Young cyclists and endurance events – is it right?

A question recently cropped up about young people, including teenagers, as to whether they should be undertaking long endurance events?  This question is connected to the recent Coast to Coast in a Day sportive I did with some friends.

To cut a long story short, my wife Rachel got talking to someone connected to Open Cycling (these are the event organisers).  They were parked on the side of the road watching us cyclists start the first major climb in heading up Hardknott Pass.  We don’t know who this person was exactly but he seemed to be knowledgeable and speak with some authority as he commented on the competitor’s form.  He was pointing out who had good “form” and was riding well and others who appeared less efficient on their bicycle.  He was also pointing out the sense in having very low gears through either having a triple chainset or having gears which went close to a 1:1 drive.  Overall he certainly knew a thing or two about endurance events.

When the conversation got around to Rachel mentioning there was a teenager in our group, he was horrified.  Youngsters who are still growing and maturing, he said, should NOT be undertaking long stamina-testing events like the 150 mile Coast to Coast.  All kinds of injuries can occur as well as the problems arising from exhaustion, straining muscles, ligaments and tendons which are still growing.

Consequently it appears the rules have now changed for the 2015 event.  All cyclists must be at least 18 years old.  However, at 18 years, we are actually still growing (I carried on growing until I was about 20 or 21) but will certainly be mostly fully grown and so you could argue that some caution must still be considered.

And what, you might ask, is it right for young people to do?  Once again, our road-side commentator had something to say.  He said it was better to get into shorter, faster events – time trials, sprints and the like.  Definitely not long endurance events.

Having said all this, you’ll be pleased to know Josh made the 150 miles.  Although he was tired like the rest of us, he managed it fine and I’m sure could have finished faster if it wasn’t for fossils like myself holding him back.  To prove the success, he had the biggest grin, a good healthy appetite and eagerness to have another go to improve his time.  He was in good company, he had a good bike, he was well trained, well fed and has the ideal physique.  Nevertheless it is worth thinking this over carefully if you are a parent or a young cyclist yourself: I can’t really comment with any authority myself on this matter but it’s worth taking proper advice.

Related:

Reflections of a Coast to Coast wife

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