You can count on one thing happening every year on the 2nd Friday in June in Banff, Alberta, The Grand Depart of the Tour Divide. Actually, you can count on a bit more up in Banff during that time, like Crazy Larry running around town, rooting on Tour Divide participants, or tourists walking up and down the town taking photos of the stark contrast between town and the mountains. You can also certainly count on it being bright well beyond the 10 o’clock hour. But most of all, you can count on racers starting to get a bit nervous, but still enjoying every moment of their vacation from the real world. 2016 is certain to be another amazing year to ride bikes down the spine of the continent. It’s always difficult to determine, but according to Tracklearders.com there are currently 148 grand depart (northbound and southbound) riders participating, most of them hailing from the United States, Europe and the Oceanica region. That is just shy of the number of participants in the 2015 race.
2016 Tour Divide Preview
Tour Divide participants come from all over. Screen shot complements of Trackleaders.com

Route Changes

Last year the big change to the course was in the Great Divide Basin, a long desolate stretch from a small town called Atlantic City in Wyoming, to the Colorado State line. In the past the route went through Rawlins, Wyoming, a large interstate town on I-80. Because of planned construction for years to come, it was determined that a permanent re-route was necessary. The new route would continue south and head to Wamsutter, another interstate town, but one much smaller with less services. This re-route is shorter, but slightly more difficult. Other changes last year included the Union Pass re-route, which essentially bypassed more pavement, for a ridiculously steep hike-a-bike, before reaching a highpoint north of Pinedale, Wyoming. This year those two changes will hold, and a few more minor changes are in store, including what looks to be a fun route into Butte, Montana. Instead of skirting around town to the north and east, the route will travel directly through town. Another minor changes is up north out of Banff, Near Spray Lake Res. In the end milage will likely be very similar and it should not affect the pace of the race.

Weather and Snow

Unlike 2014 when racers dealt with significant snow, and even blizzard-like conditions, last year was nearly perfect and it showed in the results. Not once did racers actually need to run over snow, they saw it but never really needed to walk on it or ride it over. That is nearly unheard of on the GDMBR in early June. This year looks to be similar, however, racers will likely need to trudge through a little bit of snow. Whitefish Pass typically holds snow, but it has been warm and it may have cleared by now. There are reports of snow up on Red Meadow Pass in Montana, and likely a bit of snow on Richmond Peak. There also is confirmation of snow up on Boreas Pass outside of Breckenridge, but we still have over a week before even the fastest riders will make it down there. In any event, the snow looks minimal but like every year, you can count on rain, especially as the monsoon season ramps up in Colorado and New Mexico. So far, there are no signs of large fires either… http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/

Riders

Every racer is worthy of watching on the tracker page, but there are a few notable athletes taking on this year’s Tour Divide. We know it’s difficult to pick favorites, especially during a race of this magnitude. So much can go wrong including mechanicals, weather, and injury, but here are a few you should keep an eye out for. If you are interested in records and results, see this page. All racers are encourged to call into MTBcast.com at 888-866-4491 Veterans Josh KatoWashington – It goes without saying the ‘Kato comeback’ was the highlight of the 2015 Tour Divide. He slowly picked off time and miles from the leaders last year, and did what he needed to do on the last day in New Mexico. Last year Josh came back to Banff after suffering a horrible injury on route in 2014. Does Josh have what it takes to repeat or better his record breaking ride, or is he seeking something else? We know he has the legs and the drive, and a sexy new Salsa Cutthroat to bring him down the divide.
2016 Tour Divide Rigs
Josh Kato’s 2016 Rig includes a Lauf Fork.
Mike HallUnited Kingdom – Mike is a veteran Tour Divide finisher and winner in 2013. Mike had the fastest time down any version of the Tour Divide route, including detours, before Josh Kato beat his time by only minutes last year. Two years ago, Mike crushed the first ever Trans Am Trail Race with a time of 17 days, 16 hours and 29 minutes, which still holds as the current record. Mike no doubt has a target on his back, but we think that is exactly what he needs to get him to Antelope Wells. Seb DunneAustralia – Seb is motivated after what was considered the worst mechanical of the 2015 Tour Divide. After making it through 5 states at a strong pace, his fork basically broke in half during the rugged Brazos section of Northern New Mexico. Seb was in 2nd, 3rd or 4th for the majority of the race and was a real threat to win it all before his mechanical. Seb’s will to finish last year was pretty awesome to watch as he backtracked to Salida to get a new fork, and continued on with his wife to still put up a pretty good time of 19 days. Seb is back for redemption on his new Chumba Stella Ti and he is certainly one to look out for. Liam CrowleyAustralia – Liam finished 4th in the 2013 Tour Divide after a 3-person sprint finish with Alex Harris in 3rd and James Olsen spinning out with his 34 tooth taking 5th. I don’t know too much about Liam, other than he is good buds with Jesse Carlsson and Gareth Pellas, so you can imagine he has plenty of pedal strokes in the tank for a solid run south. Liam recently did the Great Dividing Trail in Victoria that started in May, where he took a close 2nd place in the singletrack-heavy race.
Chris PleskoColorado – Chris holds the current single speed (SS) record and has since 2009. Chris will finally be back to defend his record with one gear. Chris has been putting in a lot of training time this year, and has said to be eying a new SS record. He will be running a 32×16 gear ratio and hopes to bring the record to under 16 days. Hal RussellMissouri – Hal Russell is a straight-up-champ. No he will not be found in the front of the pack or even the start of the mid-pack, but what Hal is known for is resilience. This is his 4th straight Tour Divide run, and his goals are the same, “My goal this year is to go as fast as I can and to have a blast!” Hal finished last year in 28 days, and he is 67 years young. Luke BodewesWisconsin – I believe Luke is the youngest Tour Divide Grand Depart starter for the 2nd year in a row. Luke is only 17, and has the knowledge it takes to put together a faster run this year. Luke finished in a just a little over 20 days last year. It’s amazing to see these kids take on such an enormous ride. I think it’s going to be fun to watch Luke cruise down the country as a veteran only in his teens. Rookies Jackie BernadiAustralia – Jackie is from Australia and should be in prime form come Friday. She is a mountain bike racer who also dabbles in some road riding. She has recently caught the bikepacking bug and knows what it takes to get through a night on the bike. Jackie is strong and good friends with Sarah Hammond, who is currently crushing the Trans Am Bike Race. They both raced on a 24-hour team time trial back in April. Jan BennettTexas –  Jan hails from Dallas, Texas, and has quite the cycling resume, including a road racing and adventure cycling history. Whether she knows it or not, Jan is certainly going to give the women’s field a run for their money. Jan is also a writer for a great website called, Shoulder of Giants, check it out.
2016 Tour Divide Rigs
Gareth’s Rig
Gareth PellasAustralia  – If Gareth’s kit is any indication on the speed he plans on going, I would say he plans to go fast. Gareth is another Australian cyclist who is certainly in seasoned form to race 2700 miles. According to his Strava, Gareth has already biked over 6,000 miles since January. He has a number of expedition rides under his belt, both on tarmac and dirt. If it’s one thing that will hold Gareth back, it’s his inexperience with the route. Will Gareth be able to stick with a veteran to get the inside scoop? Only time will tell, but the dude does have a solid beard. Bonus points there. Guy Martin United Kingdom – Maybe the most famous of all the riders in this years Tour Divide is Guy Martin. Mike Hall says “He’s a TV celebrity in the UK and an Isle of Mann TT racer, quite a character and pretty hardcore athlete.” Martin starred in the film ‘Closer To The Edge,’ a documentary about the Isles of Mann TT Race (motorcycle racing). I think it’s safe to say, Guy won’t have a problem hauling down Tour Divide roads. The first few days should indicate his intentions, but he is certainly a guy to keep an eye on. We have yet to see Guy’s name on Trackleaders though, and there is no real updates on his website. We hope he shows up! Andrew Kulmatski Utah – Andrew is another interesting individual to watch out for. I don’t know much of his cycling history prior to 2013, but it seems he was really into road bike racing before then. More recently Andrew has taken on winter ultras in a pretty involved way. He won the first two Fat Pursuits back in 2014 and 2015, and he also took 3rd in the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 miler in March of 2015. Andrew certainly has grit, and that should certainly help him cruise all day and night. Oh, Andrew also owns the 2nd fastest Everesting time in the US, 5th overall, pretty rad. Be sure to add anyone we may have missed in the comments so that others can see. If your are mentioned above or not, it does not really matter. It is an accomplishment to just line up for this beast of a ride. We wish all participants nothing but a smooth experience. Good luck, be safe, and have fun. It’s a ride that will change you for the better.
http://trackleaders.com/tourdivide16
Josh Kato and crew giving JayP a big congrats for finishing the 2016 Tour Divide

15 Comments

  1. Scott Shirey

    I’m following Rick Miller, a 59-year old TD Rookie who is looking to complete a career Triple Crown. Rick is an awesome dude and races with a pure form of self-sufficiency as these bikepacking races were intended.

    He’s completed all his starts with finishes in the AZ300 & Dixie 200 to add to his CTR and AZ750. I’m betting he’ll make it 5 for 5, because I know he has the fitness to go with the mechanical ingenuity to deal with just about anything that comes up.

    Good Luck Rick!

  2. Don’t forget to get the racer’s call-ins on MTBCast.com!

  3. Jake Riehle

    Awesome write up! Thanks for the info, always fun to know what the route changes are year to year. Good luck to everyone especially Arthur Kopatsy from SF, CA. Have fun out there on the trail!

  4. Great article! Big shout out to Bobby Wintle, Seth Wood, Bailey Newbrey and their crew, all with serious gravel credit and the best attitudes you’ll find in cycling. Good luck to all!

  5. Brian Hall

    I will be watching Lindsay Gauld. I rode with him for three days during last years Black Hills Expedition. He is 67 years old, tough as nails, has an awesome attitude and an impressive cycling resume. Go get it Lindsay!

  6. Jonathan Hayward

    I’ll be watching Dean Anderson from Alberta. He just finished his “warmup” ride last week running an ITT with a single speed setup on the new Alberta Rockies 700(440miles) in just over 2 days, 9 hours. The route has nearly 31000 feet of climbing in that distance.

  7. Julie Pellas

    Thanks for the writeup. I will certainly be watching the Aussie contenders; especially Gareth Pellas (with his ‘solid beard’)

  8. Apparently there are some women taking part as well ?
    Maybe they could have a mention or is it only blokes that credit a mention ?

  9. Andrew Flaherty

    Shame you deleted my previous comment – where are the reviews of the female riders ?

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Hey Andrew,

      Sorry, just catching up on comments, we need to moderate them and we were very busy this week. We did not delete it, just did not approve it yet.
      We added two of the fastest ladies we could find, but we did not have much info on others out there. Sorry we couldn’t cover all of the ladies. Thanks for your interest in our website.
      -Neil

  10. has guy martin pulled out, no sign of him anywhere!

  11. Pingback: Tour Divide Updates - Bikepackers Magazine

  12. Susan Chadwick

    I am watching Justin Chadwick from Alberta. He is a TD Rookie looking to finish inside 20 days.

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