There has been some discussion latley about the different types of endurance racing. Some claim that the epic point to point races, such as Trans Iowa, or the Great Divide Race are the premier type of endurance events. Others claim that traditional 24 hour races (ha! I bet you never thought we’d be talking about traditional 24 hour racing!) are the better form of self inflicted suffering. I think both are excellent race formats, and both offer unique challenges.
Lap after Lap
Riding in a lap based event such as the 24 Hours of Moab is difficult. Even on a team, it is a real challenge to the mind, body and machine. Going solo at a race like this is mind numbing. I have done it and each time have been taxed to my limits. However, there are some things about these types of races that make them…easier?…than say, the Kokepelli Trail Race. The first and most obvious is support. Solo 24 hour races are amuck with pit crews, spare bikes, chefs, RVs, propane heaters, generators…and the list goes on. Not to take anything away from Chris Eatough’s amazing abilities, but did he really need 47 bikes in his pit at the 2005 Whistler event? OK, I am exagerating. The point is however, that the support crews can get out of hand, and some feel that this goes against the spirit of “going solo.” Of course, the rules about number of support crew, number of bikes, etc.. are vague or non-existant. So if it is within the rules, it is within the spirit of the race. Right? You see how this gets people fired up.
A clear advantage that lap to lap races have over the point to point race is also what some believe is its biggest weakness. The fact that it is around and around on the same course all day and all night. It can get tiresome to ride the same loop 10, 15, 20 times over the course of 24 hours. However, the lap format makes all the above support options possible. Which makes these races appealing to the masses. Well, if not the masses, then at least riders who are interested in trying out a 24 hour race. And new racers at any event are never a bad thing. Being able to gather a team of friends together, ride the race at your own pace, and have a great time doing it is the biggest strength of lap format races. They take on a festival type environment and becaome a weekend of fun, rather than survival.
Get to the finish. If you live that long
I have never done a point to point ultra endurance race. Not anything like what I will most likely be attemtping in May. But there is a certain appeal to these races that the lap races do not have. The epic “trans” races are usually low key, without the hype of sponsors and entry fees and support crews. You show up, you ride, you survive. You need something? You better be carrying it in your pack. I have to be honest, I have been reluctant to try one of these rides. They sound like absolute torture. And yet, each year more people are lining it up and testing the limits.
That is what it comes down to. Testing the limits. Just how far can a person ride a bike? Will the man or the machine wear out first? The appeal to endurance racing is less about the number of miles, or the number of laps. I do love to compete, and am driven by competition, but I have as much fun out on an 8 hour “training ride” as I do at any race. In many regards they are the same thing. That is, they both are a great time dong something I love to do.
In the end, we all just want to ride our bikes. And keep riding them, and keep riding them. In circles or over the mountains and through the woods, it doesnt really matter. I just want to ride my bike. And then ride it some more.