“Mountain Biking’s Greatest Race” Kicks Off Today

Our pals at Adventure Cycling have the info on what’s called ‘mountain biking’s greatest race’ which starts today. 2,700 miles and 200,000ft of climbing.

The third annual Tour Divide kicks off this morning at 9 a.m. in Banff, Alberta. Competitors will race over 2,700 miles down the spine of the Rocky Mountains along Adventure Cycling Association’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, riders 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. The competitors 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.

Fans, family, and the curious can follow the entire Tour Divide online. Racer positions will be updated every ten minutes via their SPOT tracker (an automated GPS beacon) as they wend their way south to Mexico. Follow them at www.tourdivide.org/leaderboard. Plus, MTBCast will carry daily podcasts with commentary and phoned-in reports from the racers themselves atwww.mtbcast.com.

With only 14 veterans in a field of 48 racers, Tour Divide organizer Matthew Lee predicts that “wide-eyed, fresh accounts of the race and route will dominate the call-ins.”

Fans can also immerse themselves in images and stories of past races though Adventure Cycling’s 2009 Tour Divide Gallery (watch for the 2010 gallery soon) and a new literary journal dedicated to Great Divide racing called The Cordillera. According to the journal’s website at www.thecordillera.org, “This first volume features work by Jon Billman (Outside), Mark Jenkins (Outside and National Geographic), Paul Howard, Jill Homer, and many others. We also have essays from Scott Morris and the original Divide racer himself: John Stamstad!”

Published by Eric Bruntjen, a 2009 Tour Divide competitor, all proceeds from The Cordillera’s first volume will benefit Adventure Cycling, which created the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in the late 90s. The Cordillera is available on Lulu.com.

“There are so many great stories out on the Divide during a race. At any given time the racers are feeling anger, despair, elation, and even redemption, as crazy as that sounds. A review seemed like the perfect way to collect all those stories in one place and share them with others,” said Bruntjen. He hopes to publish the journal on an annual basis.

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.

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