The Great Race

06.22.2007 | 12:02 pm

Last night, my wife asked me if I was getting excited for the Tour de France. I’m sad to say that I am not. I’ll still watch it, but I’m not clearing the decks and planning my life around it the way I have for the last ten years or so.

It’s not so much that I’m disgusted with the organization or the racers. It’s more that the race has kinda lost its validity. Are the racers who will be starting really the fastest cyclists alive? Or are they just the fastest clean cyclists alive? Or are they just luckier than the guys who got caught?

For the record, I’m rooting for Vinokourov, because he makes me laugh. But that’s not exactly a prescription for a riveting race, is it?

You want to know what multi-day race is holding my attention? The Great Divide Race – a self-supported mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico that can last close to a month – is, that’s what.

Allure of the Nearly Possible
I have no illusions about whether I could ride in the Tour de France. My genetics aren’t even close. Even if I had trained perfectly my entire life, I couldn’t be one of those guys.

I cry every time I admit that fact.

I also have no illusions about whether I could do the Great Divide Race (GDR). I don’t have the time, and I don’t like camping. And I’m in nothing close to good enough shape

But if I decided to make it my life’s mission, well, maybe I could do the GDR.


If I didn’t have any mechanicals, the weather was good, and the bears left me alone. Then maybe.

I think that “maybe” is what makes the difference between admiring a race and getting sucked into it heart and soul.

19_Nice_Portrait Go Dave!
Another part of what’s got me obsessively tracking this race is the fact that Dave Nice – the guy Fat Cyclist readers raised $1200 for — is racing wearing the Fat Cyclist jersey (Photo by Aaron Teasdale of Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). Used with permission, believe it or not).

And while there’s no such thing as an “easy way” to do this ride, Dave’s about as hardcore as they come. His bike’s a rigid, fixed 29er. His pedals do not have clips. His shorts do not have a chamois.

And to top it all off, Dave has vowed to not eat anything he does not personally either harvest or kill during the entire ride.

OK, I made that last part up. But still.

Meet the Riders
If you want to get sucked into a real-life, month-long drama like I am, a good place to start is with this first day photo essay Aaron Teasdale of ACA put together. You’ll meet the riders, learn what they look like and what they’re hoping to accomplish.

Then, once you’ve done that, just head on over to these places to follow the adventure:

  • Updates from the riders’ mouths: This is what makes the race so compelling, if you ask me. Racers are given a toll-free phone number to call whenever they get into a town. They give updates, which are transcribed into this running report.
  • Get background and summary info: ACA has a great portal to the route and information about the riders and past editions of the races. Definitely worth boning up on.

What Makes the GDR Great
I love hearing how the race is going, unedited and unfiltered, right from the racers’ mouths. For example, as of last night, Dave was spending a second day in Butte, exhausted from his fixed-gear trek so far. From the way it’s transcribed, Dave is so tired he had to pause to remember his last name.

It’s very common for racers to call in and start giving a report, only to realize that they don’t even know what town they’re in. Or to report that they had to spend a day in a sleeping bag, vomiting and exhausted, but now they can walk again and so are heading out.

It’s the very mundaneness of the calls that makes them interesting to me, because I can imagine myself making a similar call. “Hi, uh, I know a lot of stuff happened today, but right now I’m so cooked all I can think about is sleeping. I’m hungry, but I can’t eat. I need to get out my camping stuff now, so I’ve gotta go.”

Food, shelter, sleep. That’s what’s on these guys’ minds. Totally primal.

I love it.

You know what else I love about this race? The concern over cheating. In particular, it’s the obsessive aversion to cheating that seems so prevalent. Consider this: the rules say that you can’t accept a ride. But there’s a paved section on the trail right now that is one lane wide and requires cyclists to ride in a pilot car. Pete Basinger tells a story of how he argues with the flag lady for half an hour, finally agrees to ride in the pilot car (downhill) for the three mile stretch, then gets out and continues on his ride.

And it eats at him. And eats at him.

So after thirty miles, Pete turns around and rides back, and rides that construction section after all the workers have gone home.

Call it a hunch, but I’m guessing that Pete’s not sneaking EPO to win this race.


  1. Comment by UltraRob | 06.22.2007 | 12:15 pm

    I believe that the top guys that line up for the TdF just are luckier than the ones that got caught. I’ve believed that for years but I’ve been ridiculed for years because of it. The last several months have sadly shown I’ve at least been somewhat right.

    First it was the Race Across America to keep me hitting the refresh button too much and remembering last year. Then the GDR started. At least RAAM is over today but I’ll still be watching the GDR and dreaming about it.

  2. Comment by Mike Roadie | 06.22.2007 | 12:22 pm

    Darn it, I wanted to be the first to post today!!!!!

    FC… are the best!

  3. Comment by Weean | 06.22.2007 | 12:48 pm

    That’s just a little too hardcore for my tastes, and I’m frightened by Dave Nice’s facial hair. Give me the pros with the shaved legs and track marks (and I don’t mean velodrome track) any day. At least with them I can kid myself that it’s just because I don’t have the good stuff I can’t do what they do.

    And what was the helmet???

  4. Comment by wndnh2o | 06.22.2007 | 1:11 pm

    Did I just read that right?

    That Dave Nice was chased by a Moose outside of Whitefish!! At least it wasn’t a deer like poor little ol’ Bob.

  5. Comment by Kent Peterson | 06.22.2007 | 2:00 pm

    Oh yeah, I’m so glued to the reports “yeah I hit a boulder and bucked my bike’s top and down tubes and flew like 10 or 15 feet but I made it to this motel and I’ve got another bike at home so I’m having it’s frame shipped to me. I’m not out yet.” Yeah, that’s racing. “I puked my guts out but I think I can keep down solid food so I’ll be heading out.”

    Damn. My wife is really not keen on my ever racing the GDR again but damn, these dudes are really out there gettin ‘er done. Go Dave, go Nathan and Jeff, go Pete., go everybody. There still is some amazing stuff ahead.

  6. Comment by Caloi-Rider | 06.22.2007 | 2:02 pm

    The Tour de Where? I completely forgot about that race. Is JHK gonna be there for that one?

    By the way, your kid’s a genius. Plentysix, ha!

  7. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 06.22.2007 | 4:23 pm

    Rigid fixed gear. Pffffft. Next year I’m going to do the GDR on one of those little bikes the clowns ride.

  8. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 06.22.2007 | 4:52 pm

    Weean I just want you to know I read your comment even if FC doesn’t.
    No 361 Come in your time is up WHAT WAS THE HELMET???

  9. Comment by LanterneRouge | 06.22.2007 | 6:53 pm

    It’s no use Botched. Someone will one-up you with a unicycle or Bob attempt it with his stylish yet not at all teh ghey electric bike.

  10. Comment by mooseluv | 06.22.2007 | 7:17 pm

    chamois shaved legs and domestiques are for sissy girls. give me puke a tent some moose jerky and a 29er. now we’re talkin.

  11. Comment by Tim D | 06.23.2007 | 12:44 am

    I shall be following the Nice Ironman, where my friends Simon, Tim and Heather are competing this weekend.

  12. Comment by bikemike | 06.23.2007 | 4:23 am

    one (or two) would hope that the GDR doesn’t get too big or popular, that the “temptation” to do drugs arise. sounds like an awesome race and some pretty dang hardcore group of riders.

    hope things are still going well for Susan. if laughter is the best medicine, have your son make her some funny cards. when i grow up i want to be cool like your son.

  13. Comment by hades | 06.23.2007 | 2:52 pm

    Yeah, the TdF has become less than inspiring.

    The GDR looks pretty cool, those guys about 6.34 times as tough as I am.

    Speaking of the Ironman however, check this out: If that isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is.

  14. Comment by lowrydr | 06.24.2007 | 5:32 am

    What an inspirational thing to find reading the blog this morning. Had to watch the Hoyt film twice. Thanks hades!! I’ve seen several clips but not one that long.
    Have been following GDR since the start this year, those guys are animals to the extreme.

    Fatty, best to you and yours today.

  15. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 06.24.2007 | 12:13 pm

    My mouth is still hanging open.



    Most of my bike club think I’m hardcore (read nuts) because I ride my fixed road bike about 1 ride in 5. That’s a road bike. On the road. 25-50 miles a week maximum. Not off road all day, every day for a whole month.

    That’s beyond hardcore. We should be sponsoring his psychiatrists expenses. But looking at the photo I can see that if we’d raised more money he’d be riding a fixed rigid recumbent.

    Go Crazy Dave. Or: go crazy, Dave. As the case may be.

  16. Comment by MAJ Mike | 06.24.2007 | 5:13 pm

    Damn it. I was feeling “justifiably” sore after spending two days with 70+ lbs on the Appalachian trail this weekend and then you had to spring THIS on me! Ok, fine. Bite me.

  17. Comment by MBonkers | 06.24.2007 | 7:27 pm

    I will have to check this out, just got done following RAAM where my pals Team Type 1 again dominated the 8 person corporate team division. WAY TO GO! Only Wish I could cross the country in 6 days.

  18. Comment by jill | 06.25.2007 | 11:11 am

    Great post. This captures a lot of the energy I find in the GDR. It’s an amazing race, for sure. The only thing more hardcore than the course itself are the people who attempt it. Go Dave Go!

  19. Comment by Brian C | 06.25.2007 | 1:57 pm

    dude with the carbon orbea is riding right, 35 pounds loaded?! dag.

    im glad we helped out dave, but something deep down tells me i should have saved the money for my own black sheep. says the very jealous man :)

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