Speed vs Stamina: Is Tour de France the ‘ultimate’ sport?

All sports are physically enduring. Being an athlete demands a level of fitness, stamina and overall dedication that most of us aren’t prepared to put into sport. With this in mind, the question remains of whether some sports are more enduring than others?  Thinking about this in terms of scales and measurements may be the most effective way to come to a solid answer.

Whilst competing in Tour de France a road cyclist burns up to 1,180 calories per hour, this is considerably less for golfers at 480 calories per hour. On paper it seems there’s no questioning which sport proves more taxing.

The sheer level of stamina needed to cycle thousands of miles is undeniable.  We might assume golf’s a lot less taxing when in reality the calories a golfer burns far exceeds that of normal sport. Movement and speed is not necessarily a parameter for naming the ultimate sport. Golfers may move a great deal less but there is an impressive level of focus and accuracy that goes into the sport.

If we’re to measure the intensity of a sport in terms of speed, formula one racers win by a long shot. They’re able to reach speeds of up to 232 mph compared to a midfielder who can only get a ball travelling up to a measly 114 mph. Maybe what makes a sport extreme is the amount of danger an athlete is exposed to.  We get a thrill from watching cars travel at unimaginable speeds around a track. The atmosphere at a football match, hearing crowds chanting at the top of their lungs in support of their team, is unique. We can look at heart rate as a determining factor of this.

Adrenaline fuels the crowd and the athletes.  We know this because a player’s heart rate can reach up to 170 bpm when competing. You may be thinking that sport isn’t the only cause of such a high increase and you’d be right. Using heart rate to determine the ultimate sport seems pointless when anything from a scary movie to proposing can get your heart racing a million miles an hour. Our emotions, as well as physical activity, can cause an extreme bodily response.

Distance covered could be the judge of a sports intensity.  We think of elite athletes as those who push themselves to the absolute limit, those who keep going when they have little left to push them forward. Tour de France cyclists cover distances of 2,200 miles compared to tennis or football players who travel around 6.2 miles.  Regardless of distance, the level of endurance and drive these athletes have is undeniable.

To put it simply, each sport needs to be considered for what it is. Being a footballer demands agility and power. It’s a team sport that requires working with others to achieve a victory. In contrast, cycling is a solitary sport needing physical but also mental strength.  These athletes need to be able to deal with unimaginable levels of pain for extended periods.  With this in mind we could also consider the physical and mental impact of a sport on the player.  Different sports affect the body and mind in various ways and so we shouldn’t compare them.

It seems inappropriate to talk about competitive sport without mentioning what athletes gain from it. Formula One drivers receive the best pay check, with winners earning themselves a massive £5 million, whilst coming first place in Tour de France pays only £436,000. This is shocking considering these athletes cover the largest distance and burn the most calories of all the sports.  It goes to show that the physicality of a sport may not have as much to do with making it the ultimate one. What makes a sport ultimate is subjective. For some, the accuracy needed in golf overrides the impressive speeds Formula One racers are able to reach. The grueling distances Tour de France cyclists travel may pale in comparison to the agility of a football player.

All sports are the ultimate sport. For all good athletes, a fine tuning of specific skills is required to be the best in their field.  They invest time, dedication and show an undeniable passion throughout their careers. It can’t be as simple as measuring the number of calories burned in a competition.



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