Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eat, Sleep, Ride. The Tour Divide from my Armchair

"Enjoy the suffering; pain is only weakness leaving the body." Paul Howard.

After reading Run! by Dean Karnazes, I noticed another title pop it's head up in my list of Kindle book recommendations: Eat, Sleep, Ride (or How I Braved Bears, Badlands and Big Breakfasts in my Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide) by Paul Howard. Boy, am I glad I downloaded this title and read it right away.

Howard's account of his attempt to race the 2009 edition of the Tour Divide, the 2700-mile race from Banff Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, was quite illuminating and enjoyable to read. It was also surprising in several ways. First, while a mammoth test of endurance for sure, the Tour Divide is definitely not RAAM.  Racers must be completely self-supported and literally forage for food at convenience stores, restaurants and elsewhere along the way and no one has crew support of any kind. The racers chronicled in this book also seemed to be getting plenty of sleep. In fact, Howard describes front and rear lights so lame that night riding itself seems not to be part of his plan. It may be more important to someone like six-time winner Matthew Lee whose time is significantly better than Howard's, but this is not something we'll learn from this book.

The description of the Tour Divide in Eat, Sleep, Ride makes the event sound much more like a randonee than a race. Randonneurs will recognize their own experience's in passages such as this: "we were no longer racing in the sense of competing against others - everyone was either too far behind to catch us, or more commonly, too far ahead to be caught - we were, in spite of occasional appearances to the contrary, [simply] intent on making it to the finish as quickly as possible."

All in all, this book was engaging and Howard's understated British humor and sense of irony was quite  entertaining. Like most endurance epics, it inspired me to get out and ride, just not 2700 miles along the spine of the American Rockies. We're in luck, though; because the start of the 2011 Tour Divide is less than two weeks away. On June 10, over 75 riders will begin their epic tour and the TD website will broad their stories and locations for all the world to follow. 

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