Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Great Divide

The last couple years, before I decided that I was going to ride in The Great Divide Race this coming summer I would have felt more compelled to voice my opinion on the current "great divide" of The Great Divide. It's funny though, now that I'm actually riding in the race this year I really don't care so much. The only thing that bothers me is that with all the dispute going on between the GDR and The Tour Divide there now seems to be a choice that anyone who wants to "race" the GDMBR needs to make, and on some level one will be judged on that decision. This is unfortunate and hopefully those that are more passionately attached to one race or the other don't judge new people like me on which race we choose.

For me there are reasons that the GDR seems more appealing and there are reasons that the TD seems more appealing. Ultimately though I feel more drawn to the GDR, partly because it is the more established event that will likely include more riders, but mostly because it starts a week later and I am going to need all the time I can get to be ready for this with The Iditarod race going into early March, and with the Miwok 100k that I'm going to be running in early May.

Time will tell if both races can flourish. I kind of doubt it. I think that most people are drawn to events like these because there are going to be other like minded people lining up to ride the same race. If this weren't the case everyone would just go ride the Great Divide Route on their own. People want to compete with and share the experience with other people. Over the next few years one of these two events will, for various reasons, draw more riders and eventually this fact alone will cause more and more people to choose the "more popular" race and the "other race" will struggle to draw more than a few stubborn idealists. As far as which one will be which, I really don't care. You'll almost certainly only ever see me lined up at the start of whichever one I feel is going to have more riders (and especially more top riders) to test my abilities against. Whether that means starting in Banff or Montana I really could care less.


FixieDave said...

ether way its awesome! No judgement here. I disagree with some of the new rules ect...

Hopefully you don't catch me =)

Kevin Montgomery said...

Definitely no hard feelings. Nathan Bay, who I had the pleasure of riding with for some time in the '07 GDR, is also doing the GDR and I think very highly of him.

So, no need to delete you off my rss feed for this ;)

Anonymous said...

i see the TD camp has an opinion on this matter of choice. since the mere difference btwn the two is course length, it would be nice if a decision like this were based on that merit rather than a judgement/popularity contest but i guess it's clear that endurance mtb is an incestuous bunch. sometimes the unpopular decision is in the best interest of all - esp down the road. if it's inevitable that the full route will be raced into the future, the only real question that begs is "in which context does one want to log their effort"? it seems some foresight is the best tool for selection. besides, its not like the racers from past years have ridden together. it appears from race blogs that after the start those guys were on their own.

Jill Homer said...

Although I am still only a spectator, I share Geoff's views on this subject. It's interesting, because we have never actually dicussed this. But there seems to be quite a bit of rhetoric about the integrity of the GDMBR as this all-encompassing route, and I just don't really share that view. It begins in Banff becase somebody made some maps to put it there. It could just as easily begin at Atigun Pass, Alaska, but I wouldn't necessarily want to follow the divide all the way to Mexico from that latitude.

The Great Divide Race continues to be what it has been since its inception ... a border to border race. I'm sure the couse is beautiful, but the opportunity to line up and compete with some of the best ultra endurance racers in the world is what makes the race exciting.

If I were to ever try to race the Great Divide - and I still hold a flutter in my heart that it could happen - I'm fairly certain that I would also be drawn to the "more popular" race. Although I don't harbor any delusions about my talents when it comes to challenging the best of the best, you can bet I'd be much more excited about racing the GDR with other women that standing as the lone female at the beginning of the Tour Divide.

Certainly, the course is huge, and you'll spend 99 percent of your time alone. But unless you're out there treating it as a race against others, what's the point of "racing?"

Vito said...

Sometimes I view a race as a challenge against myself, not just others. It all sounds very political...this race is better than that. Why would you want to do that race?
My answer is...because that's the race I want to do, and I really don't care about what you or others feel.
I do it because I like to do it. I don't hold any race to be more prestigious than another.
I do it to satisfy my needs and not someone else's.

Matthew Lee said...

jill, i hope you do go for it eventually. my x and good friend trish stevenson asked me the other day if i was doing my part to encourage female participation. i didn't have a good, proactive answer. she says she would love to work personally with/encourage any women interested. so her offer is on the table.

on racing against the best competition, one can do that from either event. we don't have to be riding together to compete. again, it's the genius of the design. one is competing against contemps but also against 05 riders or 07 riders.

as for CAs existence, relevance to divide racing, the "somebody" that made maps for CA happens to be ACA. w/out them there would be no divide racing. the CA map looks just like the others. it is not a contrivance against B2B. B2B is an arcane geopolitical premise that inspired people to look for an XC route to race but has never been the key/cornerstone of divide racing, nor is it what truly defines it. the GDMBR is the essential resource. if the general divide racing rule is "always race the most current GDMBR maps" then we're not exactly doing so by omitting 1 of the 7 maps. the CA map was always there for group divide racing to accept. focus on john's 99 record prevented some from seeing CA for what it is. to ride it is to believe in it. geoff, i hope you choose to cruise it as a warm-up to the gdr if that's the race you decide upon. its lovely. good luck with prep and let me know if i can help out with any route beta. remember to get in/out of towns as quickly as possible. they'll depress you and only serve to slow you down. viva le GDMBR.

Jill Homer said...

Hi Matt, thanks for your response. I have a ton of respect for you and Trish and what you've accomplished. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't she the only woman to date to attempt the route in the context of the Great Divide Race?

I definitely haven't decided what "race" is right for me, if non-racers are allowed to make such a distinction. There are intriguing aspects to both races. Certainly there are interesting people in both races. I was just throwing out my viewpoint that a "point-to-point" attack of the GDMBR isn't as important to me as the people in the event, the timing, etc. This viewpoint is coming from a person who once toured "cross-country" by riding a big, 3,200-mile "S" curve between Salt Lake City and New York. The thought of riding ocean to ocean never even really occured to me, although I had friends who told me they would never attempt such a tour otherwise. They wanted to dip their bikes in the Pacific and the Atlantic. That's fine. That's not for me.

Racing, on the other hand, for me is a very here and now event. I don't really view it as racing against times from previous years, and I am certainly not gunning for any records (Trish is an animal, after all :-) I view it as racing against other competitors who face the same conditions and same weather and same obstacles as I do. And I view it as a race against my own demons. But I think many of us, myself included, need the paradigm of a race to push our limits and push beyond our comfort level. So I choose to line up with the "race." Otherwise, I am just out there touring. And touring may be something I choose to do. If I tour the GDMBR, I will definitely see Canada.