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Armed with wit and humour, an internationally acclaimed cycling writer tackles the longest mountain bike race in the world. For Paul Howard, who has ridden the entire Tour de France route during the race itself -- setting off at 4 am each day to avoid being caught by the pros -- riding an adventure cycling race should hold little fear. Still, this isn't just any mountain-bike race. This is the Tour Divide. The Tour Divide race follows a fixed course called the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, crossing the Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta, through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and ending in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. The Great Divide route is more than 2,700 mileso500 miles longer than the Tour de France and involves more than 200,000 feet of ascent -- the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest seven times. The other problem is that Howardhas never owned a mountain bike -- and how will training on the South Downs in southern England prepare him for sleeping rough in the Rockies? What's more, the efficient backup team that helped Howardin the Tour, his dad, will be absent. Undaunted, Howardswaps the smooth tarmac roads of France for the mud, snow, and ice of the Tour Divide, fending off grizzly bears, mountain lions, and moose. Buzzing roadside fans are replaced by buzzing mosquitoes. Worse is the unshakeable fear that he might have to earn his wild west stripes by drinking whiskey with a cowboy. Entertaining and engaging, Eat, Sleep, Ridewill appeal to avid cyclers, ultra cycling fans, and readers of adventure travel narratives with a humorous twist.
Paul Howard's first book, Riding High, was shortlisted for the National Sporting Club’s Best New Sports Writer prize, while his account of Jacques Anquetil's life, Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape, was shortlisted in the Biography of the Year category at the British Sports Book Awards.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, though the context no doubt had a lot to do with it. Driven to despair by a prolonged stint at a grey job in a grey office in one of London's greyer suburbs, I eventually sought refuge via the virtual distraction of the Internet. After extensive and disconsolate searching through the inevitable chaff, I finally foundsomething to fire my imagination. That something was a news story on a cycling website about the inaugural edition of the world's longest mountain bike race. The Tour Divide was just about to start in Banff in Canada, and would take those bold or foolish enough to have signed up nearly 2,700 milesdown the spine of the Rockies to the Mexico border.Curiosity quickly became obsession as the race itself unfurled. Although physically still very much trapped in my mundane surroundings, I was transported vicariously to the magnificent Rocky Mountains. The story of sixteen cyclists attempting to ride such a long distance off-road, to a high point of nearly 12,000 feet and with an overall altitude gain the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest seven times, was compelling. The bears, rattlesnakes, tarantulas and mosquitoes all encountered en route merely added to the drama.It quickly became clear the story was as much one of survival as victory. Unlike the Tour de France, there were no entry criteria and no entry fee. Nor was there any prize money. There were also no defined stages to keep racers together. Riders soon became strung out over several US states. Half dropped out, not always those near theback of the field. More notable still, there was no backup or external support allowed, other than that which could be found along the route. Everybody started together in Banff, and everybody had to try and reach the same remote border post in the New Mexico desert by following the same route along the Continental Divide, but apart from that they were on their own, often quite literally. It had everything life in an office in London didn't. I had emails and deadlines. It had solitude and timelessness. I had crowded commuter trains and a horizon broken only by shopping malls and office blocks. It had cycling and it had mountains, thousands upon thousands of them. It fulfilled all the requirements of the essential equation of Albert Einstein's ground-breaking theory of cycling relativity: E=(mc) . Enjoyment = (mountains cycling) squared.'I thought of it while riding my bike,' the great man had said after his eureka moment.He also said: 'Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.' Full of useful tips, that Einstein. Not wanting to contradict such a profound thinker, I decided to take his equation to heart. The Tour Divide had seduced me.