Climate Change Complicates a Grueling Cycling Competition

New challenges for the Tour Divide

Banff, Alberta
The race begins in Banff, Alberta.
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

Described as “the world’s longest off-pavement cycling route,” the Tour Divide spans two countries in North America over the course of a 2,700 mile course. Did we mention the altitude? According to the competition’s website, cyclists taking part in it can expect to climb almost 200,000 feet over the course of the race. Right about now is where the phrase “not for the faint of heart” comes to mind.

What happens when an already-taxing competition meets the extreme weather that accompanies climate change? A recent article in The New York Times explored how Tour Divide participants are dealing with an increasingly hostile landscape — including wildfires in New Mexico, where the race ends.

Flooding in Glacier National Park caused another cyclist to require airlifting to safety. Other competitors ended up being treated for hypothermia in some of the colder regions of the race.

The fact that many riders camp out as they make their way south is another factor here. The Times article describes some of the cyclists bringing masks on the route with them to address smoke from wildfires. Given that last year’s edition of the Tour Divide was slightly shorter due to the U.S./Canada border being closed, this year was something of a return to tradition — but as with so many things these days, the familiar route wasn’t quite what people expected.

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