My review of Bicycle Dreams was featured on the movie’s Facebook page yesterday, bringing a bunch of new visitors to Bicycles & Icicles. If you missed my review, here’s the summary: See this movie about the Race Across America.
Sadly, that great movie popped back into my life last week when I read about the death of Jure Robic, the Slovenian soldier and five-time RAAM winner who was prominently featured in Stephen Auerbach’s documentary. One of the more memorable scenes involved Robic arguing with his crew as they tried to talk him back onto his bike when he wanted to quit. In the depths of extreme sleep deprivation, he had lost his ability to conjure a mental image of his wife and child, and he suspected his crew of leading him in circles, because he hadn’t seen another RAAM racer in days. (He was leading, so there was no one to see.)
The RAAM requires obsession, and Robic had it. Like other winners, he racked up tens of thousands of miles per year. And at the age of 45, he was barely eking out a living. After aging out of the Slovenian Army’s sports unit, he struggled to cover living expenses, race fees and travel costs. According to Outside magazine, Robic trained for this year’s RAAM despite not knowing until five weeks before the race if he’d have enough money to compete.
Robic was hit by a car in September while descending a mountain road near his home in Slovenia. By all accounts, he was—off the bike, anyway—a genuinely kind human being. His death is tragic.
But I can’t comprehend what makes a person set aside so many other parts of life to excel at a nearly invisible sport that costs more than it pays. Some people would attribute it to a drive to be the best at something. I question whether it’s worth it.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m too hooked on one sport, hobby, or whatever you want to call a bicycling addiction. Like most of us, however, I have other interests, however secondary they may be. I have a pretty normal life.
I could never be the athlete Robic was. And I’m happy about that.