Sunday, January 5, 2014

What exactly is the Tour Divide Race?

Coming down off Fleecer Ridge, TDR 2010 (Notice the one track in the snow?  That’s Aidan Harding’s tracks, 3rd place finisher, 1st SS, .  Aidan rode it all the way down!!  Ha, but with only 1 working brake I wisely walked/skied it towards the bottom……)

Let’s fist back up and start with a look at the route itself and a quick summary of the ‘race’ history.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

(The [2,700 MILE -- give or take a few] entire route is basically dirt-road and mountain-pass riding every day. In total, it has over 200,000 feet of elevation gain.)
Get the maps etc here

Ok, here is the quick history of the Great Divide route by Michael McCoy, the man tasked with laying out the route. The Genesis of the Great Divide

But how do we get from a cross country, 'back country' mountain bike touring route (finished up I believe in 1997) to what some describe as the toughest mountain bike race in the world (ya that’s a big stretch but it sounds so good). 

Enter John Stamstad’s 1999 record setting ride.  In 1999 the original race route was Border to Border, with the Canadian section added 1st to the GD route and then to the actual race later on.

From John we move to Mike Curiak.  Mike invited others to join him in challenging John’s record and the Great Divide Race was born. (Mike's 1st GDR was in 2004??)   Mike had issued an open invitation to race the Great Divide route with him in a self-supported manner (more about self-supported in a later post) and this is basically when the “race” originated.

For all intents and purposes Mike’s border to border Great Divide Race (GDR) was mutated a few years later into the current Tour Divide Race (TDR) of today. This transformation happened mainly due to Matthew Lee’s unbending determination to include the newer Canadian section.
Finally there was the “MOVIE”. The Ride the Divide movie came out right before the 2010 race and needless to say it has had a huge impact on what was a much smaller, more underground event.

On a personal note I lay full blame at Mike Curiak’s feet for my seduction from the occasional 100 mile mountain bike race into the full blown madness of self-supported multiday racing.  First came the Kokopelli, then the Grand Loop, then the Curiak inspired AZT and CTR.  Year by year building up to my first TDR.  Anyway the guy can make anything sound good and his pictures truly capture the essence of riding mountain bike in the desert and mountain west.  


Ok so this post barley scratches the surface of racing the Divide --To learn more, right down to all the internal details and dirt, all the ins and outs of the TDR (and other like races) go hunt around in the Ultra Race forum at

How could I leave out SPOTs and Trackleaders and MTBcast? 
I used a SPOT in my first AZT way back when and was one of the few who had one. I don’t think Sharon would have let me go without that SPOT.  Ha, now it’s not such a big deal to be out on a self-supported back country trip.
But SPOT’s combined with Trackleaders has made the TDR a spectator sport. But it’s a weird spectator sport as you are not allowed to go see anyone you know while they are racing (unless you happen to live on-route).  What you do is follow their SPOT Dot on Trackleaders and read up (and comment) on the race thread.  And also listen in on the racer’s call-ins on MTBcast.
Again it’s a funny way to spectate a race—but be warned—it’s great fun and highly addictive






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