Recently, I’ve become obsessed with the Tour Divide race, known as the most difficult mountain bike race in the world. The route took 4 years of mapping by the Adventure Cycling Association and was published in 1998. It is the longest mapped off-pavement route in the world totaling 3,084 miles from Jasper, Canada to the Mexican border. The mountain bike race is rather informal with a common departure on the second Friday of June in Banff, Canada, finishing in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. It follows most of the original route called the GDMBR (Great Divide Mountain Bike Route), spaning 2745 miles crisscrossing the Continental Divide over 20 times and must be completed solo, unassisted, in 25 days or less; the current fastest time is below 14 days. At 25 days it’s a healthy average of 110 miles a day over about 1900 miles of dirt roads including single tracks and about 800 miles of pavement. The northern half of it is native grizzly bears country and a dense mountain lions’ population which is what scares me the most next to lightning storms in exposed plains. On past editions, weather ranged from several feet deep snow storms to 100-degree heat along the route which contains deserted segments up to 200 miles without food, water or civilization. In 2010 a rider was found unconscious face down in a ditch dying of dehydration, he made it after a couple days at the hospital. The route logs close to 200,000 feet of ascent, the equivalent of summiting Mount Everest 7 times from sea level, crosses 2 Canadian provinces and 4 US states.
I don’t know exactly why I want to do it, but if you watch this 5 min video you may understand what I’m chasing (although they only show the easy parts of the route) https://youtu.be/xqCYE-Smqf4. There’s also this short article and photos on the US portion of the route https://bikepacking.com/routes/wild-west-route/. I’m attracted by the beauty of the landscapes, attempting something seemingly impossible to temporarily escape the rat race and gain new perspectives on the meanings of living life.
It’s a personal challenge, physical and mental, maybe I need to prove to myself that I can do (or at least try ) something extraordinary that only about 100 athletes a year from around the world manage finishing in that time frame; I would probably regret more failing to try than fail trying. Whether I am able pursue that challenge or not, it will take several years of preparation and I started the preparation with challenge #1 earlier this month.