South Lake Tahoe cyclist to take on Tour Divide mountain bike race |

South Lake Tahoe cyclist to take on Tour Divide mountain bike race

J.P. Kelsey
Local cyclist Brad Ryan will spend most of June biking the Tour Divide mountain bike race that travels along the Great Divide of the Americas.
Courtesy/ Brad Ryan |

The Continental Divide of the Americas attracts adventurers of all sorts. People hike it, ride horses along it, camp it or just admire its natural wonder. Starting June 9, South Lake Tahoe local Brad Ryan will be biking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route as part of the annual Tour Divide mountain bike race.

Covering 2,745 miles and approximately 200,000-feet of elevation, the race is scheduled to begin in Alberta, Canada and conclude in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

“This year, there’s 160 racers doing it,” said Ryan. “ People usually finish anywhere from 14 to 25 days. That’s considered the racing pace.”

Ryan is originally from Minnesota, but has been living around Lake Tahoe for over two years. The 28-year-old said he took one of his first extensive cycling tours in 2014, after leaving his aerospace engineering job he had in the Midwest.

“I took a cross-country trip from Virginia all the way out to the Washington coast,” he said. “That was mostly for fun and it was a self-supported trip. I’ve always been into cycling and I think that after touring, I wanted to start getting more off of the pavement and out in nature a little more.”

Most of the riders taking the challenge are amateur cyclist, including Ryan. The race attracts riders from all over the world and has been going on since 2008. The shortest time the challenge has been completed was by 2016’s winner, Mike Hall. According to race organizers, Hall finished in 13 days, 22 hours and 51 minutes.

“It’s all mountain bike and largely gravel, doubletracks and pavement,” said Ryan. “And It’s all self-supported through carrying your own gear with you.”

According to Ryan, he’s been looking at past races to get an idea as to how to train and how many miles to aim for in a day. He’s been systematic with his training and is biking daily to prepare.

“I have a spread sheet with how many miles I want to get up to and how many miles I expect to do for a day of the race,” said Ryan. “It’s like a progression, where I do so many miles during the week and try to do vertical miles. On the weekends, I’ve been taking overnight trips and two day rides. I’ve also been doing some bikepacking.”

Ryan said he will probably ride around 16 hours each day.

The race does allow for riders to stop wherever they like as long as it is something that is accessible from the bike route. Ryan said he’s been going over what gear to bring and plotting stopping places.

“My goal is to camp every night because that’s mostly what people do,” he said. “I’ll just have a small, one-person tent to use if it’s raining. I will try to just sleep under the stars so I will have a sleeping bag and pad. Just the bare essentials.”

Ryan said as far as other gear, food and clothing, he’s planning on a minimalist approach to save on weight and storage.

He has ridden several bikes over the years, but has been working with local bike shops in the area to build a good bike for the race.

“Sam at Over the Edge helped me with a build,” said Ryan. “It’s fully rigid so there’s no suspension. It’s a 29-inch mountain bike and it’s pretty light. It’s like a road bike with mountain bike frame tires. [The race] is a different format of touring than I’m used to so it’s just getting all the right gear.”

When the racing actually begins, riders have an array of obstacles to face, including anything from fatigue to mental burnout.

“I’ve done a decent amount of solo riding and usually the mental part doesn’t get to me,” said Ryan. “I’ve read that is an issue for a lot of people, though. I’m hoping to queue up a decent stack of podcasts and audiobooks and just take in the scenery.”

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