Captain Cullins briefs the steely-eyed killers of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before a mission. (Ramadi, Iraq)

Captain Cullins briefs the steely-eyed killers of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before a mission. (Ramadi, Iraq)

In standard 5-paragraph combat order format…

ORIENTATION: Tour Divide challenges a fixed course annually called the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Not only is the Great Divide Route a true classic, its 'primary track' is pursued with consistency by TD athletes so that year to year, finish times may always be compared directly to the record books.

The Great Divide Route is the world's longest off-pavement cycling route. It was tirelessly mapped over a 4 year span, and published in 1998 by Adventure Cycling Association, North America's premiere bicycle travel organization. The route is highlighted by long dirt roads and jeep trails that wend their way through forgotten passes of the Continental Divide. It travels through Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and the United States of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. By route's end a thru-rider will climb nearly 200,000 feet of vertical (equivalent to summitingMount Everest from sea-level 7 times). Divide racers must not only be conditioned to endure weeks of consecutive 16+ hour days in the saddle, they need to bring other skills to the trail. The route is unmarked and circuitous, requiring navigational acumen. It travels through remote backcountry with Grizzly and Mountain Lion density. Intervals between services are frequently 100+ miles and demand calculated food/water resupply–or else. Riders must also find shelter each night or bivouac trailside. In minutes the Rockies' dynamic mountain weather can wreak havoc on route surfaces, skewing even the most near-term travel projections. And, of course, it wouldn't be a grand tour without the geopolitics of negotiating an, albeit lower-security, international border crossing at Port of Roosville, Montana.

Image courtesy of  GearJunkie.com

Image courtesy of GearJunkie.com

Interactive Tour Divide 2019 Google Map, with mile and resource markers.


  1. Enemy Forces – Although no conventional forces are thought to be positioned for armed opposition there are numerous and significant threats to mission execution and to friendly forces:

    • Predators. Encounters with Grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions should be expected. These animals are very territorial and can be extremely aggressive when hungry, startled, protecting food, with cubs or just feel like it. They actively patrol the northern half of The Great Divide Route at all hours in search of food, interlopers and sex. Known for their impressive speed, climbing ability and strength, they can easily kill and consume a biker.

    • Other Wildlife: The route penetrates remote wilderness areas which are also home to moose, elk, deer, wolf, coyote, badgers, rodents, venomous snakes, mosquitoes and stinging insects. Excepting the wolf, they forage independently on a continuous basis. An encounter could cause serious harm, damage to equipment and/or a loss of supplies.

    • Competing riders may be encountered.

  2. Friendly Forces

    • Higher: None.

    • Adjacent: None.

    • Supporting: None permitted per race rules. No outside assistance /support other than as purchased at commercial resupply points.

  3. Attachments and Detachments – None.

MISSION: Patrol Forward (PF) will complete the 2019 Tour Divide Challenge (TDC) by racing a 2,750-mile course known as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR).  The solo (race) patrol will commence June 14, 2019 and follow the published route along the Continental divide from Banff, Alberta Canada to Indian Wells, New Mexico.   The race is an ultra-endurance competition which puts fitness, mental toughness, wilderness skills and resilience to an extreme test in difficult terrain and conditions.  PF will demonstrate the Marine Corps warrior ethos in the assault on the course.  Also, an American Flag will be carried as a tribute and a memorial to those Marines and other service members killed in action, wounded in action, died in training, or took their own lives following combat.


Commander’s Intent:

  1. Patrol Forward will complete the 2019 TDC in tribute to Marines and other service members killed in action, wounded in action, died in training, or took their own lives following combat.

  2. Encourage surviving veterans that have returned home with physical injuries, PTSD, TBI, moral injury and other war inflicted damage to find a purposeful life and mission.

  3. Inspire veterans to get out on a patrol of their own making and to engage in a new and purposeful mission.

  4. Raise public awareness of the suicide epidemic in the veteran community.

  5. Raise support for organizations which provide assistance to combat veterans.

Concept of Operations:

  1. Scheme of Maneuver (SOM) – Proceed to Banff, Alberta Canada by commercial transportation then by mountain bike along Route GDMBR to Indian Wells, NM.

  2. Fire Support – None.  Carry bear spray.

  3. Tasks:

    • Whiskey 6 (W6)

      • Execute SOM

      • Generate daily SITREPs

    • Rear Party

      • Establish Patrol Forward Command Post (PFCP) San Diego.

      • Monitor W6 SITREPs

      • Provide communication relay

      • Maintain PF website

Coordinating Instructions:

  1. TOA – Cross LOD 0800(L) 15JUN19 upon TDC signal for the “Grand Depart”.  Proceed at maximum sustainable speed.  TOT Indian Wells 15JUL19.  Race clock runs continuously.

  2. Base Unit – W6

  3. Order/Formations for Movement -  Solo mountain bike assault per FMFM

  4. Security Assignments during -  W6 to maintain continuous bear spray watch

  5. Tactical Control Measures – The remote route, crisscrosses the Continental Divide in southern Canada and the U.S. The entire route is basically dirt-road and mountain-pass riding every day. Checkpoints may be difficult to identify. Terrain is challenging with approximately 200,000 feet of elevation gain. Nearly 2,100 miles of the route is composed of county, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Canadian provincial unpaved roads. The remainder is 60 miles of single-track trails and 950 miles of paved roads including close to 50 miles of paved bike path.

    • Grid/Coordinates - Download GDMBR checkpoints for GPS navigation from TD.

    • Map References –

      • Alberta Canada – Banff, Elkford, Sparwood, Fernie, Grasmere

      • Montana – Roosville, Eureka, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Bigfork, Condon, Seeley, Ovando, Lincoln, Helena, Butte, Clancy, Basin, Wise River, Polaris, Lima, Lake View

      • Idaho - Big Springs

      • Wyoming -Colter City, Pinedale, South Pass City, Rawlins

      • Colorado – Slater, Clark, Steamboat Springs, Kremling, Breckinridge, Hartsel, Salida, Sargents, La Garita, Del Norte, Platuro

      • New Mexico - Vallecitos, El Rito, Abiquiu, Cuba, Grant, Indian Wells

  6. Route to the Objective – The first route segments are very remote, unmarked and circuitous, requiring navigational skill. Intervals between services are frequently 100+ miles and demand calculated food/water resupply. Find shelter each night or bivouac trailside. A wide variety of road conditions exists along this route. Surfaces range from pavement, good gravel roads, four-wheel-drive roads, single-track, or old railroad beds. Expect steep climbs and descents and some sections which require dismounted travel. High passes may be covered with snow or ice.  Sudden and extreme weather changes are common.  Mountainous regions may have night temperatures below freezing.  Afternoon thunderstorms occur regularly often with heavy rain, hail and/or snow. Expect lightning.  The main route south proceeds out of Sparwood on the Elk Valley Trail (EVT) through the community of Round Prairie.  The EVT passes through the town of Fernie, the first opportunity for a layover, services and resupply.  The GDMBR proceeds on southward in a series of valleys then winding above Lake Koocanusa, to Grasmere. From there, it's a seven-mile ride on the highway to the international border and the northern terminus the U.S. route at the Port of Roosville, Montana on Highway 93. From the border checkpoint the trail becomes steeper and more heavily wooded heading south to Helena, Montana, you are in the deep woods and steep mountains near Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The GDMBR through Montana is noted for its population of furry insurgents, difficult climbing, and very rough downhills which may require dismounting for a walk in the woods. In addition to a number of small towns near the trail are two of Montana’s larger cities: first Helena then Butte. Riding south from Butte to Pinedale, Wyoming, pass through wide valleys with thinner vegetation including sage and alpine woods. The route crosses the Continental Divide many times, and the climbing is longer with very steep sections on some of the roads. Leave Montana crossing the divide into Idaho (for 76 miles) paralleling streams and a railroad bed on the west side of Yellowstone National Park. Cross into Wyoming between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks The route cuts through a corner of the Tetons before heading east up over the divide again and then down the west side of the Wind River Range. Just south of Pinedale, is a stretch known for its threat air (mosquitos) and a gradual transition to high desert following the Lander cutoff. After dropping into the twin ghost towns of South Pass and Atlantic City, cross the Great Basin to Rawlins, Wyoming.  Continue southward to New Mexico, through the Colorado Rockies. The ascents on this segment are long mountainous climbs at elevations starting at 8,000 feet or above. Expect early evening thunderstorms and cold nighttime temperatures. The highest pass of the route is Indiana Pass, elevation 11,910 feet, in southern Colorado. Once in New Mexico, the route transits remote and steep terrain with mesas, cliff lines, volcanic formations, and mountain ranges.  The road surfaces can be loose and rough.  Summer monsoon rains turn roads into sloppy, red clay and can fill many of the dry creek beds on the route in seconds. Roads may become impassable until they dry out.

  7. ROE

    •  The Tour Divide challenge is based on one guiding principle: Cycle the GDMBR end-to-end, as fast as possible in a solo, self-supported fashion.

    • Outside support or outside assistance with navigation, lodging or resupply (especially receipt of supplies from a non-commercial shipper) is prohibited. The intent is to ride unsupported between towns, and function self-supported when in towns. Any services utilized must always be commercially available to all challengers and not pre-arranged. i.e. No private resupply, no private lodging.

    • Self-propulsion only

    • Continuous running clock with no designated race periods

    • Competitor must transport all of their individual gear, food, water and supplies

    • If serious mechanical problems render a bike un-rideable, a rider may travel by motor vehicle in ANY direction to repair the problem. The location of the incident must be well documented by SPOT tracking or other GPS logger. A rider may also receive assistance returning back to the exact location of the breakdown to begin forward progress.


  1. Administration –

    • Maintenance and repairs – Self-provided

    • Shelter and bivouac – Self-provided

    • Medical – Self- provided. Medical help is often a long distance off of the route.

    • CASEVAC – Self-initiated

    • EPW – Don’t feed the bears

  2. Logistics -

    • Food – Self-provided, foraged, cached or purchased on the route

    • Water – Self-provided, filtered, cached or purchased on the route

    • Parts – Self-provided, foraged, cached or purchased on the route

    • Survival equipment – Self-provided, cached or purchased on the route

    • Bear spray – Self-provided


  1. Signal – Most of the GDMBR is in located in remote wilderness areas in which cell phone communication is not possible. A Garmin inReach two-way satellite communicator with GPS will be utilized for daily SITREPS to the CP and emergency communications.  Where cell or Wi-Fi permits, CP contact by voice/blog will be employed.  CP will manage website at http//patrolforward.org.    Online GPS race tracking is for information only and validation of course compliance.  It is not intended to ensure rider safety.

  2. Command –

    • Location of Key Personnel –

      • Whiskey 6 – GDMBR

      • Rear Party – CP

    • Succession of Command - The concept of Patrol Forward is to help provide a catalyst and to encourage veterans to get out on a patrol of their own making.