Over the past few years Blackwater Triathlon Club’s James Slowey has found more extreme events to take part in. He has competed in Ironman races in sub zero conditions in Norway and up and down mountains in the Pyrenees. This year he and two of his friends have decided to take on The Tour Divide in America in June. The Tour Divide is an annual mountain biking race traversing the length of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada to the Mexican border. Following the 2,745-mile (4,418 km) Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, it is an ultra-distance cycling race that is an extreme test of endurance, self-reliance and mental toughness. The race format is strictly self-supported, and it is not a stage race – the clock runs continuously from the start until riders cross the finish line, more than two weeks later. The race has a very low profile, and is entirely amateur. There are no entry fees, no sponsorship, and no prizes. Although “letters of intent” from likely starters are encouraged, any rider may turn up on the day to participate. Challenges along the route include mountains, great distances between resupply towns, risk of mechanical failure or injury, bears, poor weather, snowfall, and significant unrideable sections that require pushing the bike. Riders usually adopt a “bikepacking” style, carrying minimal equipment sufficient for camping or bivouacking, and only enough food and water to last until the next town. In this way, riders ride huge distances each day, the current race record averaging over 174 miles (280 km) per day.
James and his colleagues did a training tripover St. Patrick’s Weekend and James has shared details of what they were getting up to while everyone else in Ireland was marching in parades and watching Ireland win the Grand slam.
Saturday we cycled from Mallow to Fermoy before heading off road at Kilworth Forest. From there we headed on the East Munster Way walking trail, a mixture of forest paths, trails and quiet back country roads, out towards Araglin and into the Knockmealdown mountains. The temperatures were not for the faint hearted and as we reached the top of Crow Hill at nightfall and a temperature of -8 Celcius with snow falling we decided to head for Clogheen to a campsite just outside of town to camp for the night. After a cold night in the tent we awoke Sunday to the beginning of winter. Heavy snow was predicted as we made our way back onto the Trail which would take us from Clogheen to Clonmel via the Liam Lynch trail. Progress was slow going in the deep snow on the higher ground but the 3 inch tires were able to go to places any normal bike would not. We reached Clonmel and after a nice warm cup of tea we were making use of the riverside walkway from Clonmel to Carrick–On-Suir. From here we went back on the road to make our way to Kilkenny and our rest stop for the night. Monday was just a case of getting the miles in, so after a hearty breakfast and a fanciable tail wind we headed on a big jump from Kilkenny to Mallow by road via back-country through Mullinahone, Cahir, Mitchelstown, Glanworth and Mallow. A good weekend of pedalling and dealing with similar conditions that will be experienced along the divide. Plenty of Mountains, back roads, highways and byways, trails, singletrack and allsorts. Despite the cold some of the views and trails are spectacular, we just need to get out there and do it.
James will be keeping us up to date on his training regime over the next couple of months, as he prepares for the toughest challenge yet in his sporting career.