This race (for some) or ride for other mere mortals begins with the "Grand Depart" from Banff tomorrow. The route follows the continental divide along the Rockies and involves over 61 000m (200 000ft) of climbing in it's 4418km distance!
Trailhead begins behind the Banff Springs Hotel.
I find the thought of doing this ride mindblowing. From the start, through Alberta and Montana, watching out for bears to the 12 000ft mountain pass crossings in Colorado I find it hard to get my head around how and why anyone would do this race, yet at the same time am excited at the thought of maybe doing it myself one day. I don't think I have any idea how tough it would actually be and I might just be in love with the romance of a ride through this amazing landscape. The idea of dumping the outside world for three or four weeks and just riding my bike in a foreign country isn't that silly......is it?
This year there are seventy riders attempting the race north to south and fifteen giving the south to north direction a try. This may be to give the snow on the Rockies more time to melt as it has been a bumper winter in the northern states. They are saying that the record will be safe, but who knows? What is known is that you have to ride about 240km per day, every day to get near the record. Remember, that is unsupported. You navigate, find your own food, accomodation, bike repairs....you get the idea, as well as ride. There are no rest days. You just keep riding.
Ride The Divide Movie Trailer from Ride The Divide on Vimeo.
Here is the Caveate from the Tour Divide website-
Do you really want to race the GDMBR?
Self-supported Divide racing is based on an open, standing challenge (circa 1999) to cycle the Great Divide MTB Route as fast as humanly possible. Tackle it truly solo or as part of a common start, but do it all yourself; all the pedaling, navigation, resupply and camping; all the suffering. Indeed, with zero on-the-ground administration, Divide racing is not much more than a construct of the online community that follows it. To these voyeurs, it's virtual racing at its finest. To the challengers, it is ultimately just a really long, lonely and beautiful solo bike ride.
As all-American as racing is, ACA never imagined such a niche for their off-pavement touring route when they created it in 1997. But just as the interstate highway system is to RAAM, so too is the GDMBR to Divide racing. John Stamstad inaugurated the challenge when he blazed the the first self-supported Individual Time Trial (ITT) in 1999. In 2003 Mike Curiak was first to accept John's double-dare. Mike's ITT would end early, but he returned the next summer to organize a multi-up format called the Great Divide Race. Six other ambitious riders lined up for the masochism. When the dust settled, Curiak and runner-up Pete Basinger knocked 2 days off Stamstad's benchmark. Since then 'grand departs' (group starts) have been the fashion, but it's important to emphasize--like Stamstad in `99 and Curiak in `03--a challenger may race the route at any time during snow-free months in the Rockies. As long as an ITT performance is self-supported and strictly follows the route (see Rules), it is eligible for the annual General Classification.
Self-supported grand tour racing (ie. >2 weeks) along the GDMBR is like none other. Simply on scale, it's the hardest form of bike racing, period. To be competitive for the overall, one must ride ≥150 miles/day. There are no rest days. And if volume alone isn't taxing enough, one must also navigate, acquire resupply, clean/wrench the bike, find shelter each night, bathe when possible, and keep one's wits about it all. No entourages follow athletes. It cannot be compared to today's 100-milers, 24hour racing, or even 3-5 day stage race events.
All of the racers carry a spot tracker and as can be seen, they are starting to converge on Banff and Antellope Wells for the start. If you want a taste of what Divide racing is all about grab a copy of "Ride the Divide". It covers the 2007 (I think) race and highlights the beauty of the landscape that the race travels through.
It will be very interesting to watch over the course of the next three weeks the progress that they make and read of their hardships. I might just go and watch the DVD again.......and dream......