The annual Tour Divide mountain bike race gets under way today, with riders preparing for an epic challenge that will carry them for over 2765 miles (4450 km) along the legendary Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The route, which consists of a series of interconnected trails made up of singletrack, dirt roads, and mountain passes, follows the Continental Divide across North America, between Banff in Alberta, Canada, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, along the U.S.-Mexican border.
As has been the tradition over the past few years, riders can elect to start at either end of the trail, and will race the clock – as well as each other – to get to their respective finish lines. Along the way, they’ll face 200,000 feet (60,960 meters) of vertical gain, while pedaling solo and unsupported, along the longest unpaved mountain biking route in the world.
Most of the riders will choose to start in Banff, and travel south. They’ll find that the Tour Divide is a true test of endurance and stamina, as they will pass through British Columbia, into the United States in Montana, before proceed to Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado, before finally reaching New Mexico. Along the way, they’ll have to keep their eyes peeled for mountain lions and grizzly bears, while conditioning themselves to ride for 16+ hours per day as they head toward the finish line.
The Tour Divide is one of those events that doesn’t get much attention from the media, but is absolutely a wonderful mountain biking adventure each year. The riders do it not for any kind of prize or trophy (There isn’t one!), but just for the challenge and the adventure. You have to respect a group of riders who just want to have some fun, push themselves to the limit, and ride their bikes through some of the most difficult, but beautiful, terrain around.
And in case you were wondering, the record for time for this ride is 17 days, 21 hours, 10 minutes and was set by Matthew Lee back in 2007. That is averaging 153 miles (246 km) per day, completely on backwoods trails.
Good luck to all of the riders this year. Travel safe!
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