As we approach tomorrow’s grand depart of the 2023 Tour Divide, we get to speculate about who might be the frontrunners, which is always a fun part of this race because it brings so many different cyclists with varied backgrounds to Banff. This year is no exception, with some of the best athletes in the ultra-endurance realm soon to toe the line. In our latest video, Neil discusses a list riders he anticipates being at the front of the pack…

Photos by Eddie Clark from 2022 Tour Divide coverage except where noted

Back in 2015, Mike Hall did a great job making a list of folks to watch at the front of the Tour Divide, so we’re going to make a similar list to highlight some notable names and historically fast racers. It’s the least we can do to pay tribute to the late ultra-endurance athlete and current record holder of the Tour Divide. Watch the video below and scroll down for a written summary…

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For those unaware, the Tour Divide is a self-supported race that follows the 2,700-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which starts in Banff, Alberta, Canada, and finishes in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, on the US/Mexico border.

As we inch closer to the Grand Depart, which is the 2nd Friday of June every year, we get to speculate about who might be the front runners; It’s the fun part of this race because it brings so many different cyclists with varied backgrounds to Banff. This year is no exception, with some of the best athletes in the ultra-endurance realm soon to toe the line. There are some high-level ex-pro road racers turned gravel aficionados, veterans who have tackled the Tour Divide many times, and undoubtedly, we will see some new folks make a mark on what’s arguably the most challenging bikepacking race out there.


I’m most looking forward to watching the women’s race this year simply because some powerful and fast women are lining up. Let’s start with a few veterans…

Lael Wilcox

Lael is a highly decorated ultra-endurance athlete who currently holds the woman’s record of 15 days, 10 hours, and 59 minutes is lining up again. While Lael didn’t set a goal for a finish time, she did say, “weather depends – as fast as I can,” and knowing Lael, she is gunning for an overall win, not just besting her own woman’s record. Lael took a warm-up ride from the Arizona/Mexico Border to Banff. Follow Lael on Instagram here.

Alexandra Houchin

Alexandera HouchinThe two-time winner and current women’s single-speed record holder has put in a ton of work into prep and training this year, even pedaling much of the GDMBR northbound over the last few weeks. Alexandera is lining up on her singlespeed Chumba Yaupon, as she does, and it will be interesting to see how she stacks up against the field and Chris Plesko’s singlespeed record of 15 days, 8 hours, and 1 minute. Alexandera and I had a great chat earlier this year, and if you are interested in checking that out, you can find it here. Follow Alexandera on Instagram here.

Marie-Soleil Blais

Another woman to watch is a Canadian pro road cyclist Marie-Soleil Blais. Marie is a rookie lining up for the grand depart, but she pedaled the GDMBR last year, finishing in 28 days, so she knows the route and the many unique challenges that come with it. She was even in Colorado last month, bikepacking in the snow and getting acclimated to the higher elevations of the race. Marie has set a goal finish time of 18 days, but don’t be surprised if you see her name in front of the pack. The question remains: can she keep it up over the course of two-plus weeks? Follow Marie-Soleil on Instagram here.


The men’s race has a mix of ultra-endurance enthusiasts, World Tour pro racers, and highly regarded gravel racers. It’s going to be an exciting race to follow. Again, let’s start with some veterans.

Andrew Kulmatiski

Let’s start with Andrew Kulmatiski from Logan, Utah. I don’t think anyone has worked harder to try and accomplish the 200-miles-a-day that it will take to beat Mike Hall’s record of 13 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes. While there may be faster riders lining up, Andrew has ridden in Tour Divide many times, putting 10,000+ miles into the event. He knows the route, knows the climbs, and knows what it takes to complete hundreds of miles a day, which could not only set him up for a Tour Divide win but also a course record. Follow Andrew on Facebook here.

Steve Halligan

2019 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie ClarkThe Irishman finished fourth in both the 2017 and 2019 Tour Divide, completing the races in around 17 and 16 days, respectively. Steve also took third in the 2022 version of the Silk Mountain race. According to his Instagram account, he’s dealing with an illness but hopes to depart with the group. The veteran has the upper hand on route knowledge and form, and it should be no surprise to see him in the top five yet again. Follow Steve on Instagram here.

Ulrich Bartholmoes

Since 2019, the German has had a great deal of success in ultra-endurance bikepacking events, taking on 19 events and winning 14. Ulrich has the legs for the Tour Divide, and despite being a rookie, he might be the most well-prepared rookie in the field. Ulrich recently finished the Unbound XL in third place while dealing with several mechanical issues. It would be no surprise to see Ulrich right at the front in his first Tour Divide. Follow Ulrich on Instagram here.

Justinas Leveika

Justinas Leveika is another rookie with ultra-endurance experience. The Norwegian has had many recent successes, including wins at the Race Across Rwanda and the Dales Divide, and second place in the Atlas Mountain Race this year. While I’ll be doing another post analyzing rigs of the Tour Divide next week, it’s safe to say that Justinas’ rig is pretty darn minimal. Follow Justinas on Instagram here.

Ted King

Ted King Arkansas High Country 2020If you’re into the gravel scene, you’ve likely heard of the 40-year-old from Vermont. Before racing off pavement, he was on the pro road circuit from 2006 to 2015. But Ted gained popularity with success in the gravel world, taking wins in popular events like SBTGVRL and Unbound. Ted is lining up as a rookie but has a few longer rides under his belt, including the fastest known time on the Arkansas High Country Route. Ted recently scratched out of UNBOUND Gravel XL, but according to his Instagram, he’s excited and ready to take on the Tour Divide. Follow Ted on Instagram here.

Alex Howes

Retiring from road racing last year, 35-year-old Howes also saw success in the gravel race scene with wins at SBTGravel in 2021 and other high ranks in competitive races. While Alex has a limited amount of experience in ultra-endurance events, his time on the pro-circuit should set him up for success in riding long days over two weeks. Plus, he is no stranger to foul mountain weather, which is a big part of the Tour Divide. Follow Alex on Instagram here.

The beauty of the Tour Divide is that it’s so long, challenging, and demanding that anything can happen. The fastest riders rarely win. Instead, it’s the strong-willed, consistent riders who ride day after day who tend to get to Antelope Wells the fastest.

With that, I would love to hear from you all. Who are you rooting for? And if you think I forgot someone, please leave it in the comments below. Good luck to everyone. Be smart, be safe, and ride fast!

TrackerCheck out the 2023 Tour Divide Tracker page to follow along on the live tracking map, find our Rigs of the Tour Divide roundups, and more event coverage. Find it here.



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