Long distance bike races aren’t uncommon, but cross-country mountain bike events are. The Tour Divide race is the longest of its kind. Anywhere. And Aaron Hershberger, a recent Miami University graduate from Philadelphia, is flying to Canada to take on the challenge, racing to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.
The route is over 2700 miles long and works its way south down the Continental Divide from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, near the Mexican border. The cumulative rise in elevation is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest seven times. Riders travel through some of the most beautiful natural scenery in North America, heading through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado.
There are only a few rules for the event. Competitors must be entirely self-sufficient during their travels, a sentiment that can become quite difficult when reviewing the remoteness of the route. This includes planning out how to get food, water, and shelter. It can be complicated when the tiny towns along the route are 100 miles apart. Riders must be completely self-powered. And they can only use cell phones for dire emergencies; once they make a call, they will be disqualified immediately.
The race takes between two and four weeks and, despite the lack of an entry fee, will cost riders around $1500 to complete the ride. There is no prize. There are few spectators. Just the satisfaction of finishing one of the most difficult rides in the world, memories of spectacular views, and an experience to last a lifetime.
Dangers and obstacles are around every corner for participants bold enough to try, and they aren’t just limited to the pure physical demands of the race. Bikes can fall apart. Wild animals may attack—riders will head straight through backcountry that many mountain lions and grizzly bears call home. Morale can be challenged after being isolated and exhausted for extended
periods of time. A rainstorm can ruin the dirt paths that must be crossed to move forward. And there’s always a chance you end up stranded or lost without supplies.
Aaron Hershberger is driven by his desire to raise money to battle Alzheimer’s disease–$2,000 is his goal. Growing up in the midst of the disease, he watched his great-grandmother and his grandmother develop the symptoms. He was struck by how the diagnosis affects more than just the sick but their family and friends as well.
“Watching my family deal with that disease has been a hard thing,” Hershberger told cantonrep.com.
All of the money raises will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association, a non-profit dedicated to providing support and care for those affected as well as funding research to combat the disease.
Hershberger was on the cycling team in college and raced competitively but has never done anything as
extreme. It is a solo competition, but Hershberger plans to make the trip with his college friend, Louie Nicholson, for both motivation and safety.
With hope of making it to the finish line in 25-27 days, he hopes to ride between 12 and 16 hours a day or 100 to 120 miles.
When he returns, Hershberger will start his job at Excel, a distribution company, in August with an amazing accomplishment that will never fit on a resume.