Sunday, 20 March 2011

Are bike races of today too hard?

Yesterday we saw the Matt Goss powering across the finish line after some 298km on the bike. Milan-San Remo is a special race, not only a race with history but it is also the longest one-day race in the World Tour. Read about my thoughts on MSR here.

Bike races of today do varies in length, they have to since the strain is different from race to race. Since organisers have a certain perception of the strain they put on the riders, they have made the mountain races/stages shorter than the flat ones, especially in stage races that is.
Most of the Classics are long, L-B-L some 255km, P-R 280km and the Ronde at 260km. However, these races are the Classics. If they changed much, they wouldn't be classic races, would they? The Classics complements bike racing, it takes a whole different rider to win a 260km cobbled race than a mountain stage in Paris-Nice or the tour. The mountain stage to Alpe d'Huez in this year's tour is 109km.

Why do I put myself through this?

Photo by, here.
Some riders have said that bike racing today is so tough that they balance on a very thin line expose themselves to them. Some riders and and a few analysts/commentators/bloggers have criticised race organisers for fuel more fire to the doping debate, indicating that riders have to dope to cope with the strain. As if the riders don't have free will..
Complaining over hard races is nothing new in bike racing, remember what Octave Lapize said to Desgrange and other officials after climbing the Aubisque in 1910: "Vous êtes des assissins!"

Who shall the race organisers have in mind when organising races? Riders, fans, the UCI, TV-producers or those in front of the TV home?

Christian Prudhomme says this about next years tour:

The route of the 2011 Tour has been determined with two objectives in mind: to set the pace from the beginning of the race and maintain suspense right up until the very end.

Of course he's speaking with a "sports perspective" in mind here but it is an indication of what ASO believe is important. The 98th tour consists of 21 stages and 3471km in total. There are 10 flat stages, 6 mountain stages, 4 mountain hilltop finishes and 3 medium mountain stages. The last week of the tour brings 4 mountain stages with a average length of 160km. Imagine doing that with 2700km in your legs.

Is it time to consider reducing the strain on the riders in some races, while at the same time making them more exciting for TV-producers as well as fans? Is it possible to make races "epic" without reaching 280 + km?

Or isn't it so that the very essence in sports is too constantly push the limits of human endurance?

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