More than a dozen well-wishers on bicycles accompanied Kent Peterson as he left his home in Issaquah on Thursday morning to compete in the Tour Divide that starts later this month.
(Kent arrived in Banff on Wednesday, June 9, and is ready to roll out when the race begins on Friday.)
Kent is one of the Seattle area's most well-known and respected bicyclists. He's been writing at his Kent's Bike Blog about tackling the 2,745-mile, self-supported mountain bike race for several months.
A few weeks ago, he put out the word that he'd complete his practice (he doesn't “train”) by riding from his home to Banff, Alberta, for the start of the race. Anyone would be welcome to join him.
Those who showed up represented the broad spectrum of the bicycling community that he has touched in Seattle. There were former co-workers from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and Bike Works, as well as fellow members of the Seattle International Randonneurs. Most were going to accompany him as far as Snoqualmie Pass, as Kent hoped to reach the vicinity of Cle Elum this evening.
As difficult as the solo bike ride to Banff might sound, it's nothing compared to the mountain bike race that starts on June 11. The grueling bicycle race follows Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
It's touted as the world's longest off-pavement bicycle route. It follows the Contintental Divide through Alberta and British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Bicyclists will achieve 200,000 feet of elevation gain as they criss-cross the Divide over high mountain passes.
The men's record at the current distance is 17 days, 23 hours and 45 minutes, set by Matthew Lee. Chris Plesko holds the singlespeed record of 19 days and 21 hours. Kent was the first person to complete the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race (a shorter route within the US boundaries) on a singlespeed bicycle in 2005.
Back in January, Kent posted a lengthy Q & A at Kent's Bike blog about his participation in this year's Tour Divide. It answers a lot of questions about why his riding, how he's riding and what he's taking on this self-supported mountain bike race.
In the video and photo, you'll notice Kent's amazing back pack that he basically designed for the race. It's like something that NASA technicians would have designed for the astronauts. He tells about it here.
Elsewhere you'll learn about his bike and the gear he carries on it. To say that Kent is an ultralight bike traveler is an understatement.
6 from Washington state
Forty-six cyclists are signed up to start the race, and Kent isn't the only one from the Seattle area. In fact, Washington state is very well represented. The others are Eric Bruntjen of Roslyn, Brett Foster of Kirkland, Dave Preston of Seattle, Mike Prochaska of North Bend, and Derek Richert of Seattle. Here's the full roster.
Good luck to all of them and here's hoping they have a safe trip.