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Video: Justin Simoni on what it takes to ride the 2,745-mile Tour Divide

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This week's cover story, "Going to Extremes," focuses on triple-threat Justin Simoni, a Denver artist and performer who also finished first last month in the single-speed division of the world's toughest mountain bike race, the Tour Divide -- a grueling odyssey on mostly unpaved trails through the Rockies from Canada to the southern tip of New Mexico, without any support team or even decent phone service. Anyone can join the race, but it takes exceptional fitness and training -- and some good luck with weather and machinery -- to finish it.

Simoni's approach to the race was a bit unusual, even by Tour Divide standards. As discussed in detail in our article, his training included long bike tours and hiking fourteeners, even in (or especially in) the worst weather -- and some intimate familiarity with the route, having endured thirty days of hard riding in the 2011 race, only to crash 120 miles from the finish line.

During this year's race, Simoni stopped at The Outdoorsman Bicycle Shop in Butte, Montana, to tend to his equipment -- and ended up having a video chat with filmmaker and cyclist Kelly Mattingly, during which he discussed gear, training and race strategy. How much difference does riding a mile an hour faster make in a race that stretches three weeks or longer? A lot, Simoni says: "What differentiates the middle-of-the-packers from the people in front is that little bit of distance."

Here's Mattingly's interview:

In 2011, Simoni was the only one of 64 race participants to follow the original route in Alberta, Montana and Wyoming rather than detours that had been devised to get around snow-clogged passes. Snowshoeing his way through areas many locals regarded as impassable, he left messages on the Tour Divide's call-in service describing his adventures.

The audio excerpts below feature an exhausted Simoni reporting on encounters with bears in Canada; doing an "uncontrolled glissade" to retrieve his bike after it slid down a mountainside in Montana; losing the trail on Wyoming's Union Pass; and calling in after his race-ending crash in New Mexico.

Canada's Flathead Valley:

Union Pass:

Whitefish to Seeley Lake:

Disaster in New Mexico, to be redeemed in 2012:

More from our Videos archive: "Video: Florence + The Machine's beautiful moment of silence for Aurora theater victims."

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