It's that time of year again! Time to follow the race, catch the highlights every day, follow the ups and downs of your favourite riders and see the dramas unfold over a grueling three weeks of intense riding. What?! No, not that race in France! I'm talking about the Tour Divide - a solo, self-supported bikepacking event that travels about 4400km from Canada, all the way down to Mexico following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
A few Aussies are having a crack this year, including local lads Jesse and Liam who you may have bumped into at an MGG ride. Jesse sent around a group email which sums it up neatly so I'll quote him verbatim :
The time has finally come to do some bike touring with a sense of EXTREME urgency from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells on the US / Mexico border in New Mexico. A few of you have been asking for ways to track the race, so I thought I'd put this email together and give you some further info about the race they call the Tour Divide.
The race kicks off at 8am Friday morning (Ed: That's Friday 14th June). That's midnight on Friday night for those of you on the eastern seaboard in Australia.
For those who don't know, the Tour Divide is a solo, unsupported race of about 4,400 km. That means riders carry all the gear needed to survive. The course criss-crosses the continental divide starting with the Rockies in Canada and then moving south into Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The course has deep snow and heavy rain in the northern parts of Montana and desert conditions (mid 40s deg C) in New Mexico. Interestingly, about 1,700 km of the race will be above the elevation of Mt Kosciusko, with the highest passes taking us up above 3,600 m.
To add to the fun, the course passes through the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America, including regions where problematic bears from Yellowstone have been relocated. Hopefully my whistle and music will be enough to scare them away before I get too close.
There are a few Aussies in the race this year: me, Liam Crowley (VIC), Arran Pearson (NSW), Hugh Harvey (VIC), Gavin Wright (NSW), Nick Hutton (QLD), Adam Kiem (QLD). I don't know the last two blokes, but I'm sure we'll meet before Friday. This TD thing is a big undertaking so please give all the Aussies your support and encouragement. Feel free to forward this email along to others who might be interested as well... We'll need all the support we can get to keep us rolling! Don't be shy... Make some noise for us!
Now... Onto the race tracking...
1. Race Tracking Website
You can track the race at the following website. You can choose different map layers for a bit of a laugh. If you like, you can check out the snow depth or weather radar to see how bad the conditions are. I'd feel ripped off if this supposed Banff summer was as summery as it got!
2. Forum Banter
Someone usually starts up a Tour Divide race discussion thread on the following forum. There, arm-chair fans will speculate about weather, food availability, snow depth, cheating, etc...http://www.bikepacking.net/forum/index.php/board,2.0.html
3. Rider Call-ins
TD riders are given a toll-free number to call to leave 3 min messages to update the world about how they're going. The call-ins are posted on this site. Not sure if I'll use it, because I'm bound to sound like a tool, but I've had fun listening to call-ins in the past. There's always one or two comedians...
Finally, I've attached a few photos of our (Liam and I) trip touring across Canada to get to the start line...
Wish us luck! Here's hoping we all have a safe tour!
Got all that? The Trackleaders website is great for seeing who's where relative to everyone else and how they're tracking day to day. The Rider Call-ins are must-see viewing (well, listening...). You can really hear the emotion in the riders voices as they talk about how they're feeling, what they saw that day, the huge emotional ups and downs, injuries, bear sightings etc. One day a rider can be almost ready to quit, sounding so defeated, and the next day they'll call in all happy and stoked on riding because they just had a huge pancake breakfast or something. It's amazing what they go through over the 3-4 weeks it takes to finish the ride, and it makes for very addictive viewing.
Incidentally, this whole event is run not unlike our own MGG rides i.e. no entry fee, no prizes, no sponsors, no real organisation at all to speak of. Totally non-commercial - love it.
Anyway, keep an eye on those links Jesse listed and lets wish all riders the best of luck. It's a looong ride and anything can happen.
Good luck all TD riders!