Is the Boat Race part of the Olympic picture?
For the estimated quarter of a million people who watched from the banks as Oxford and Cambridge fought a thrilling, back-and-forth contest on the River Thames, the bigger picture was unimportant.
The 18 competitors involved had enough to think about as they battled side by side for four and a quarter miles without asking what part they played in a greater story.
The 156th Boat Race was entertaining enough as a one-off sporting event but several of those involved could look back on it as a key step on their paths to Olympic success.
The race often attracts top foreign oarsmen but this year three young British rowers played key roles in ensuring Cambridge's 80th victory in the race from Putney to Mortlake.
Cambridge on their way to victory with Gill second from right, Pelly two seats behind him and Nash third from left - Photo: Getty
Fred Gill - who sat in the key, stroke seat for the light blues - Henry Pelly and George Nash will all compete at Great Britain trials in Belgium next weekend, aiming to break into the squad that topped the Olympic rowing medal table in Beijing two years ago.
Even before the Boat Race began, Olympic rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave was talking about the trio.
"They're unlikely to make the team [this year] but maybe by 2012 or soon after they could be part of the British team. If you make the British team your boat has got a chance of winning medals," he told me.
It is easy to dismiss the Boat Race as irrelevant but, of the Great Britain coxless four that clinched gold in thrilling fashion in Beijing, three had raced in blue within the previous three years.
They are all training in Italy this week but BBC Sport caught up with two of them, Andy Hodge and Tom James, before they left to talk about the event, and the 2005 race, in which they went head-to-head in opposing crews.
Hodge, who won in his only race with Oxford, said: "I learnt a hell of a lot when I did the Boat Race and it's stuff I still take with me today."
James, who was in the losing Cambridge boat that day, and would have to compete in two further races before tasting victory, said: "It was one of the key reasons behind me getting into the [Great Britain] squad.
"If I hadn't been at Cambridge I probably wouldn't have made it [into the GB eight] for Athens.
"And I was at Cambridge for three years between Athens and Beijing so most of my rowing development came from being in the Boat Race."
Except for the type of boats used, the event is totally different from international rowing, with a far longer course and many contributing outside factors like the tide and the influence of the weather.
Redgrave was once quoted as likening it to a go-kart race, compared to the Formula 1 that is the international scene, although he later insisted he was not being negative.
And he believes the race is increasingly important as a stepping stone from junior internationals to the senior stage, partly because it is now so difficult to break into a successful Great Britain squad.
"If you want to go to the Olympics but have also got the nous to go to one of the universities it's a good opportunity to be at that level," he said.
"It gives that experience. The atmosphere, build-up and media attention on this race is greater than any rowing athlete has at the Olympic Games.
"It's not just the six months of dedicated training like an Olympian but the whole process that is raising you up a level."
Pelly was delighted and exhausted after the race, after clinching victory at the third attempt.
He has only has five days until he will be on the start line in Hazewinkel in a pair, alongside the country's best oarsmen.
Speaking in the weeks before the race, he told me: "The race itself gives you great experience and great coaching.
"In terms of what I learn from being here, it's great because you only have six months to get it right and that can really move your rowing on technically and physically."
Thanks to the profile of the race and the sponsorship available, both universities employ world-class coaches.
Chris Nilsson joined Cambridge last year, after coaching his native New Zealand to two Olympic gold medals, while Oxford's Sean Bowden could easily be part of the Great Britain set-up.
"I think it's critical for Cambridge and Oxford to be able to develop British rowers. I feel very conscious that we must look after the British youngsters," said Nilsson, crediting Gill in particular as he basked in victory.
Canadian Barney Williams, who joined Oxford for two years after winning Olympic silver behind Matthew Pinsent in Athens in 2004, credits Bowden for fostering a more rounded approach in his rowers than many on the international scene.
Speaking before the race, Bowden smiled as he recounted that George Bridgewater, a New Zealander who had won world gold and Olympic bronze, improved his rowing machine times while at Oxford.
"The groundwork [in New Zealand] was excellent and perhaps a different perspective, a different situation, maybe that was the way to bring out the extra percentage improvement," he said.
Hodge agrees with that "change is as good as a rest" philosophy.
"If you have one coach the whole time you'll reach your peak within that relationship," he said. "But if you can take on the expertise of many coaches and many experiences I think that makes you a richer rower overall."
There are two catches. Firstly, there are no rowing scholarships at Oxbridge and entry standards are as rigorous for oarsmen as for any other aspiring student.
In the past that would have meant a bias in the Great Britain squad towards those who came from the two universities.
That happens to a far lesser extent now, with programmes such as GB Rowing's World Class Start spotting potential talent early and helping them through education, with Reading and Bath Universites part of that pathway.
Also, GB Rowing have over the last few years denied full funding to those who want to study and train at the universities, preferring them to be part of a central squad in Reading, although that applies more to those like James, who are already in the top group, rather than the current trio, who would not receive funding anyway.
The Boat Race is not the only way, but it certainly part of the picture as Great Britain build an Olympic challenge to take their to 2012 and beyond.