French Divide 2017

At some point I mentioned that I had raced the Transcontinental, a solo, unsupported bike race across Europe. I raced two editions, Number 3 (2015) and Number 4 (2016).

Number 3 didn’t go according to plan and I pulled out with knee problems just before I reached Venice. Number 4 was a much better race for me and after learning to pace myself well and look after myself better I covered around 3800km in 14 days, 23 hours, and 31 minutes, arriving at the finish in Canakkale, Turkey as the last person to make the 15 day target time.

The application process for the Transcontinental is quite involved and starts in November. Through the application process you have to demonstrate both the ability to research elements of a potential route, and an understanding of the solo and unsupported nature of the race. Applications outweigh places by a few hundred, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get a place, even if you answer correctly.

After completing Number 4 I knew I wanted to race for a Top 20 position, and before I knew it I had submitted my application. I was offered a position in early January 2017. Unfortunately by then my circumstances had changed quite a bit, and faced with no job, moving back to my parents, and trying to finish a PhD I really didn’t feel I was in a position to put in the preparation and training necessary to hit that Top 20 place. After talking it over and over with my wife I withdrew my application.

But I needed something to take its place. I needed a challenge. It just had to be a shorter time commitment, and need less preparation in terms of route planning and checking (something that takes a long time when you have to cover somewhere over 3700km). I looked at a few options, including the very popular Tuscany Trail, but decided the French Divide was the one for me this year.


There were a couple of reasons for signing up for the French Divide. It’s significantly shorter at 2100km, and so I would be able to complete it quicker. It has a single route that is planned and given to you, so no hours spent gazing at RidewithGPS, Google Maps, Google Earth, Streetview, and Strava Heatmaps. It’s 70% off-road, so would scratch an itch to do something long distance on my mountain bike. Numbers are capped at 150 riders, with 3 start days of 50 riders each, so we’d be nicely spread out over the course.

So here we are, my challenge to 2017. 2100km, 39,000m climbing, 70% off-road, north to south through France in summer. When I registered I was asked how long I thought I would need to complete the course. I (somewhat hastily) wrote 11 days. Because of this I’ve been given a start date of 6th August, in the final group of 50 riders.

The idea of this blog is to keep track of my training and preparation for the French Divide, something I wanted to do for the previous Transcontinental (Number 4) but never got round to. Ideally I’ll keep it up to date during the ride too.


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