GDMBR -Part 1

Great Divide Mountain Bike Race

Matthew Lee

2745 mi/ 4418 km of self-supported racing
200,000 ft of elevation gain
2 Provinces (BC & AB)
5 States (MT, ID, WY, CO & NM)

The GDMBR appeals to me on a primal level. There is nothing about it that says, Youll have tons of fun.  Instead, it screams, Youre going to suffer, suffer more than you ever have! With that said it’s not all going to be pain and suffering, it will be an epic journey through some of the most amazing landscapes.  The shear beauty of it will leave lasting memories.

Hours upon hours on the bike, day after day, can equal boredom, leading to doubts.  Maybe that is why it calls to me.  It’s as much a mental test as it is a physical one.  It will be like hiking on my bike.  The idea is so simplistic, and I love that.  Ride, eat, sleep, then do it for 3 weeks.  This idea of just riding my bike and cowboy camping is such a basic concept, which makes it novel to me.

Self-supported Divide racing is based on an open, standing challenge (circa 1999) to time-trial Adventure Cycling Association’s Great Divide MTB Route as fast as humanly possible. Tackle it alone or as part of a common start, but do it all yourself; all the pedaling, navigation, resupply and camping. As all-American as racing is, ACA never imagined such a use for their touring route when they created it in 1997. But just as the interstate highway system is to RAAM, so too is the GDMBR to Divide racing.

John Stamstad was the first to attempt the challenge in 1999. Mike Curiak was the first to accept Johns double-dare in 2003 but his bid ended early. He would come back the next summer to organize what is now known as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race. In 2004 six brave souls would attempt the route, starting in mass in Banff, AB. Since then the start list has grown to 48 racers in 2010, many of which are veterans of the race, doing it multiple times over the years. Its growth is impressive but not like that of shorter 24 hour races. This is most likely due to the extreme nature of this race.

I think for me its the idea of pushing myself to my limit in a race like this that makes it appealing. I know that if I do decide to attempt the race; it will be as Yoda said Do or do not there is no try! Ill go into it without a doubt Ill finish. Ill put the same persistent stubbornness into it I have put into my thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail.

I recently watched a movie on the race called “Ride the Divide”.  It completely sold me on the idea of participating in the race.  My mind raced all the way home thinking of ways to find as much information as possible so I’d be as prepared as I could be.  From watching the movie I already know I’d go ultralight.  Only the bare essentials will be brought.  Matthew Lee, now 7 time winner of the race carries next to nothing.

Matthew Lee holds the record at 17 Days 16 hours and 10 minutes.  That’s 2745 miles in total, for an average day of roughly 155 miles a day!  In the 2010 edition the difference between Matthew and last place was a gap of 10 days 15 hours 19 minutes.  There were 48 Starters – 23 Finishers – 23 Scratched riders (Did not finish).

I think the logistics of this race will be just as hard if not harder than the race itself.  Even harder will be finding a way to make yet another adventure a reality.
A map of the race can be found here.



Get out there!

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  1. Carl says:

    Are you planning on racing this? I have been thinking about it as well, but that qould require lots of training, cause If I go I want the course record

  2. Scatman says:

    Carl, I hope your joking. Matthew Lee is a God when it comes to this race. To answer your question, yes, I plan on doing it some day, not sure when though.

  3. Carl says:

    Why would I kid, records are made to be broken, and I am slightly crazy and in major need of a new life challenge