2011 Tour Divide bicycle race kicks off in Canada

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— The 2011 Tour Divide bicycle race kicked off at noon Friday as 83 riders launched into the massive mountain bike race.

This year, 68 of the riders took off from the traditional start of the race, in Banff, Alberta, and 15 started at the route’s southern terminus, in Antelope Wells, N.M.

The race challenges mountain bikers to trek all the way from Canada to the United States-Mexico border, tracing the Continental Divide. Riders usually roll through Steamboat Springs a little more than halfway through their 2,745-mile trek, which typically takes three to four weeks to complete.

The massive self-supported race has grown a great deal, and this year’s field is far and away the largest. Only 56 riders have previously finished the course, including 23 last year out of a starting field of 48.

In addition to the 83 riders who started Friday, 18 more either already have or plan to start on their own this summer at dates of their choosing, including Steamboat’s Erik Lobeck, who is scheduled to tackle the ride for the third time.

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