So what is this nonesense all about, anyway? Why race bikes?
For me, the first MTB ride was a fluke on a borrowed bike up the mountain behind the rafting company I worked at the time. The goal was to see the view from the top - I'd always been drawn to the outdoors and high places in particular, logging many miles of hiking and climbing in Arizona's "sky islands" in my teens and early twenties. The ride itself was most painful, and I walked a good bit. I basically sucked.
Then I discovered Crested Butte, where one could cover so much territory by bike. Revelation! I was hooked for life. Later that year, friends wouldn't ride with me anymore and told me I needed to race these things. Certainly, racing holds it's own competitive flow & draw, but the typical XC race isn't exactly a great way to get "out there". It did, however, provide the motivation to improve skills to new levels...
Fast forward to 2003. I (re)discovered the joy of epic rides, the being "out there" aspect, the hours upon hours of aerobic effort and the clear-mindedness that results, nearly meditation. Dang, there are 100 mile races out there? 24 hour solo events? It was a whole new world, the sport of cycling keeps evolving and presenting new opportunities and challenges.
This year has seen more revelations. KTR was an eye-opening experience. 142 miles self-supported through desert and mountain with a midnight start, who'da thunk it? An interesting format, with it's basis firmly tied to mountain bikings original code of self-sufficiency. I've been fascinated with the concept of doing the Grand Loop Race as well, a 3-4 day epic event.
In the same vein is the ultimate mountain bike race, the Great Divide Race. From the website:
The Great Divide Race is a self-supported, solo competition following the 2,490-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Traversing 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.
I'm feeling the attraction as sure as the earth tugs at the moon...
Last year's winner, Matthew Lee, is racing again. He does the entire Great Divide route by starting outside of Banff, Canada a week ahead of the official race start. I wonder what that makes his stats? Anyway, he's put together a terrific blog on the course, complete with photos, and will post audio updates as the race progresses over the next month. I'd encourage all to check this out. For most, it's armchair reading at it's best; for a few it may even seem doable.