Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Racing the Great Divide

Me riding on the spine of North America

I grew up on the continental divide in Silver City, NM. I always thought that was pretty cool as kid...once I figured out what my dad was trying to explain to me. On the highways there are markers that tell you that you are on the great divide, but what really cool is to be out in the woods and figure it out. "Oh...this drainage goes to Bear Creek and Bear Creek flows into the Gila, which flows into the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) therefore its on the Pacific side. This drainage flows over here, which, if its lucky will make it the Rio Grande which flows into the Gulf of Mexico, therefore it is on the Atlantic side." It is a very cool thing that I still get a big kick out of.

Back in the mid 90's was a legendary bike racer named John Stamstad. He was somewhere out in Ohio or the Midwest, and he was a mutant! He set all sorts of long distance records and is in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame! And he's the one that started this whole racing the Adventure Cycling Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR).

I remember when he came through Silver City in the mid-90's. He needed a wheel, so he stopped at my LBS, Gila Hike & Bike. He said the Gila was the toughest part of the ride. He was drinking straight canola oil for energy. He completed his first trip in about 3 weeks, if I remember correctly. He did it again the next year, breaking his own record by several days. John's final record was about 17 days.

About 10 years later, several guys lined up in Roosville, MT to duplicate John's run. About 2300 miles, zig-zagging down the spine of the United States to the small border outpost of Antelope Wells. The trip takes about 15 days for the fast guys and about a month for the stragglers. I did a similar trip in 1981 that parallels the newer GDMBR, following a mostly paved route from Palomas, MX (on the NM border) to Jasper, AB. That trip took me over 75 days to complete. You got to envy these racers...they are going through some of the most beautiful country in North America.

Technology has allowed us, the arm-chair racer, to watch the progress of the riders on a daily basis. This year's new race, the Tour Divide, organized by two time GDR winner, Matthew Lee, used Spot technology...little GPS trackers allowing fans to follow the racers via the Internet. I guess the racers could use this technology too to their advantage to see where their competitors are. Purist might not like it, but its has made the Tour Divide a very entertaining event to keep track of.

Anyway, this year's Tour Divide (Banff, AB to Antelope Wells, NM) winner was Matthew Lee in a little more than 19 days. This year's Great Divide Race (Roosville, MT to Antelope Wells, NM) winner was John Nobile is slightly more than 15 days (setting a new record!...way to go John).

Today I challenge any (former) Tour de France riders to enter either of these races next year. Floyd, Lance, guys aren't doing anything next year. Let's ride! I want to do it!

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