An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tougher than a Two Dollar Steak: A conversation with Mike Curiak

Yesterday, we noted that Jay Petervary won this year's Great Divide Race, and set a new course record for the mountain bike trail that runs from Canada to Mexico. "The world's toughest bike race" was founded by long-distance cycling legend Mike Curiak--the previous owner of the record--and we caught up with Mike to get his thoughts on Petervary's achievement, the GDR, and other sundry matters.

You founded this race and you've ridden it three times, right? Are you done racing it for good--looking for other new challenges--or what?

Founded--yes. Rode the Colorado section once (in '01), DNF'ed at about halfway in '03, then finished it in '04. Won't race it again, ever. Too much fun to be had on this planet to do that route more than once.

This year Jay Petervary beat your record by almost a day. Was that something you expected?

I postulated that the top three would come in under the record. I figured that it'd come down to Jay and Pete Basinger, but Pete got laid low by a stomach bug and had no choice but to withdraw. Bummer about that--I think they would have pushed each other much harder and gone faster than Jay was able to on his own.

Were you officially a referee for this year's race? We seem to recall that you were called at least once for a decision about something on the course.

Yep--I'm the founder, organizer, web geek, and rules nerd.

The rules specifically say you cannot get help from friends--that you can ship supplies ahead only to commercial businesses. Why?

To keep people from turning it into a who-has-the-most-money or best-supported race. It's a personal, individual challenge.

How much money does it cost the average racer to stage this thing properly?

Varies by the person. You could throw tens of thousands of dollars at it but that guarantees nothing--not even that you'll make it to the start line on time. It can be and has been successfully done on a shoestring budget, where the time off work was the biggest cost incurred. Still not cheap, but it beats shelling out a few g's to race in circles for 24 hours.

You've raced and won the Iditabike in Alaska--cycling's equivalent to the Iditarod--several times. How does the Great Divide Race compare?

Both are brutally difficult. Idita is more mentally daunting, galaxies more remote, and all in all so much more gratifying to attempt, much less finish. The GDR is a great race, but it leaves most feeling nothing but hollow despite their accomplishment. Idita exacts a physical toll, but the remoteness, rawness of the landscape, and the necessity of self reliance are priceless.

We noticed that Jay rode a carbon hardtail. You typically ride a full suspension bike for rides like this, yes?

I ride a softtail for long (~200+ mile) races, and a FS for middle distance (~150 milers).