Thursday, September 30, 2010

Death of ultracycling great - Jure Robic.

Came across this article in the NY Times:

Jure Robic, a long-distance bicyclist who won the grueling Race Across America five times and whose seemingly endless, sleep-eschewing stamina tested the limits of human endurance, died during a training ride on Friday when he collided with a car on a mountain road in Plavski Rovt, Slovenia, near his home in Jesenice. He was 45.

Race Across America
Robic once rode 518.7 miles in 24 hours, a world record.

Primoz Kalisnik, a Slovene journalist and a friend of Robic, said that the driver of the car, a 55-year-old local man who was not hurt, was not at fault, and that Robic, who was going downhill on a mountain bike, may have been traveling as fast as 50 miles per hour on a narrow, winding stretch of unpaved road where it was impossible to see around the next bend. He was training for next month’s Crocodile Trophy mountain bike race in Australia, Kalisnik said.

One year ago I didn't know Robic existed. Today, when I read this article, things were different. I have stepped into the world of ultra-distance cycling. I first read about Robic in conjunction with following this years RAAM (Race Across America).  

The article reminds me that this sport comes with risk, some avoidable, some not. When we ride on open roads, we expose ourselves to the worst of the drivers we encounter. When we explore the limits of endurance, we sacrifice judgment and safety. There are crashes and collisions. To someone sitting safely at home, the thought of riding a bike 50 mph downhill through blind turns on an unpaved road may seem suicidal. They might also question why someone would want to ride a bike 600 km in less than a weekend. I don't think I'd want to do the first but the second has become a goal. Is the difference just one of degree? Perhaps. 

But the need to explore, to see what lies beyond the horizon, seems to have been a drive within the human animal since early humans first walked off the African continent and dispersed around the world. That need did not end with the mapping of the last discovered place. The earth may have been mapped and charted but each person has the opportunity to do their own exploration, map their own discoveries, chart their own limits. Some may feel that pull stronger than others, perhaps some don't feel it at all. But for those that do feel that pull, it may be as alluring as the siren's call.

Rest in peace Robic and safe travels to all who answer the call to explore.

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