Tour Divide Preview

I’m looking forward to the next big Bikepacking race of the summer and who will be the contenders now that the Trans Am Bike Race is underway and 2013 Tour Divide runner up is crushing it in Montana as I type, Jesse has just crossed paths with the GDMBR, the route of the icon of Bikpacking, the Tour Divide.  If Bikepacking had a Queen stage, and it would have to be a whole race as there are no stages, then the Tour Divide would be it.

Here is the profile

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2745 miles of main route, hopefully no detours this year.  Around 200,000ft of climbing, give or take.  They’ll be scraping their heads on the moon in Colorado as they top out at 11,910 on Indiana Pass.

It is once again a bumper year with a record number of entries.  Here are my picks for the dots to watch in 2015.

Billy Rice

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The YOYO man! – The first time I met Billy Rice, Craig Stappler and I were bombing down the steep side of Galton Pass in a cloud of dust towards Roosville and Craig ahead dropped anchor sharply to greet the Northbound Texan who was about to turn around and come back once he made it to Banff.  That time he was plagued by wheel issues that saw him miss his turn around to coincide with the Grand Depart but he was only a couple of days and then began to chase down the mid-pack southbound.  Due to some excellent administration that year I heard Billy Rice was the only racer to ride the de-facto route in both directions, unaffected by the fire closures.  Since then Billy and I have become good friends, rooming together in Astoria before the Trans Am and hanging out with his ever generous family in Yorktown whilst Billy took his sweet time to get across the 10 states.  We also got time to hang out at leisure in Denver for the premiere of Inspired to Ride.

Always positive Billy is one of Bikepacking’s great personalities and is a great follow for his amusing stories, humour and general happy nature.  His misadventures and observations make for very entertaining listening.  This year he attempted to have a faster Northbound run but ran into much snow, even far south in New Mexico.  The main event of his 2015 outing will be a Tandem run Southbound with his daughter Line.  I’m sure there will be some stories for the two of them to tell.

Brian Steel

Brian Steele AKA Creature Boy is literally a monster and he is also planning to Monster the divide in 2015.  He was one of last year’s participants of the first Trans Am Bike Race and appears in the Inspired to Ride film.  Brian was in the next room in our hotel in Astoria last year and great to hang out with and get to know for a day or so before the race.  Brian is very much like you see him in ITR; larger than life, funny and very friendly.  He is also a little different now however having enlisted the help Billy Rice and ‘Invictus’ cycling as his coach.  Brian has been training like a beast and making leaps and bounds in speed.  Apparently he was tired of trailing nearer the back than the front, decided to do something about it and is loving it.  I’m really excited to see how this translates into a TDR run for Brian. He has the experience and now it appears he is gaining the speed too.

Alex Harris

South African hardman and expeditioner, Harris aborted on the TDR with injury in 2014 and but finished in the sprint for third place in 2013.  Alex has been busy the last few years in attempting to make the unsupported bike racing scene explode with the headline grabbing 1 Million Dollar Munga Race.  The Munga race is yet to run but Alex is a proven finisher, so very tenacious and like it, so very full of potential.  In everything Harris goes big and if it all comes together, its going to be great to watch.  With three trips out on the Divide now Harris is hungry for success and has put his bid in with an aim of 15 days.  I would count him among the top finishers.

Jay Petervary

Its been a few years since Jay last took to the Divide in 2012 on an Indepentent Time Trial (ITT) and his benchmark run still persists.  Recent attempts to supersede it have ended in denial or defeat.  Petervary’s record setting run was his fifth attempt at the GDMBR and he  hails from Victor, ID, making him one of the locals.  These fact conspire to make Jay one of the most experienced divide runners of them all, so it is great to see Jay throwing his hat into the ring with the Grand Depart as he hasn’t been seen on the Divide in the mass start competition in a fair while.  Its a shame we won’t get to see Jeffe Brenham go head to head with him this year though.  Jay has set his goal as 14 days.  The loftiest prediction of those stating an aim and the two week barrier is such an enticing aim.  Billy Rice’s northbound reports however and the reports that Colorado apparently had its wettest may in 121 years means that racers are likely to encounter snow in the north.  This could see 2015 attempts to go sub 14d thwarted just as Jeffe’s were last year.  I would say that if Jay could get close to his own record of 15d 16h 04m in less than optimum conditions then he would provide good argument that he is capable of getting close to that goal.  We shall see how the cards are dealt and how they are played.

Connor O’Leary

Another rider late to hit my radar, I noticed this news piece from Utah’s KUTV earlier this week.  Connor certainly has an inspiring back story and some serious motivation and pedigree.  What he may be missing is a little Divide specific experience but he may well be a strong contender.  I don’t know exactly what the amazing race is or how it’ll help him on the divide but as the film states he is a former member of USA cycling’s U23 team so he’s obviously a fairly rapid lad and pretty tough to boot.  Experience though is a big player in the Tour Divide and can trump pure speed and fitness so it remains to be seen if he will get close to his aim of beating the record and coming home in under 15 days.  He’s certainly set his stall out and isn’t afraid of going for it.

Neil Beltchenko

Neil is the founder and editor of Bikepackers Magazine and I had the pleasure of meeting Neil at the premiere of ITR back in April.  Neil shows that he doesn’t just like to write about it, he knows how to get the job done.  Neil won the Colorado Trail Race in 4d 10h last year so he definitely has the speed to trouble the front of the pack but I haven’t seen his predictions or goals yet.  I may be wrong but I have’t seen Neil take on the TDR in the past few years so this may be his first run also.

Jill Homer

I am afraid to say that the tracker does not appear at this moment to highlight all the Women Racers, but I do notice Jill Homers name on the list and its great to see it.  From Alaska, Jil is a very experience ultra athlete in both running and cycling and has provided some inspirational and insightful writing over the last few years via her blog http://halfpastdone.com and in her growing number of books including “be brave, be strong” about her previous experience of the divide.

Marshall Bird

I owe a debt of gratitude to Marshall for his excellent blogging and kit descriptions that informed a younger and considerably more inexperienced me in 2010 of the ways and the world of packing light and moving across the Great Divide.  While he may describe himself as a midpack racer and not have the out and out speed, he sure has the theory down well and communicated it generously.  It is great to see him back on the Divide in a year that is seeing quite a few notable vets back on the trail.  His blog was invaluable to my preparations in 2011 so thank you Marshall and the best of luck to you.  I’ll be keeping an eye on you.

So these are the dots I’ll be watching over the next few weeks going North-South.  Along with Trans Am West-Easters its going to be a fun few weeks on Trackleaders and that is all before the Transcontinental dots gets going.

The Tour Divide Starts Friday 12th June at 8am Mountain Daylight Time.

 

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