There was an interesting discussion started on the Deadgoat Racing forum after last weekends Beans ’n Barley cyclocross race on the subject of quitting that really struck a chord with me…

From Devin on the Deadgoat forum:

I haven’t posted a rant in a long time, so it is time for one again. I DON’T UNDERSTAND QUITTERS.

There are a number of people, especially in the elite ranks, that seem to quit the majority of races they enter. OK, there are times when there are valid reasons for a DNF – a mechanical, a bad crash, or sometimes a person is truly not feeling good enough to continue on. But, unless you have some serious bad luck, this should be few and far between. Every race is not not going to be your best race – treat it as a learning experience and use the race as training.

To me a DNF is a worse result than finishing lower down than you hoped for or where you think you should be. OK, if you race enough over the years you might have a once in a blue moon experience where you DNF for “other” reasons. You spend a lot of time and money on training, bikes and travel to quite after 15 or 20 minutes; sorry, I just don’t understand this.

Craig had a good point – people that DNF take away the something from their fellow competitors by not allowing them to beat these people in a full and fair race. I like to think cyclists possess a lot of mental toughness, but there are some cyclists that do not display this often enough. Bridge was an Olympic demonstration sport a few years ago; maybe these people should chase glory in another discipline. Jeff and the Terrascape crew did a good job today of recognizing a few people with some awards for their gutsy effort to finish the race strong despite their finishing position. I think we need more of this. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going soft. I don’t think we need to revert to the triathlon world where everyone gets a medal or a tattoo and a big group hug just for finishing. But, I think it is worth recognizing people for a great effort despite not having their best day or not being at the front of the pack.

I can’t speak directly to the mind of somebody at an elite riding level, as I’m pretty much just out there to finish each race and do the best I can, but running into a quickly surmountable obstacle wouldn’t really push me to the point of quitting a race (even though it might mean loosing a couple positions, or end up at the back of the pack). If anything it would just change the nature of the race… Rather than finishing top 10, my new goal might be to see how many people I can pass, or to see how long I can hold on without getting lapped. It’s still riding and it’s still fun.

To have the mental fortitude to regroup, buckle down and rethink your race on the fly is something all great riders possess. More often than not, you’ll find them miraculously back in the mix… And if nothing else, the crowd always loves somebody coming from behind ;-)

Racing at any level is about character, and the way a person races – regardless of level – says a lot about that person. One needs look no further than the last few races to see some great examples of local racers to emulate:

At last weeks Beans ’n Barley race Nick Friesen (Pedalhead) rolled a tubular, but flipped it back and continued to race (albeit carefully) to finish 3rd.

At the Devon Dairy Queen Double Dipper, Andre Sutton (Hardcore) snapped his chain at the start line, but battled back throughout the race to move up 10 spots and finish 9th… Now that’s character.

One of the most fun events at the Double Dipper was watching the banter between Aaron Schooler (H&R Block/Kona) and Kyle Anderson (ERTC) on the last lap as Kyle battled to keep from getting lapped… Aaron had a very comfortable lead over 2nd place, and hammed it up for the crowd while Kyle rode his guts out. A classy move by Aaron to let Kyle finish the race, and a gutsy effort by Kyle to keep fighting right to the end (even though he still had another lap to go ;-)… That’s what racing is all about.