raced on bicycles in his hometown in Slovenia, skilled enough to race with small Slovene teams but nothing professionally, supporting himself with a sales job for a bike-parts dealer. It was with the death of his mother in 1997 and his subsequent depression that Robič discovered his calling: ultra-endurance cycle races, in which he competes with a methodical madness.
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About ten years ago, a friend of his suggested he train for the Crocodile Trophy
in 1999. Robič finished third, with 2 stage wins. In October of 2001, Robič completed a 24 hour time trial and covered 803.5 km (499.3 miles), and also qualification for Race Across America
A year later, he quit his job and volunteered to join the Slovene military, undergoing nine months of intensive combat training (he surprised his unit with his penchant for late-night training runs). He earned a coveted spot in the sports division, which exists solely to support the nation's top athletes. For Robič, the post meant a salary of 700 euros (about $850) a month and the freedom to train full time.
Robič continued with cycle racing, and his results continued to climb
, placing second in the Crocodile Trophy in 2001 and 2002, 3rd place in Race Across the Alps
in 2002, covering 550km and a 13500 meter ascent in 23:39.33 (the winner, Paul Lindner, made it in 22:47.25). In 2003, he dominated the men's solo category of the Silberreiher-Trophy 24 hour race
, covering 911 km in 23h 41 min. He set the official European record at 2004 Kraftwerk Trophy - Krems Austria 24h road race, getting 1st place for covering 974,4km in 24 hours.
2003 was the year Jure Robič placed 2nd in the Race Across America
, traveling from the 2921.7 miles from San Diego, CA to Atlantic City, NJ in around 9 days, losing to Allen Larsen's time of 8 days 23 h 36 min. Robič went on to get first in RAAM in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. In 2005, he also got first place in Le Tour Direct
, which is also known as Tour de France in one stage and that name tells it all
. Instead of tackling the route in sections, it's covered in one continuous go, all 4,022 km (2,500 miles) and 47,000 m (~140,000 feet) of climbing at once, first one there wins, whatever it takes.
For Robič, that's a craziness of the most literal sort, and it's re-shaping the understanding of human limits. As told in the New York Times article linked above the break:
The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback.
‘‘Mujahedeen, shooting at me,’’ he explains. ‘‘So I ride faster.’’
He is not always the fastest competitor (he often makes up ground by sleeping 90 minutes or less a day), nor does he possess any towering physiological gift. On rare occasions when he permits himself to be tested in a laboratory, his ability to produce power and transport oxygen ranks on a par with those of many other ultra-endurance athletes. He wins for the most fundamental of reasons: he refuses to stop.
Research into fatigue and exhaustion initially assumed that it was the muscles themselves that reached their limit, but more recent studies have shown mental fatigue can affect physical endurance
, though the definition and sources for muscle fatigue are complex
, making studies of fatigue complex to say the least.