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Pairs Racing - It Takes Two to Tango...

Antsonline's picture

By Antsonline - Posted on 15 February 2016

Hi all,
I have been thinking a fair time about the decline of Marathon racing in Australia, and what can be done. I look at what is growing in popularity here and overseas and it would seem like pairs racing is really where things are happening.

There is an awful lot to like about it.
I put down some of my thoughts in an article for - and thought you would enjoy the read too...

Really happy to have a discussion about it here, or on the forum link I made...

Pete B's picture

An interesting read.

It could be a very easy thing to implement - just add a pairs class to the existing classes. Would it work for all races? The Kowalski springs to mind, it has little if any sections for draughting or even riding side by side.

The problem in that is that there seems to be more and more classes added to each race, with CX and Fat bike classes now seen at some races.

GarethP's picture

Personally I am not sure we have too many events. South Africa has over 50 MULTI day events each year and literally 100s smaller one day races.

As to pairs racing - well I am pretty anti social so I can see pro's and cons Smiling

Could it be harder to find 2 people willing and able to form a team? For the pro's in the Cape Epic (especially the women) it's been an issue for them to form teams due to clashing sponsors.

I can see the social aspect too but I also see many solo riders in marathon races tagging along with their mates.
I like it though, I think it could add a new dimension to racing. Just make sure you are the stronger partner otherwise it's a day of suffering haha

Antsonline's picture

@Pete B - completely agree, too many categories. And also - yes, some races were always meant to be solo. Ironically - the duo Classic race which is very successful is run on mostly the same trails as the Kowalski - and works really well...

Gareth - yes, getting a partner is tricky sometimes. I have often found myself scrambling around at the last minute after a rider hurts themselves or pulls out due to work - such is life. That being said, if it were a more recognised category and event style, pairs would team up together early in the year and plan things more - so it might be less ad-hoc...

ADtheglorious's picture

I agree completely and have thought that event organisers had missed the boat by not introducing the category.

twotommos's picture

My bro-in-law in I recently competed in the Duo Classic 50Km in Canberra on singlespeeds. The patron of this race was/is Bec Henderson and it has been held for a number of years now as a fundraiser to support her international racing campaign.She welcomed us all at the start. It was great to see the pros there like Dylan Cooper and Andy Blair supporting this event in her honour. Dylan actually did the comparing for the prize giving. It was well sponsored and well supported and was mostly racing around Sparrow Hill. I liked the fact that there had to be team work the whole way, constant communication about nutrition and pace etc and you had to finish together.There was great banter along the way between all the teams of the various categories. I really enjoyed the format and the race was challenging on the SS.It's worth looking out for in the future not only because of it's format but because a Pro is/was being creative about fund generation to help her get to the next level. She has a great team of fans around her on the day and it was lovely to gain a small insight/glimpse of her in real life!

obmal's picture

Besides the fact that the core bunch of riders that I used to ride with and follow to these events don’t really ride that much anymore (yes you.. get out there on two wheels right now*) by far the biggest excuse they use to justify their decline into midlife slobbery is “I’m not paying $$$ to do something that I can do for free”. Personally I feel the same way, but actually put another spin on it; while I’m happy to pay the money, I feel that these events have failed to evolve, there’s only so long till the same old “pay $150ish bucks, turn up, ride 100K’s, eat some crap at check points, bust yourself to finish and drive home” begins to become kind of old and not as fun as it used to be.

I have said it before.. but the decline of the Dirtworks/Convict was partly the move to Saturday, sure the die-hard racers like the move because they are prepared to get up at 3am drive, to the start, race and then bugger off back home in time enough for afternoon play time with the fam (blink and you’d hardly notice they smashed out 100K’s that morning) but what it did was remove the necessity/drive/motivation for a lot of the punters to get together and make a fun weekend out of it, I recall when the Saturday event center was buzzing with people long into the evening.. this very site is littered with photos and forum posts of ye olde Dirtworks shenanigans.. If you bother to hang around after the race these days it’s all but a ghost town soon after its done. Last year they added the between 50 and 100 option that was a good move, adding a pairs category is a great idea.. but is it enough?

I don’t have the answer, (um lets see.. good coffee, bikes, tracks, music, beer = fun?) events like the fling (I have missed the last two due to work) and the Mont (missed the last one.. work again) seem to have that social something that makes the whole event go beyond just being a race.

*note some actually have real excuses other than being lazy and fat..

Tristania's picture

One of the things that draws me to cycling above many other sports/activities is the opportunity to be alone. After working, studying & associating with others, I like the opportunity to go out alone and unwind on many occasions and suspect many others are the same in their training.

I'm not convinced that a huge number of people would enter marathons as a team of two (where I assume that positioning would be based on the time the second rider crosses the line and they must remain within a certain distance of each other), based on the aformentioned reasons. What I loved about races that I have done are the alliances that one makes with riders they know which in itself employs some of the same principles of teamwork - like at last year's C100, Mike, Dicko and I worked together splendidly for a good portion of the GNR section to drive the pace along (until Wayne's unexpected forward dismount), and I personally find that to be good enough.

We get multi lap races, as well as classics such as the MONT around the state where there is a teams option (though I'm aware this is different than being on the course together as is done in the Epic), and feel that this should be enough team races to keep riders happy - the STM series and Shimano GP both involve multiple races per year.

I think you're right that the novelty of a marathon is starting to become rather stale, and that to a large extent is simply because people have been doing them for too long and they feel like they want something new. I don't know what the answer is, as I personally love having 3 or 4 events that I put 100% into each year that are (roughly) the same but understand that others don't necessarily feel the same way about this. Perhaps being able to be officially classed as a team would give pairs a sense of satisfaction of having pulled through together, but if there's not any incentive to make up for the fact that a rider would only be as fast as their weakest link and to ride together, I don't see it gaining much popularity.

I definitely agree that having a festival atmosphere enhnaces the event, to make it a real weekend dedicated to cycling, rather than a "turn up, race, leave," as we see at the Fling or the MONT. If this were replicated in other events, there may be better turnouts. Otherwise, many riders (particularly non-competitive ones) will put it together and realize they can actually ride 100km on a track of their own choice in their own time without having to pay the massive entry fee.

It's funny though, despite the decline of C100/HLF etc, MTB sales have been growing. Perhaps people just don't care about racing that much. Does that matter? Do we have to make people want to race, rather than just an opportunity to go for a cruise with mates?

Brian's picture

I really enjoyed the pairs format for the Cape Epic. Not just the racing but I loved the months leading up to it and training together etc. I'm not too sure about one day event pairs racing although I've never had a crack at that.

One day I would love to do another pairs stage race though.

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