SPIRIT OF THE RACE
The spirit of the race is a commitment to autonomy and self-reliance and the integrity to uphold the values of equality and fairplay in order to truthfully test an endeavour. With only ten rules to guide them our riders must understand and commit to riding a genuinely unsupported race without private resupply or dedicated outside assistance.
In 2016 Mike Hall set the speed record for the Tour Divide. Shortly after the finish he spoke to Neil Beltchenko of Bikepacker and had this to say about the future of the race and the sport in general.
“One of the great things about the TDR is not only the abilities but also the humility of those who ride it and the mutual respect that goes on between racers. I have nothing but respect for those who I have come up against and have had very kind, thoughtful and meaningful words back from riders like Josh, Craig, Jesse and Jefe, all of which I hold in the highest esteem. Despite whatever commentary might be shared online by spectators we are really in a contract of integrity with our peers and it’s only them who have really been there who know the nuances of what is involved, so their thoughts and words mean a lot to me especially. I found the Trans Am particularly exciting this year. Not many egos have been spared there and with not just one but two women going the distance at a hell of a pace, it shows it’s no fluke and why people should be excited about unsupported racing, because it is really as level and accessible a playing field as you are likely to see. Long may TDR and bikepacking races be a stage for this and long may the principals of self-reliance and integrity hold strong.”
Mike Hall 2016
In 2015 Mike conducted some research on what ‘unsupported’ meant to our riders. The original blog post remains available here. We have taken some information from that post to remind 2019 riders what our founder Mike Hall had to say on the matter.
What does “Unsupported” actually mean?
Easy, doing it on your own without any help right? Well the more one explores the concept, the less black and white it appears. Just like everything in life, it’s a little bit more complicated than that…
Take for example meeting a stranger on your travels. They offer you a drink or they talk about the local area, the roads, the traffic or the weather. Such a meeting could have negative, zero, or positive effects on one’s race. Refusal to engage or accept their generosity could offend however, time spent chatting is time not on the bike. It’s a valuable travelling experience but to the racer it could be seen as time wasted. On the other hand the timing of a glass of water, a meal or nugget of information could also be pivotal. First hand knowledge of the nature of the local geology, road closures, weather patterns or services could also prove to be acutely invaluable if the circumstances dictate.
To a large extent it is down to the individual rider’s aptitude to make the best decisions and balance the cost vs benefit of time off the bike for learning about the forward conditions or sustaining themselves with beneficial rest and nutrition. This resourcefulness is the mark of the experienced and able adventure cyclist and individual distinctions denote an individual’s style of racing.
Where though does the line lie between acceptance of and reliance on the kindness of others? When does self sufficiency give way to the solicitation of assistance and when do we agree that two styles diverge enough that one offers a competitive advantage and what effect that might have on this form of cycle racing? Where, if anywhere, should the rule book give hard answers? For it is the character of the race and the sport as to whether common practice, culture and etiquette might assert enough influence on the actions of riders and followers, or whether race regulation must intervene. In short, where can we rely on riders understanding the ‘spirit of the race’ and where must we intervene with hard rules?
Back in 2015 we took the opportunity to find out the current state of understanding amongst TCR applicants with application questions similar to those riders must answer now. The questionnaire had one major mandate, to promote thought and discussion on the nuances of unsupported travel. The questions were posed to riders under two main premises, though these clearly overlap: What is “Private Resupply?” and What is “Dedicated Outside Assistance?”