The premise is simple: Race your mountain bike, self-supported, across the spine of the Rocky Mountains. But finishing the world's longest mountain bike race, all 2,745 miles of Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Route from Alberta to New Mexico, is anything but simple. You must summit the highest peaks, brave the loneliest deserts, and wend through the wildest terrain in the continent, using only your wits and the power of your pedals. This year 106 racers are testing themselves in the rigorous race.
Roughly halfway through the race—which can be done north to south or vice versa, athlete's choice—riders pass through Steamboat Springs, Colorado, one of the few towns along the route. It's a homecoming of sorts for Taylor Zimmerman, who races under the name Cjell Money and calls Vail home. According to the leaderboard, Zimmerman is logging about 100 miles per day. He passed through Steamboat last Friday, where he took a two-hour break to grab burritos and talk about the race before heading north to Wyoming.
I'm just a ski bum. This is my first bike tour. I started in Costa Rica. Biked to the start of the route for training.
I built my bike with the guys at Black Sheep. My shoes, tent, bag—built it all too. The start of the race was the first time all my gear was together.
The lowest point was last night. Coming into Radium in the dark, no food. Anxious. When the sun goes down it gets tough.
Marshall Pass was a high point. I crushed it. I saw this bushy tailed, beautiful fox, then a big daddy elk, a bear, a herd of deer, another fox, and I met a cool family of four biking the route.
This is the gnarliest race in the world. I mean, if you think about it, we ride about the same daily miles as the Tour de France, but we go farther. Then you have to figure out where you are going to eat, sleep, all those things.
The 'Boat is great. People in this town understand the race. Stopped at Orange Peel bike shop, they hooked me up. Getting my tent fixed at Big Agnes. Got a cowboy hat at F.M. Light & Sons. Guy serving my burrito at Azteca asked about the ride. Other towns don't get it. —Doug Davis
Read more about the Tour Divide in "Racing Down the Center of the World" from the Spring 2011 issue. To check out Cjell's progress and to track the race visit tourdivide.org. Doug Davis is the director of Steamboat Springs Bike Town USA. Visit steamboatbiketown.com for more information on the town's biking initiatives.