What this blog is about

Bicycle commuting, bicycle touring, bicycle racing; bicycle ADVENTURING.
To the grocery store, up a mountain, across the country or to the finish line--
it's all an adventure.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Great Divide Bike Race

The Great Divide Bike Race intrigues me. I might prefer to tour it rather than race it, but nevertheless, this race has a hook that draws you in.

The starting line. When the clock strikes noon,
the race director says, "Okay, beat it," and you're off.
*Photo from the GDR race blog.

The Great Divide is a self-supported, solo competition following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Traversing, parts of Canada, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, the route demands over 200,000 feet of climbing along it's length. Competitors carry all equipment necessary to negotiate the backcountry, restocking on food and other supplies from the small towns along the route.

The intent of the GD is to establish a common date and set of rules so that those wishing to challenge the route or record may compete directly with other athletes under equal circumstances.

The GD follows Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The GD provides a common set of rules, daily updates, and a call in number. That is all.

Your travel arrangements and most importantly your safety is up to you. Approach the GD as if you are doing an independent adventure and have your own emergency plan in place.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Race is an intriguing beast. Outside magazine's article on the event is titled, "The World's Toughest Bike Race is Not in France." Sure, I could be convinced that racing 16 hours a day to cover 2,700 miles up over 200,000 feet of elevation gain, pedaling against a clock that doesn't stop when you go to bed on the cold, rocky ground while your stomach battles greasy diner food and you wonder if that's a grizzly in the bushes is the "world's toughest bike race." However, it is not just the toughness of this race that I find so intriguing. At the end of the race rules you will find this notice:

The original intent of this race was to ride the GDMBR as fast as possible in the simplest/purest style possible. As time has gone on people have begun looking for loopholes within the rules that'll save them time on the course. This is human nature and all of us do it in different ways in our everyday lives. With respect to the GDR, we ask that you please consider the long term ramifications of finding and using loopholes--the race will only get 'easier' and (conversely) require more rules/regulations as time goes on. This goes against all of the principles that the race was founded on. People: please don't bring The Race down to your level--elevate yourself to the level of The Race. If you find yourself looking for loopholes, consider taking another year to prepare before racing. Most likely you'll go faster and enjoy it more as a result.

"Elevate yourself to the level of The Race." Capital T, Capital R: The Race. Respect The Race. While the race (lower case) may have been invented by mere humans, The Race (capitalized) has taken on a life of its own, and demands respect of its own volition. It seems that The Race demands it not be disrespected by petty rule-stretchers, rather than the race director asking. One would rather get a wag of a finger from a race director (Is there technically a "race director"? There is no entry fee.), than to be the one that spits in the face of the "simplest/purest" Race.

Racers fuel the fire with their tales of struggle and success. Virtual spectators fan the flame by gobbling up each story morsel that drops onto the racing blog. Once only kindling, the fire now burns brightly, eating up new tales each year until they are cinders of legend.

Of course, I am not actually intimately involved in this race. What do I know? I haven't been close enough to feel the rhythm of The Race's heart. All I know is what I've read online and seen in photos and skimmed in comments on posts. What's interesting though, is that even from my computer screen-- I can feel the heat.
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