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Deciding to ride the Tour Divide

Always Riding's good friend Kevin 'Blackhound' Cunniffe is taking part in the epic 'Great Divide' race through America this year, and here, the intrepid adventurer posts his first blog entry about the race, and his reasons for entering. Stay tuned for more posts building up to the event, and also reports from the race itself. Over the you Kevin...


I first read about the Great Divide route about 10 years ago in Cycling and was immediately interested. It told of a 2,500 mile route from the Canada / USA border at Port of Roosville, Montana down The Rockies through wilderness and small town America to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the USA / Mexico border.


The article told of a trip taking about 75 days, promoted by the Adventure Cycling Association who mapped the route over four years and published it in 1998. There was no way I was going to get about three months off work and this was put into the ‘something to do when I retire’ pile.


A couple of years later I was aimlessly wandering the new fangled internet looking at Airborne Bikes (now called Van Nicholas in Europe) and saw an article by John Stamstad who had ridden the route in 18 days as a time-trial in 1999, the first time this had been done. This sounded amazing to me though it did pique my interest; perhaps I could do it in say 40-45 days at a fast touring pace camping and using the occasional motel.


Inspired by John Stamstad in 2004 Mike Curiak organised a race over the whole route and seven people started with Mike winning by 24 minutes in 16 days and 57 minutes ahead of three other riders. In 2005 seven people again turned up to start with Matthew Lee winning in 19 days 4 hours.


Numbers started to increase over the next few years and since 2008 there has also been a Grand Depart from Banff in Canada, as well as Port of Roosville, after the official route was extended through the Flathead Valley adding 250 miles to the route. Banff has now become the popular start with 2009 having just two border to border starters and 2010 no starters. I should add that individual time trials are also encouraged, and also in the South to North direction allowing people to attempt the challenge at a time to suit oneself.


The race has no entry fees, no prizes and is entirely self supported, the full website is www.tourdivide.org. The 2008 race also spawned a movie, Ride The Divide showing the beauty and the pain of the race by following three riders. However, it continues to grow with 17 riders in 2008, 42 starters in 2009 and 48 in 2010. At the time of writing there are 68 committed to start in Banff (7 from the UK) with six more riding Northwards from Antelope Wells; I am aware of two UK based riders still to officially declare.


I finished work a few months ago and this is my aim for 2011. I have the usual anxieties of whether I am capable of riding 100 miles a day for a month at altitude, off-road and carrying the full load whilst avoiding bears and with the knowledge that 50% of racers do not finish! Over the next few months I will share with you my progress on my preparation, and kit - have you ever weighed your shorts? Plus, my strategy to manage the Bear issue.


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