The beginning of the racing season in cycling takes place in Italy in May. Milan-San Remo, the first of cycling's monuments each year, is also the longest at just about 180 miles. That makes for a long day in the saddle. The pros take about six and a half hours to cover that distance.
This year, Isle of Man native Mark Cavendish had the most left at the end outsprinted some of the fastest ment in the world.
I've never ridden 180 in a day. On a few occasions I've done a vigorous 140, and was pretty much shagged out at the end. Now, the pros are pros, and they train and ride all the time, so I get how they can do 180 miles and still have the energy to sprint it out at the end.
On the other end of the spectrum, consider the case of William Wagner. Long before Cavendish set off for the Via Roma, Mr. Wagner left his home in Havre de Grace, Maryland and set off on his own 180 mile bike ride to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Just as Wagner's destination was less glamorous than Cavendish's, neither was the purpose of his mission. Okay, cyclists ride for money and personal glory, which aren't exactly high-minded purposes....except compared to Wagner's. He rode 180 miles for sex. Sex on a baseball field in a Scranton park. Sex with a fifteen year old girl he met on MySpace.
Cavendish's ride probably secured his position on Columbia-Highroad through 2011, and his name joins the list of other MSR winners, a list that includes some of cycling's greats: Bartali, Coppi and Merckx. Wagner's ride has secured his position with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and his name will join those on the sex offender registry.
Two rides. One hundred and eighty miles. Two very different outcomes. Remember, people, it's not how far you ride, but why, and what you do at the finish line that counts.