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The TDR = The most grueling bike race in the world.

Words and Photos by Devon Balet
The idea of going on a long ride can be taken many ways. What does a long ride mean for you? Is it having to hike-a-bike your DH ride to the top of the mountain then rip your way down? Maybe it means being out on the trail all day. For some it is finally hitting the 100 miles in a day mark. No matter what you personally consider a long ride, the riders that have embarked on the Tour Divide route in 2011 can all agree they are in the midst of an insanely long ride.

The idea of going on a long ride can be taken many ways. What does a long ride mean for you? Is it having to hike-a-bike your DH ride to the top of the mountain then rip your way down? Maybe it means being out on the trail all day. For some it is finally hitting the 100 miles in a day mark. No matter what you personally consider a long ride, the riders that have embarked on the Tour Divide route in 2011 can all agree they are in the midst of an insanely long ride.
The 'TDR' or Tour Divide Route, could be nothing further from the common idea of what a race would be considered. The riders that set off from Banff Canada on June 10th heading to Antelope Wells, NM, were starting what was surely the longest, most dangerous, and life changing bike ride of their lives. The 2,745 mile route known as the Great Divide Mountain Bike route, weaves its way up, down, through and around the Continental Divide of North America. This long stretch of mountains separates our fine continent into East and West. From the beautiful Canadian Rockies all the way South through New Mexico, and into Mexico.
  The ‘TDR’ or Tour Divide Route, could be nothing further from the common idea of what a race would be considered. The riders that set off from Banff Canada on June 10th heading to Antelope Wells, NM, were starting what was surely the longest, most dangerous, and life changing bike ride of their lives. The 2,745 mile route known as the Great Divide Mountain Bike route, weaves its way up, down, through and around the Continental Divide of North America. This long stretch of mountains separates our fine continent into East and West. From the beautiful Canadian Rockies all the way South through New Mexico, and into Mexico.
Southbound, crossing the border into the USA. Not your typical border crossing...
  Southbound, crossing the border into the USA. Not your typical border crossing…
With record breaking snowfall experienced this winter all through out the Continental Divide, the route saw a few changes. The valley bottoms everywhere through out Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado were experiencing major flooding, while high mountain pass areas were still sitting nine plus feet under snow. The late winter brought on a harsh spring that seemed as though Ullr was not ready to release his grip.
  With record breaking snowfall experienced this winter all through out the Continental Divide, the route saw a few changes. The valley bottoms everywhere through out Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado were experiencing major flooding, while high mountain pass areas were still sitting nine plus feet under snow. The late winter brought on a harsh spring that seemed as though Ullr was not ready to release his grip.
With miles upon miles of snow covered passes to hike through, the never ending dirt roads that seem to go on into eternity, to battling with the weather and just wanting to find a safe place to bed down for a few hours sleep, the TDR is not for the faint at heart.
  With miles upon miles of snow covered passes to hike through, the never ending dirt roads that seem to go on into eternity, to battling with the weather and just wanting to find a safe place to bed down for a few hours sleep, the TDR is not for the faint at heart.
To simply make your way into and out of Montana requires a self determination and preservation seen by few. Of the 89 riders that started more then 63 riders are still out grinding down the miles as of Monday June 27th. Some riders chose to start from the south and head north, while most rode southbound.
  To simply make your way into and out of Montana requires a self determination and preservation seen by few. Of the 89 riders that started more then 63 riders are still out grinding down the miles as of Monday June 27th. Some riders chose to start from the south and head north, while most rode southbound.
Hail, rain, sleet and snow were all seen out on course so far this year. As the riders now head into New Mexico, they have to be concerned with the possible 100 plus degree heat. From one extreme to the next. A full fuel tank helps the riders get through it all.
  Hail, rain, sleet and snow were all seen out on course so far this year. As the riders now head into New Mexico, they have to be concerned with the possible 100 plus degree heat. From one extreme to the next. A full fuel tank helps the riders get through it all.
Warm food is all it takes sometimes...
  Warm food is all it takes sometimes…

Live catch bear trap.
  Live catch bear trap.

A lone rider crests a hill, one of what seemed like thousands of hills...
  A lone rider crests a hill, one of what seemed like thousands of hills…

Camped for the night outside of Butte, Montana
  Camped for the night outside of Butte, Montana

Nice views... Shooting the TDR meant a lot of waiting, always waiting.
  Nice views… Shooting the TDR meant a lot of waiting, always waiting.

Jake Kirkpatrick and Dejay Birtch - Rolling out of the storm.
  Jake Kirkpatrick and Dejay Birtch – Rolling out of the storm.

Bitch Creek Trestle Crossing in Idaho, 144 feet tall at mid point.
  Bitch Creek Trestle Crossing in Idaho, 144 feet tall at mid point.

TDR riders take in a little warmth from the weather in Atlantic City, WY
  TDR riders take in a little warmth from the weather in Atlantic City, WY

The never ending roads of the Great Basin of Wyoming. Just another day on the TDR...
  The never ending roads of the Great Basin of Wyoming. Just another day on the TDR…

The story of our first day in Colorado.
  The story of our first day in Colorado.

Steamboat Lake, waiting on riders.
  Steamboat Lake, waiting on riders.

Some days you don't get the shots you were hoping for... Captured this as the last bit of sun set on what would be my last day following the TDR.
  Some days you don’t get the shots you were hoping for… Captured this as the last bit of sun set on what would be my last day following the TDR.
The leaders of the grand ride completed their battle, finishing in Antelope Wells, NM just past 5am on Sunday June 26th after 15 days and many many long miles. Kurt Refsnider of Boulder, CO was able to edge out Gunnison Colorado's Jefe Branham in the final paved miles. Branham led most of the race, all entirely on a single gear. That's right, a single speed!

Sometimes putting together words in a way to display the difficulties of what these riders are experiencing can be quiet difficult. The saying of ” an=”” and=”” bike=”” bit=”” capture.=”” comparison=”” covering=”” endless=”” enjoy=”” enough.=”” even=”” experience=”” experiences=”” flood=”” for=”” from=”” gallery=”” go=”” hope=”” i=”” iceberg.=”” in=”” interest=”” is=”” isn it=”” just=”” long=”” maybe=”” my=”” of=”” pack=”” picture=”” really=”” ride. small=”” some=”” sometimes=”” spark=”” src=”http://lp1.pinkbike.org/p5pb6336060/p5pb6336060.jpg” stories=”” tdr.=”” tdr=”” that=”” the=”” this=”” thousand=”” tip=”” to=”” top=”” up=”” was=”” well=”” what=”” while=”” will=”” words world=”” worth=”” would=”” you=”” your=””></a></td>
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<td><img src=  The leaders of the grand ride completed their battle, finishing in Antelope Wells, NM just past 5am on Sunday June 26th after 15 days and many many long miles. Kurt Refsnider of Boulder, CO was able to edge out Gunnison Colorado’s Jefe Branham in the final paved miles. Branham led most of the race, all entirely on a single gear. That’s right, a single speed!

Sometimes putting together words in a way to display the difficulties of what these riders are experiencing can be quiet difficult. The saying of “a picture is worth a thousand words”, well sometimes that isn’t even enough. The small bit of the TDR that I was able to experience was just the tip top of an iceberg. The endless stories of experiences would flood the world in comparison to what I was able to experience and capture. I hope you enjoy this small gallery from my adventure while covering the TDR. Maybe it will spark an interest for some of you to pack up your bike and go for a really long ride.

Some days you don’t capture any good photos. While waiting for riders I was able to capture this cool time lapse:

“Laughter has been my best friend out on route.” -Dejay Birtch


With support from: Pioneer Sales and Marketing, Delorme, Contour and Goal Zero
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For more stories and photos follow Push Pedal Crank


Meeting & Greeting Cards
She came from France!