The Tour Divide is THE bikepacking EVENT. In the world of sport there are some events that have a special value, beyond the competition. The Tour Divide is one of those, certainly for Sofiane Sehili who for 8 years has dreamed of finishing the 4,200 km route with arms raised. 8 years of dreams, of hard work, of training, of endless kilometres, to arrive at this 2022, the one in which the dream has become reality.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is the most famous and important off-road cycle route in the United States, if not the world. The route traverses the Continental Divide from north to south starting in Banff, Alberta, Canada and ending at the US-Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, for a total of 4200 km.
Sofiane had been dreaming of winning this race for eight years, for him it was THE BIG goal. He would have liked to have tried to set a new speed record as well, but the fires in New Mexico forced the organisation to change the course, so no record attempt, it will be for another time.
Although the 14 days 16 hours 36 minutes it took Sofiane to cover the 4200 km of the Tour divide is very little. Sofiane was really fast. He faced cold, rain, mud, wind, hunger, lack of sleep and fatigue, so much fatigue, but the joy of winning is something truly incredible. And Miss Grape cannot be happier than that, to have been a small part in the realisation of this dream.
Sofiane's words tell it all.
"After eight years of dreaming about it, I finally did it: I won the Tour Divide.
8 years ago I was sitting in a restaurant in Steamboat Springs, CO, talking to Bruno Van Wilderode. I had met him that morning at Brush Mountain Lodge. We were talking about the Tour Divide and I told him, "I want to race it. I think I can win it." He replied something like 'You're crazy, it's impossible'. Which is what any rational person would think if someone with no cycling experience told them they wanted to win the toughest bikepacking race in the world.
But I am a stubborn individual and when I set my mind to something, I simply don't let it go. Over the course of several years I have transformed myself from tourer to racer. Learning in the field, making mistakes. The skill was there, but the experience was not. I took my time, I had to persevere against adverse luck. But in the end I became a successful bikepack racer. I won important victories on some of the most brutal routes on the bikepacking circuit.
I felt like I was capable of winning anywhere but TD. I tried it in 2019, but the biggest June snowstorm in Colorado history derailed my plans.
I could have given up. I could have said to myself, 'You have nothing to prove. You have proved that you belong to the elite of the sport. You don't need that victory. Nothing will change for you'. But I had made that promise to me at the age of 32, in 2014 when I had the hardest time possible at the Divide. I had promised him that I would get so strong that, one day, I would be the fastest from Banff to Antelope Wells.
Knowing I had what it takes was not enough. I really had to do it. And so I did it. Not to prove it to the world. Not to disprove the doubters, but just to keep a promise I made to myself. Because these are the most important things."