Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tour Divide - Rules Are Rules

As riders, we’re attracted to events like the Tour Divide in part because of the rules.  And when I say “rules” I mean those listed on the tourdivide website – not the ongoing flame war on the bikepacking forum.  The rules are simple, and they’re tough.

  • Stick to the course.  No exceptions.
  • Advance forward on the route under your own power.  No motors, no drafting.  Sweat & oxygen only.
  • No help from outsiders, unless the "outsider" is a commercial establishment that is open to the public.
  • And if you break a rule for any reason, have the stones to self-relegate.

Solo.  Self-support.  Basically, do it on your own.  All bound up in nothing more and nothing less than a "gentlemen's agreement."  Nothing to win or lose but honor.  Pretty straightforward.

That being said, there are those every year who view the rules as more or less flexible, more like guidelines, to quote a certain pirate captain.  And there are others watching on trackleaders who notice, and wonder why said rule-bending racers haven't self-relegated.  And then there are others who seem to think that the rules as written are too stringent, and isn't it really up to the individual racer's interpretation and intention as to what kind of race they really want to be a part of?  And there are others (I'm losing track here...) who think there should be multiple classes of riders, presumably one for each group of a-la-carte rule-sets being followed at any given moment.

Yeah, makes no sense to me either.  Eszter summed it up perfectly in her post: "We didn't have issues following the rules of 4-square when we were all in second grade.  Why now?"

Exactly.  The rules are what make it a race, and they don’t need to be changed.*  Don't want to follow the rules as written?  No problem.  Lucky for your, there’s already another class of Great Divide rider.  It’s called tourist.  It just doesn’t come with the prestige of having your pointy blue dot chasing its way down the continent with all the others on the race page at trackleaders (though friends and family can follow along on the GDMBR general live tracker).  Maybe that’s a tough pill for those who want to be seen rolling with the fast crowd.

As for me, I’m not 100% which way I’m going to go in 2015 – racing or touring.  I’m one of those for whom this will be my first foray into multi-day racing.  Would I like to see my blue dot (more to the point, would I like to have others see my blue dot) on the race page at trackleaders?  Heck yeah!  Do I plan to uphold the rules as written?  I do.  But my primary goal is going to be learning – learning the course, learning what I’m capable of, learning how to do be a part of this crazy sport.  Is that really racing?  I don’t even know.  But unless I put that pressure on myself – the expectation that I’m going to push myself at something like a race pace – my outing could easily devolve into a leisurely tour.  And that’s not what I want.

Somewhere in that "Spirit of the Tour Divide" forum, someone suggested that a commitment to follow the rules be a part of a prospective racer's letter of intent.  I don't know why that never crossed my mind when I wrote my "blog of intent", but I think it's a good idea.  So consider this an addendum to my letter of intent.

I’ll be racing.  And I’ll play by the rules.  And if I end up breaking a rule for any of a million reasons, well, hopefully you’ll hear about it from me first.


*Okay, I realize I just said the rules don't need to be changed, but I'd like to add one.  Call it the "good sam" clause.  If someone is in need of assistance - maybe she snapped a quick-link in grizzly country, or maybe he's face down in a ditch and the buzzards are circling - have the decency and/or courtesy to offer a helping hand.  What do you have to lose?  You won't be penalized for it, and whether they self-relegate or not, well, that's up to them.  Heck, they may not even accept your offer.  But at least you'll go to sleep at night knowing you're a decent human being.

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