Great Divide mountain bike race — like an off-road RAAM

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Now that the last of the Race Across America cyclists have straggled across the finish line in Atlantic City, mountain bikers are leaving Roosville, Montana, for the Great Divide Race at noon Friday.

While the RAAM racers gain our admiration by cycling 3,042 miles cross-country in 9 or 10 days, consider what the Great Divide racers try to accomplish:

With no support or team members, the mountain bikers race from the Canadian to the Mexican border. They cross 2,490 miles of mountain terrain carrying their own gear for cooking, camping and bike repair. The route comprises 200,000 feet of climbing.

In its third year, the course record is 16 days, 57 minutes set by Mike Curiak in 2004, the first year the race was held. The racers use Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, designed more for cyclists taking a months long vacation. Last year, 4 of the 7 cyclists who set out in Roosville, Montana, finished the course.

According to the Great Divide Race website, the route is 85% dirt, gravel, two-track or fire road, 14% paved and 1% singetrack. Here are some other aspects of this race that the GDR website mentions:

The racers are completely on their own, no help for riding, camping, repairing, cooking, etc;

If they average 130 miles a day, they are guaranteed to come across at least one store;

The ability to purify puddle water is helpful.

Expect to ride at night. Expect to be lost.

Among the list of rules is this one: “Competitors may only advance on the route by human powered means. In other words, by bicycle. If your bike breaks, you can continue to the next town on foot.” You can also hitchhike if your bike breaks down and you need to make repairs, but you can only hitchhike back the trail, not forward.

Want to follow the race? Last year's winner, Matthew Hill of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, plans to file audioblog of his progress on the route at the Tour Divide blog. He's already filed his anticipated itinerary; the audioblogs will be filed as addendums to those posts.

One of the first to run the course as a time trial was John Stamstad in 1999. Stamstad's adventure is reported at the

RAAM coverage:

RAAM cyclists roll to the finish

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