The general rule of thumb for any fastest-person-wins event is that it’s a race. It’s organized, it’s timed, and the fastest people win, so what else could it be? In the cycling world, riders put in long, hard hours in the saddle to prepare themselves to endure distances at high heart rates to better their chances to win that race. And those that work the hardest and have the genes that make them a perfect cyclist usually do. Yet, there’s another group of cyclists out there that put in the same amount of time to be ready for that race yet seldom step up to the podium. Are they still racing? What do those that win think of those that don’t – especially those that bring up rear. Someone has to take that coveted DFL spot. Well, I’d say while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, racing is in the spirit of the rider.
There’s a huge population of mountain bike cyclists out there that win a lot and are really, really good; but, many of them are reaching that point that they may not step up to the podium any longer. They are in their forties. And the aging process simply won’t allow them to win forever (so the scientists say). Crossing over that magic line might be painful, yet they will continue to climb on their bike and ride for hours. They will put in as many hours as the pros, but might finish a bit later than them. So that begs the question, are they still “racing” if their genes and age won’t allow them to go any faster. The answer may be easy for a select few of dedicated, professional riders who can’t bear the thought of not winning. I overheard an individual saying one time “if you’re not really racing, what’s the point” (of being in a race). The point is many cyclists fall into the I-love-to-ride-my-bike category and might care a tiny bit about NOT getting that DFL spot, but really care only about finishing the event. They might enter races because they enjoy the challenge of training and preparing themselves physically to endure the event. Fitness gurus say to reach beyond your limits – maybe the non-winners are doing just that -- entering a "race" that goes beyond what they achieved in the past. Maybe the training benefits of good health and fitness (and longer life) inspires them. Maybe the energy of race day with all the mountain biking camaraderie that comes with it and stepping up to the start line inspires them. Maybe they are riding for a cause – a loved one with a disease that keeps them from being active. Maybe they just want to get out of the house and enjoy nature. Whatever the reason, ultimately, they love to ride. So the next time that person steps up to the start line to “race,” and comes across the finish line long after the winners, yes sir, in their hearts they were racing. They just might define it a bit differently than some.