The Tour de Gudena in Denmark, arguably the foremost event in the international marathon canoeing calendar, has announced it is to abandon its two-day, 120km (76 miles) format and opt instead for a one-day, 73km (46 miles) course.
The change, which we predicted here last year, follows years of declining participation in the event. At one time the Tour de Gudena attracted almost a thousand competitors every year, with entrants coming far and wide – from Europe, America, Australia and South Africa. Now it barely attracts half that number, making the cost of running a two-day event over a large part of the Danish lake district uneconomic.
The new race will run on what was the second day of the two-day event – from Silkeborg to Randers. At the Tour de Gudena annual meeting last week, the old association which ran the event for decades, was wound up. A new organisation will take its place.
There will still, as in the previous format, be stage stops, probably at Kongensbro, Tange and Langa and the organisers hope to attract touring paddlers as well as die-hard racers.
The Tour de Gudena’s decline has, arguably, not been helped by the way that marathon canoeing has developed over the past two decades. The sport has moved from a series of 42km (26 mile) A to B marathons in favour of shorter events, using a circuit format, often on regatta courses with artificial rather than natural portages over locks, weirs and so on.
The thinking behind this development, spearheaded by the International Canoe Federation’s marathon committee, is that it positions the sport more naturally at the top end of the sprint canoeing programme, especially since the demise of 10,000m racing, and would theoretically, therefore, appeal to sprinters – while also attracting interest from broadcasters. There is evidence that some sprint paddlers have taken part in the marathons but this has not led to any sort of growth in numbers within the sport in general. And there’s precious little sign that the media angle of this strategy has worked, marathon as a sport is widely acknowledged to be in some difficulty and the events are rarely televised in any meaningful way.
The diminution of the Tour de Gudena into a one-day event will, however, perhaps ensure its continued presence in the ICF ‘classic series’. Previously the ICF has deemed long events to be ‘too hard’ to be included and it even dropped the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race from the series for this reason.
This year’s Tour de Gudena takes place on September 13.
Link: Fowey Canoe Club (UK) trip to the Tour de Gudena – Youtube video