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Tour Divide racers tackle the rugged Wyoming section

Nine plastic bike water bottles on a wooden porch with a gravel bike leaning nearby.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
Bike water bottles needing refilled in Atlantic City, Wyoming, which is a major stopping point along the Tour Divide route.

What some deem the “most difficult cycling race on Earth” has reached the Cowboy State.

The Tour Divide is a nearly 2,800-mile course that loosely follows the Continental Divide. Cyclists start in Banff, Canada and self-navigate along mostly gravel roads and two-tracks through the Rocky Mountains, finishing at the Mexican border. All in all, they climb more than 200,000 feet.

The Wyoming portion of the race is rugged. Racers pedal through Grand Teton National Park and then climb Union Pass into Pinedale. Next comes the vast Red Desert, eventually crossing into Colorado around Baggs, Wyoming.

This year, the race started June 14 with 226 racers signed up. The leader of the pack is Justinas Leveika of Lithuania. He’s set to complete the whole course in just 13 days. The woman’s leader is Meaghan Hackinen of Canada. Her target finish is 18 days.

The world record was set by the United Kingdom’s Mike Hall in 2016. Hall cycled the route in 13 days 22 hours and 51 minutes. Tragically, Hall died a year later after being struck by a vehicle while cycling across Australia.

In the years since, many have come close to beating Hall’s record. Mother Nature put a stop to that several times when wildfires across the West and flooding in Yellowstone rerouted the entire course.

To follow the racers’ journey, click here.

Many bike packers cycle the course recreationally throughout the summer. Check out Wyoming Public Radio’s recent Modern West episode that looks at how these cyclists are boosting business in an old gold mining town.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.

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