The 2011 Tour Divide mountain bike race got underway last Friday with 68 riders setting out from Banff, in Alberta, Canada, and another 15 starting in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Those riders will now ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route end-to-end, covering more than 2745 miles (4418km) in the process.
Over the past few years, this race has continued to grow in popularity and participation. It is a test of both skill and stamina, as the riders must cover the trail in a completely self supported fashion, meaning they have to take all of their gear and supplies with them along the way. They can, of course, pull off the trail and resupply, but otherwise they have to be self sufficient along the way.
The route itself has the distinction of being the longest off-pavement cycling route in the world, with much of it being a series of loosely affiliated trails that interconnect with one another. In recent years, those affiliations have gotten a bit stronger, but there are sections that are still quite challenging to navigate depending on the current conditions.
Have just returned from Aspen, Colorado this weekend, I can also tell you that there are sections of the Rocky Mountains that still have a good deal of snow in them. The racers may have to deal with that as they go along as well, and while the weather is warming, it may be sometime before all the passes are easy to cross through. In fact, a blog post on the race website this morning indicates that there are number of detours already in place thanks to the continued snow conditions. Those conditions should improve as the riders head south, but it may be some time before they completely escape the powder.
Stay tuned for updates, as it generally takes a few weeks before the race is won, and longer for all the riders to reach the finish line.
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