‘True Aloneness,’ Tour Divide Updates Rules, Forbids Personal Media

CAMPING GEAR

If you ride the Tour Divide while a media crew films you, are you in violation of the rules? A new rule says ‘yes.’

For over 2 years, the debate over whether or not media constitutes “support” on “unsupported” endurance missions has raged. In 2019, the Tour Divide race was embroiled in controversy involving perhaps its most high-profile athlete, Lael Wilcox.

Wilcox sought to become the first woman to be the overall race winner. A film crew planned to document her attempt along the way. But then-Salsa rider and prominent distance cyclist Jay Petervary publicly took issue.

Petervary (better known as JayP) and others argued that a film crew constituted support, violating what many see as a critical part of the Tour Divide’s legacy: fully unsupported riding.

Wilcox ultimately withdrew from the race. The film still ran; it’s called “I Just Want To Ride.”

Now, Tour Divide race organizers have taken a big step toward one side of the dispute. The goal? To ensure that the spirit of the race, and all the elements that are part of a race like this one, forge on as fairly as possible.


Check out our podcast interviews with Jay Petervary and Lael Wilcox.


New Messaging in All Caps

On Wednesday afternoon, Petervary put up a social media post that grabbed our attention. An apparent screenshot looked like a document that condemned media presence at the Tour Divide, maybe or maybe not posted by the Tour Divide itself.

“WHILE TD IS NOT YET READY TO BAN ALL MEDIA ENTIRELY, FOR GRAND DEPARTS, PERSONAL MEDIA TEAMS FOCUSING ON AN INDIVIDUAL RIDER WITH INTENT TO FOLLOW THEM ON COURSE CAN INJECT UNDUE MORAL HAZARD INTO THE EQUATION,” it reads. “THEREFORE, IT WILL BE DEEMED AS A FORM OF SUPPORT GOING FORWARD.”

Meanwhile, the trans-Continental Divide race’s website suggested the statement held water — if it wasn’t quite yet the law of the land.

A note at the top of the Tour Divide rules page specifies that “[w]hile not yet published, the Tour Divide race director has added to this list [of rules] that personal film crews are not allowed.”

Tour Divide Clarifies

So, we reached out to find out what’s what. Matthew Lee, who describes himself as the Tour Divide “disorganizer,” set the record straight. He wrote in an email that the screenshot came from the race’s “confirmation of understanding,” which is a set of agreements all riders enter into on sign-up.

“That language is new for 2022,” he said, referencing the screenshot. “This decision was not made lightly and has been in the works for at least two years now.”

“It’s not an easy or simple debate,” he acknowledged.

Tour Divide Controversy: Salsa Drops Racer Jay Petervary
Tour Divide Controversy: Salsa Drops Racer Jay Petervary
Salsa cited a ‘conflict’ at this year’s Tour Divide and conduct that did not align with ‘brand values of empathy, community, and positivity.’ Read more…

According to Lee, organizers accounted for the exploding popularity of gravel riding and the sport at large to make their decision.

“This needs to be a policy for year [over] year,” he wrote, “for veterans of our little bikepacking scene and for gravel pros new to the scene coming along in the future.”

So, for now, the new “confirmation of understanding” language is tantamount to the word of the Tour Divide gods.

“TRUE ALONENESS IS PRIMARY TO THE TD CHALLENGE AND A PERSONAL MEDIA TEAM CONFLICTS WITH THIS TENET,” it reads.

So, let it be written. No personal film crews, just riders, organizers, and the occasional trail angels. The 2022 Tour Divide starts this Friday, June 10.

GearJunkie Podcast Episode 2: Endurance Bikepacker Lael Wilcox
Lael Wilcox: The Extraordinary Ordinary Bikepacking Queen
Ultra-endurance bikepacking is about as niche a sport as you’ll come across. But in short order, Lael Wilcox has helped raise it out of obscurity and even cultivated a cult following. Read more…

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