CASPER ORTVALD IS AN AVID MOUNTAIN BIKER - BUT THIS HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN THE CASE. HE IS CURRENTLY TRAINING INTENSIVELY TO TACKLE HIS BIGGEST CHALLENGE; THE GREAT DIVIDE MOUNTAIN BIKE ROUTE FROM CANADA TO MEXICO.
Copenhagen based Casper Ortvald, is married, works at a bike store (selling mainly mountain bikes, naturally) and will soon participate in the world‘s longest off-pavement cycling route from Canada to Mexico passing the Continental Divide: The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Seven to eight years ago, Casper first discovered his passion for mountain biking and tackling this nearly 4500 km journey this summer will be his biggest sporting challenge so far.
Why did you start mountain biking?
Before I started mountain biking, I used to be a chain smoker (going through 40 cigarettes a day), drank tons of coffee and sat on my computer all day because of my job. When this lifestyle landed me in the hospital with a suspected heart attack, I knew that something had to change. It was a life-defining moment for me, which clearly showed me that I could not keep on like that. A good friend of mine then actually introduced me to mountain biking and we have been getting together weekly for rides ever since. Now, I ride my bike every day.
How did you find out about the "Tour Divide"?
It was about one and a half years ago. I was inspired by the movie "Ride the Divide", which a friend showed me. After my wife agreed, I started planning the adventure.
Why did you choose this specific challenge?
It is about the connection to nature. I don‘t have to think about work or getting my kids to school. I don‘t have to worry about anything else but getting food and water to get me through the day.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
No. I have gone on smaller trips just like any other mountain biker. Three to four years ago, I started doing "Adventure Races" with a couple of friends of mine. Unfortunately, we always had to be a couple of people for the Adventure Races, which actually triggered the thought of going on longer cycling routes that you could also travel on your own.
How do you prepare for the Tour Divide?
The most important part of challenge is the mental training. You really have to be comfortable with sitting on a bike for hours just pedaling no matter what the circumstances are. In order to prepare for this mental challenge, I tried to force myself to go out, even though it is cold and rainy outside. You just have to learn to overcome your weaker self. Mentally, I feel ready and prepared for the trip.
Physically speaking, I need to gain weight by eating lots of bacon and cream. People who have gone on the trip before ate about 7000 to 10 000 kcal a day while still losing weight and I really can‘t afford losing 10 kg. However, being physically fit is extremely important. Morten Jensen, a friend of mine, made a plan for me telling me to eat lots of proteins and vegetables while working out for about 25 hours a week in order to get in shape. Also, I work out my knees by pedaling for hours on my bike and by repeatedly climbing stairs up and down. I ride my bike two hours daily plus three to four hours three times a week.
Speaking of your preparations, what causes you the most worries about the journey?
Bears! Living in Denmark, I am not familiar with the wilderness. Also, I am a little worried about my psychological state. Being alone in nature for such a long time is definitely a challenge for the mind. But of course I am also going to miss my family and, most of all, my two year-old son, since I am actually planning to cut off any contact to the outside world or at least to keep it to a minimum.
What will you take with you on your trip and what item will be the most important equipment for you?
Pretty much everything and nothing. I will only take very few items with me on my journey. I will definitely need appropriate clothing, since temperature variations ranging from 0°C to +40°C are suspected. Also, I will need to take some necessary things for my bike. Of course, I will also need a sleeping bag and a small tent, which will help me keep the mosquitos, snakes, and spiders away. I will try to take everything with me in a frame bag on my bike, so I won‘t have to carry anything on my back. The most important equipment would therefore be the frame bag and probably a pocketknife.
How are you going to provide for yourself?
I will get food from the cities I pass during the trip. These cities are mostly going to be small, so local cafés and stores will have to do. Besides, I hope to meet some nice people who will let me sleep at their place or their garage. I heard a lot about the American hospitality and about how generous they are when it comes to visitors.
Are you going on the trip all by yourself?
I am actually accompanied by a good friend of mine. However, we won‘t go on the trip together, since we would probably just hold each other back. One day, I might be better in shape and faster, and on the other, he might be in better shape. It is best if we start together but then continue the trip separately.
Do you have a specific goal?
Yes - I want to ride the 4500 km of the trip on my bike in 25 days. In doing so, it will be crucial to handle the first week, because from then on, the rest of trip will be a little easier. It will try to stop for a two minute break every hour instead of stopping for 20 minutes every three hours. This way, my body does not relax too much and it will be easier for me to get back on the bike.
Are there any plans concerning other adventures after the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route?
Not at the moment. But if you ask me after my adventure is over, I will probably say something else. Others have told me that once you are done, you start planning your next trip right away. But as of for now, I don‘t see any other adventure trips coming after the Tour Divide. But I dearly hope that this journey will be an experience that I will never forget in my life.
We will meet Casper once again after he has finished his adventure, so stay tuned.