.
Custom frame/saddle bags allow for gear storage while keeping weight low and aero bars provide alternate hand positions and a way to get out of the wind, at least a little. Photo: Stephen Huddle
The current Tour Divide record was set by Mathew Lee in 2007. He completed the entire route in 17 days, 21 hours, and 10 minutes. Jill Homer is the current women’s record holder, with a time of 24 days, 7 hours, and 24minutes. Tracey and Jay Peterveryhold the tandem recordof 18 days,13 hours, and50 minutes. Yeah, you read that right: tandem record. Chris Plescohas the singlespeed recordof 19 days and 21 minutes.
Divide racing can get lonely. Photo: Stephen Huddle
To learn more about the Tour Divide head over to their website. You can also purchase the film Ride the Divide which is a documentary about the race. In my opinion this film is a must see for every cyclist; no matter what kind of riding you do you’ll enjoy the movie. If the idea of bikepacking for days at a time sends your brain into a tailspin, head over to bikepacking.net. They’ve got photos of different bikepacking set-ups, ride reports, and a forum where you can get your questions answered.
Of course, it isn’t always lonely. Photo: Stephen Huddle
Follow the Race
There are several ways to follow this year’s Tour Divide race. All racers carry a SPOT Personal GPS Locator, and TrackLeaders.com provides tracking for the race. You can see a map showing where everyone is on the Tour Divide’s website by clicking here. The coolest way to keep up with the race, to me at least, is to listen to the MTBCast podcasts. Racers periodically call in and leave a quick report of how things are going out on the route. It’s really a great way to get into the heads of the brave men and women attempting this ride. You can find the podcasts on iTunes, and you can check out their facebook page right here.
Photo: Nathan Jones
I would liketo thank Stephen and Nathan for allowing use of their photos, and wish them the best of luck on this year’s Tour Divide.