"In the parking lot behind the Banff Spring Hotel, begin riding south on the Spray River Trail". This simple instruction begins the 2745mi/4418km route that will take even the fastest riders about 17 days to complete. Mere mortals are looking at about 30 days. The unprepared or unlucky will not make it at all. Tough doesn't even begin to describe this race!
For more detail see this post of mine about last years Grande Depart. The essentials have not changed, just a new bunch of riders taking on the challenge.
Speaking of challenge, as if the distance and climbing weren't enough, last years male and female winners are racing this year on a tandem mountain bike! Yes, they are married....at the moment. Kurt Refsnider's blog is called Kurt's Going Nuts but I think he could now change that to Kurt's Gone Nuts!? I wish them the best of luck though.
You can follow the rider progress through the Leaderboard on the Tour Divide website as most racers carry Spot Trackers for safety.
The yellow pins are riders on an Individual Time Trial (ITT) and they departed whenever suited them best. The Blue and the Pink pins are the male and female racers who are starting in the Grande Depart tomorrow morning. You can see the pins converging from all over the US on Banff. Though, some racers are starting at Antelope Wells on the Mexican border in New Mexico. Their hope is that the snow will have melted more in the north by the time they arrive in 3 weeks.....but they will have to skirt massive wildfires raging in northern New Mexico first......fuuuun stuff!
I will be watching, transfixed, for the next 3 weeks I guess. There is something about this challenge. The thought of riding through bear and cougar country is frightening when you come from a country where nothing much can eat you alive (on land anyway-lets not mention the Noahs Arks). I am sure I can get my head around this before next June though. I hope.....
Bring on the racing!!