Tour Divide kicks off Friday, June 11 - plus, new documentary captures the agony and ecstasy of remote, self-contained racing
Mountain biking's greatest race - and one of the toughest competitions in all of sport - kicks off this week. The third annual Tour Divide will launch on Friday, June 11 at 9 a.m. from Banff, Alberta, with 48 racers, the largest field of Divide racers ever.
Riders will race over 2700 miles down the spine of the Rocky Mountains along Adventure Cycling's Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Pedaling the entire distance to the Mexican border along primarily dirt roads, without any outside assistance, competitors will climb nearly 200,000 vertical feet from start to finish. In classic touring tradition, racers carry everything they need - food, water, shelter - on their bikes and backs, with refueling stops in small-town stores along the way. Riders are truly on their own, with no support crews, SAG vehicles, or massage-teams allowed, making the Tour Divide the longest, most-challenging cycling race in the world.
"This year's line-up is colorful and packed with rookies - out of 48 racers, only 14 are veterans - so wide-eyed newbies providing fresh accounts of the racing and route are sure to dominate the call-ins," said Matthew Lee, race organizer. "Nineteen states and six different countries are represented. Four women will take the start and a record five single-speeders. The oldest racer is 55 and the youngest is 26."
This year's Tour Divide has been unofficially dedicated to the preservation of the Flathead Valley in British Columbia, which was recently integrated into the Canadian portion of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The valley is by all accounts stunning, remote, and home to countless species of plants and animals.
"This scenic area is called the 'Serengeti of North America' by biologists for its unrivaled wildlife populations; it is the last major valley in southern Canada to be completely uninhabited," said Carla Majernik, Adventure Cycling's routes and mapping director.
Tour Divide organizers are encouraging cyclists to become "Friends of the Flathead", which they can do through Flathead Wild's website at http://www.flathead.ca/. Flathead Wild is a Canadian non-governmental organization working to preserve the valley.
Fans, family, and the curious can follow the Tour Divide online. Each racer will carry a SPOT tracker (an automated GPS beacon) that will update their position every ten minutes as they wend their way south to Mexico. Racer positions can be followed at www.tourdivide.org/leaderboard - possible because of hardware provided by SPOT and software from Trackleaders.com - and MTBCast will carry daily podcasts with commentary and phoned-in reports from the racers themselves at www.mtbcast.com.
On the evening of Thursday, June 10, the night before the Tour Divide race blasts off, competitors and fans can attend the Banff premiere of a new documentary film, Ride the Divide. The film follows a handful of 2008 Tour Divide riders absolutely determined to make it to Mexico, capturing their physical and psychological struggles with the route's sometimes grueling terrain and the solitude of racing self-contained and alone. This spring, Ride the Divide won Best Adventure Film at the Vail Film Festival in Colorado.
After the Banff screening, Ride the Divide will play in four Montana cities that lie on or near the route: Whitefish June 13, 7:30 pm at the O'Shaughnessy Center, Helena June 14, 7:00 pm at the Myrna Loy, Missoula June 15, 7:30 pm at The Wilma and Bozeman June 16, 7:30 pm at The Emerson. Ticket information can be found on the film's website www.ridethedividemovie.com.
Adventure Cycling does not organize or officially sponsor the Tour Divide. In fact, no one sponsors the race - it is grassroots by design, absolutely free to enter, with exactly zero dollars in prize money for the winner.
Cyclists looking to experience the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and mountain-bike travel at a more relaxed pace can simply pick a scenic stretch and go ride - Adventure Cycling's detailed maps for the route make finding your way easy.
Adventure Cycling has also devoted a section of its website to the emerging practice of ultralight cycling - a multi-day riding style pioneered by Great Divide racers but applicable to backyard adventurers everywhere. Learn more at www.AdventureCycling.org/ultralight.
To learn more about the Tour Divide, visit www.TourDivide.org.
Adventure Cycling Association is the premier bicycle travel organization in North America with over 44,000 members. A nonprofit organization, its mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle. It produces routes and maps for cycling in North America, organizes more than 40 tours annually, and publishes the best bicycle travel information anywhere, including Adventure Cyclist magazine and The Cyclists' Yellow Pages online. With more than 40,000 meticulously mapped miles in the Adventure Cycling Route Network, Adventure Cycling gives cyclists the tools and confidence to create their own bike travel adventures. Contact the office at (800) 755-BIKE (2453), firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.adventurecycling.org.