Gravel races have become one of the newest disciplines to take hold of people’s imagination with the likes of Laurens Ten Dam, Ian Boswell and Nathan Haas – former road riding professionals – to take the step across and compete solely in that field. But, is it now time for the quirky brother to take a step into the limelight?
Endurance races are very simple. Ride from Point A to Point B as fast as you can, knowing stopping to do things as rudimentary as sleeping will hinder you. These types of races already have a foundation in the world of cycling through the Transcontinental – a point-to-point race across Europe – and the Race Across America but more and more events are popping up all the time.
One such race in the UK, a heartland for the eclectic discipline, is All Points North. The race, a 1,000-km epic across the north of England, is just one of a plethora to take part in the British Isles, allowing riders to test their limits and see some of the best landscapes Britain has to offer.
Race organiser Angela Walker said: “We always envisaged it as a precursor to people who wanted that stepping stone onto something bigger, like the Transcontinental. I wanted to try to recreate that feeling of making sure that riders at least got a chance to ride through the night or to give it a go on the first night. In 2021, we’ve had Honister Pass in there as a climb, which was going to be tough, depending on where riders decide to put that in their route.”
More and more races are being added to this calendar all the time. Another to take hold in the UK is the Pan Celtic Race and this way of cycling seems to be taking hold across both the UK and the world.
It is not new to test yourself against other cyclists over long distances. The first Tour De France, over 100 years ago, had the same ideals and this old-school type of racing, not seen in the usual day-to-day scene, is becoming ever more popular in today’s cycling world. All Points North is just one race that will return in 2022, this time in May and with more and more exposure, and is set up to be a bumper field for all looking to conquer the challenging route.
But why is endurance racing so popular? For mere mortals, it seems a step too far to ride into the night after battling through the day. But, for those willing to take the challenge on, it can provide a monumental awakening that only breeds inspiration and passion for these otherwise demonic outings.
Speaking about his motivation for rides like All Points North, Rupert Robinson who finished ninth – barely sleeping along the way of this 1,000-km ride – explained: “You have to be motivated to do something like this. And if you can achieve things like this, then other things in life can seem quite easy. There are times when you’ll really be wondering why you are doing it, why are you pushing yourself through this, why are you telling your body to keep going. But in the end, it’s because you really want to, and you can apply that to different things in your life. If you really want to do something, then you can. You know it’s going to be hard but you know just crack on and persevere.”
The inspiring thing about endurance rides and races is anyone can take them on. With no, or a generous, time cut, it allows people to experience the race at their own speed – relying on their wits and fitness to complete the course. You don’t need to be a professional like Ten Dam who is currently riding the Andes in a gravel stage race, you just need to be stubborn enough to believe that you can complete a course built to break people along the way. For All Points North, out of 68 starters, 45 finished.
More and more events are springing up all the time and 2022 seems like the year for it to break into the mainstream. Someone like Lael Wilcox, a legend in completing FKTs (Fastest Known Times), is already flying the flag for people from ordinary backgrounds to ride these gnarly routes. And it is only a matter of time that people move on from races such as All Points North – a taster in endurance racing – to bigger things. Will it be you tackling an endurance race, bent on proving your physical and mental strength?