Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Future Of Endurance Racing: Part I

Sometimes to really see where it is you are going, it's not a bad idea to take a glance back to see where you have come from. I'll be doing a little bit of that with this look at the Endurance racing scene. Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be much information on endurance racing from an organizational standpoint. A cursory search on the internet does not reveal any unabridged sources. It seems that the origins of endurance racing; however, are rooted in running, as far as I can tell. This is especially true when you start to look at the ultra-endurance races and events.

Since athletes were always looking to challenge themselves in new and difficult ways, endurance racing sprang out into many directions. One of these directions was cycling. Brevets and ultra distance riding, such as the early Tour de France stages were every bit as challenging over one hundred years ago as the events are today. In fact, by early Tour standards, today's Tour de France stages are a mere joy ride! Having to rely totally upon their own means, the early tour riders were relegated to only one bike, one gear, and that being a fixed gear! It would appear then that we have actually made a move to return to the roots of endurance racing, rather than moving into the future of it!

Is this true then? Have participants of competitive cycling become disillusioned with the organized racing scene and it's governing bodies? Have we been yearning to see just how far we can go without the encumberance of an overlord? As far as I can tell, this is somewhat a theme amongst some cyclist that I am aware of. That would include myself!

The revolt, if we can call it that, has taken many forms actually. There are those that give up the competitive scene entirely. Then there are those that invent their own types of events. Most of the 24 hour race organizations are results of this phenomenon. Ultra-endurance challenges have sprung up everywhere to fulfill the needs of cyclists to find out, 'can I do this?' Maybe it's not a revolt, so much as it's an exodus. An exodus from the established cross country race scene. A discipline that many cyclists see as being severely flawed and skewed from it's original intent. An exclusive rather than an inclusive style of competition.

Whatever the motivations are, the trend is undeniable. The endurance race scene is growing. It is growing in several different directions. In future posts on this subject, I will attempt to interview some endurance athletes to get their perspectives as to just what is going on here with this endurance racing movement. I also want to explore the effects that a governing body might have on the endurance racer. Stick around for more and remember, your comments are always welcome!

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