Tuesday, June 7, 2011 , Updated 10:12 a.m., June 23, 2011
UPDATED: Oak Cliff cyclist races nearly 3,000 miles through Continental Divide
You can follow him through the three-week trip on his Google map.
OAK CLIFF “There’s only one placing you ever see and that’s first. No one ever looks beyond that on this race,” says 54 year old competitive all-terrain mountain-biker Ray Porter on the eve before he attempted the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route for the second time.
To say the Great Divide Mountain Bike route is a challenge is an understatement. Starting in Banff, Alberta, Canada and running south to Antelope Wells, New Mexico at the U.S. border, the race is a 2,745 mile solo trip. The journey is an arduous one, no doubt. The remote and punishing landscape tests a rider’s physical prowess and mental capacity to limits beyond the everyday. What’s more, it seems to be a chosen path, one that Porter refuses to yield defeat to. “I think in the back of my mind, I’ve been getting ready since the last try in 2009. It took awhile to get over the falling short, but once I did I had to go back, and it just took some convincing for my wife to let me try it again.”
Porter’s first attempt at the Divide was cut short after dropping out, having cut an artery in his hand which required emergency surgery. Of that experience he says, “I saw incredible scenery and wildlife around every corner. The cheeseburgers in Montana are the best, and even better if you get a piece of pie before the burger. But mostly, I found out that I missed my wife, family, and friends.”
The route is particularly known for its “remoteness.” Along the way, there are no designated rest stops and no set distance a rider must travel daily. The clock runs continuously while racers battle various natural elements: rapidly changing weather patterns, wildlife, and vast distances of big sky and untamed road. The racer who can manage to ride, making the fewest stops while maintaining breakneck speeds across the challenging terrain, bears the title of winner. On average, the tour takes three weeks to complete, a length of time that can expand in a rider’s mind, regardless of how prepared or fit he or she may be in riding the backcountry.
Porter, who took up riding at age 37 in order to reclaim his personal health after kicking a teenage smoking habit, says this race is the toughest thing he’s ever done, mentally and physically. “You have incredible highs and then the lowest lows and it can change in from one to the next within 15 minutes.”
The route offers a variety of road conditions. Surfaces range from pavement, good gravel roads, four-wheel-drive roads, and old railroad beds. At times, riders will be forced to carry a bike instead of being carried by it. Riders find ghost towns, deserted mines, and wagon routes while traveling through several national parks: Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton.
Divided into five sections, the weather can include snow, hail, and afternoon thunderstorms, not to mention heat. And if it’s not weather, the wildlife also presents challenges. Riders are joined by deer, antelope, bears, vultures, mountain lions, and other wild kingdom observers. Says Porter, “Bears are always a concern, and after running across six or seven last time, it makes for some fitful sleep when you are out in the elements.” He says campground toilets, of all things, have provided safety from both weather and bears.
Though the ride is meant to be a solo feat of strength, Porter won’t be alone. With the help of Oak Cliff Bicycle Company and Orgwerks.com, anyone can track his progress through his website. He’ll be wearing a GPS device so friends, fans, and family to cheer on his every move via Google Maps.
As for this year’s finish, Porter says, “I’m looking forward to getting it out of my system. It's stuck somewhere in brain and won't let go. I think the experience is a sensory overload that is hard to find nowadays.”
UPDATE: Porter is averaging about 112 miles a day and has traveled nearly 1,500 miles -- more than halfway through the race. He's currently in 27th place. Keep up with him here.
Pegasus News Content partner - The Assignment Desk, DFW
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