Tour Divide 2023

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The Tour Divide is a bikepacking race with an enthusiastic following. When riders depart Banff, spectators gather around them, enthralled ‘dot watching’ them across their journey.

Lachlan Dunne stands a good chance of breaking the record for men’s competition this year; his 15h advantage over current record times makes this seem unlikely.

The route

The Tour Divide Race is an annual challenge that seeks to test participants by having them ride 2,700 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route between Banff, Canada, and Antelope Wells on the US/Mexico border – from Banff all the way down to Antelope Wells on both sides of the border – in 13 days, 22 hours, 51 minutes as recorded by Mike Hall in 2016. Unlike most bike-packing races, however, this one is self-supported: riders must carry GPS units fitted with SPOT Satellite Messenger or Garmin INReach Trackers, so their progress can be tracked online by fans as riders progress is tracked online throughout their ride – all fans keep tabs on progress online throughout.

Race organizers make this race exceptionally difficult, and riders must be prepared for weeks of 16+ hour days on the saddle. Furthermore, it winds through remote backcountry areas where grizzly bears and mountain lions roam freely – long distances between services necessitate careful food and water resupply strategies, while dynamic mountain weather patterns may throw unexpected curve balls onto routes, altering near-term travel projections significantly.

To compete in the Tour Divide, riders must be physically fit and have extensive knowledge of the terrain. In order to meet their goals, riders should create a training plan that includes strength training, flexibility/movement practice (e.g., yoga), hiking practice, and plenty of bike riding time. Furthermore, this race poses psychological challenges; riders must manage stress/anxiety associated with trail riding without losing motivation and focus.

Racers need reliable support teams in order to navigate and stay motivated during their races. Trackleaders provides daily reports that collate information from riders’ social media, MTBCast, and direct communications with them to provide a holistic view of the race; maps, photos, and videos of riders’ progress on the trail can also be included as part of these reports.

Justinas Leveika and Ulrich Bartholomew appear to be locked in an intense race with each other; Jens van Roost is closing in quickly on them both, but Justinas Leveika currently leads by just under one minute. It will be exciting to watch how this race plays out, as any moment could show change for any of them!

The start line

The Tour Divide is North America’s signature ultra-endurance race. Stretching from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells on the US/Mexico border and covering 2,745 miles of off-pavement terrain with an overall elevation gain of over 150,000 ft, this backpacking route covers 2,745. Traditionally starting each year at Grand Depart on June 2, riders can also begin to ride anytime they choose and ride it as an Individual Time Trial (ITT), using SPOT GPS Messengers to track their progress online live!

Weather on the course has remained foul, with low pressure dominating rainfall or snowdrops now and then. Riders’ photos reveal an unpredictable wavering between warm sunshine and windy rainstorms, which can be frustrating for those relying on layering up to regulate temperatures; plus, these sudden shifts cause wear-and-tear on clothing and disrupt rider rhythm.

Mike Hall appears to be well on track for an incredible finish time of 14D12H24M, according to the track leaders predictor, leaving plenty of breathing room ahead of Justinas Leveika and Ulrich Bartholmoes, who should both arrive within days or days at most.

Cyrus Desmarais and Dirty Dan are trailing close behind, followed by Maarten Vanhaverbeker; all are first-timers to the Divide, making their challenge all the greater under these conditions. Furthermore, eight female riders currently lead ahead of the MarkerDot 20-day deadline; this includes Lael Wilcox and Katya Rakmatulina, who are two strong names to watch out for in women’s racing.

The finish line

The Tour Divide race travels 2,745 miles from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells on both sides of the USA-Mexico border in Antelope Wells, taking riders through some of the most challenging off-pavement mountain biking terrain in existence. Considered one of the premier backpacking ultra racing events, riders compete as an independent time trial along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR), usually beginning around summer solstice – commonly called Grand Depart – but any day may start their departure date if desired – making this race unique among long-distance races with official start/finish dates imposed. Riders use SPOT GPS Messengers to keep tabs on their progress along their journey online!

Mike Hall remains unchallenged at the head of the men’s field, with his RecordDot remaining secure at 13D22H51M. Ulrich Bartholmoes and Justinas Leveika are in close contention for second, with both riders expected to arrive around 14D12H24M; however, given forecasted headwinds, it is unlikely either ride will catch Hall.

The women’s field is also highly competitive, with eight riders anticipated to come within 20 days of reaching MarkerDot. Lael Wilcox, Katya Rakmatulina, Sacha Dowell, Hannah Simon, Alexandra Houchin, April Drage, and Marie-Soil Blais all expect to complete the tour within this window.

The logistics

Preparing for an event like the Tour Divide requires significant hard work, from researching needed equipment and routes to planning out and understanding how to resupply along the journey. Physical preparation includes strength training, flexibility/movement (yoga/Pilates, etc.), hiking practice for hike-a-bike sections, and numerous hours riding your bike.

This race spans from Banff, Canada, all the way to Antelope Wells on New Mexico’s border with Canada – running along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from north to south and representing an epic challenge that many riders take years to overcome.

Trackleaders is going to take an intense approach to follow this year’s race by actively dot-watching. On day one of the race, riders depart Banff for their Grand Depart. Every dot represents one rider that has chosen to carry a SPOT Satellite Messenger so they can be tracked via Trackleaders’ website.

As the race advances, several plotlines have come into focus. One such narrative involves Lael Wilcox, an accomplished bike-packing star who has competed in five Tour Divide races already and currently ranks sixth overall with an excellent chance at winning women’s competition.

Peter Kraft of Gainesville has become known for winning many bike-packing races around Gainesville. Additionally, he was Tallahassee City Champion and has taken fourth place in various cycling events in Florida’s state championship series.

Ulrich Bartholmoes and Justinas Leveika, two first-time Tour Divide participants, boast impressive resumes – Bartholmoes was only trailing Hall’s record by 4.5 hours at the start. As the race continues, it will be intriguing to observe their performance compared to veterans of this race.