Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to compete in a lot of races around the States and read about/watch a lot of races from around the world. Most of these venues have been brand new to me and when I combine my first hand experiences on the road with what I've read on the internet and seen on TV, I have greatly enjoyed picking up the finer points of cycling from 'inside' the barriers. However I am deeply worried about the perspective of cycling from 'outside' the barriers.
Every year, professional athletics offer an element of spectatorship that far outrivals any sitcom television show. A team's ability to come together and win in the most challenging of circumstances, or an individual's courage in overcoming what was only believed to be impossible just moments prior, or the heartbreak of rider/player injury or defeat can create moments that define generations. However occasionally, in an impatient pursuit to equal such epic thrillers of humanity, certain individuals choose the unethical road to success. Unfortunately, this will never change. Moreover, this problem is not isolated to cycling or sport in general as there are also individuals who cheat in the worlds of business and academics.
How can a cooperative society of individuals and families focussed on a mutual pursuit of excellence in anything, be it scholastics, athletics or business, be attained if the cheats continuously steal attention away from those who deserve it? Television no longer awards broadcast time to baseball field streakers, so why do to commentators still discuss the cheats? I was appalled when listening to sports coverage both on TV and at racing venues over the past two months when commentators consistently brought up the topic of doping (be it bike, blood or steroids).
Take for example the new spectator to cycling who attends an evening criterium at the suggestion of a friend. In so doing this person witnesses their first bike race and becomes motivated by the sight of the whizzing peloton to try their own hand at cycling, be it on a recreational or competitive front. Or perhaps the individual is a young child who gets to jump up on Dad's shoulders just so they can feel the wind rush created by the flying racers, the rings of cow bells and the announcer's booming voice sealing the moment in their memory.
But then one slip by the commentators by perhaps innocently stating that "these racers do not have motors in their bikes" or something to the general degree of some guy doping somewhere in the world while riding a bike and the evening's atmosphere is all but thrown into the trash. Why are you even bringing these awful elements when you could be talking about something much more heroic. Like the teams. Or the riders. Or the local businesses that sponsored the event and are probably paying you to speak all night on the loudspeaker in front of their shops!
Cycling is special not because it is hell of a lot of fun or that you get to go so fast that you can exceed the speed limit (of course I cannot and do not endorse such behavior), but that riders do not ride for themselves. Even if you are the team leader and riding for the win, you are also riding for your teammates who just demolished the field, or got bottles from the car, or who jumped in the break all day just so you, their team leader, would have the best chance to win for the team at the end of the stage. When reviewing the sport outside the tasks of individual riders, cycling teams exhibit a rare and powerful force in one's community and as such should and often do target ways to better the lives of those around them. Riding for a cause, be in your team leader or something much more special, can exhibit the power needed to extract that little bit of extra courage from one's suitcase and in so doing perhaps creating an epic moment that someone, be it a spectator or fellow racer, will carry and share with others when life's challenges become perceptively insurmoutable.
At the moment, there are a lot of top level teams that are able to support various causes. Check them out below and support them if and when possible.
Thanks for reading!
Pictures from today's beautiful ride in Portland - it's great to be back out on the bike. PS: you should all go check out Dinner for Schmucks. News on Canadian Track Nationals coming up on Sunday's post with an interesting reply from a reader of the cycling philosophy in Saturday's post.
Center: Bridge to Skyline (& Germantown)
Right: Skyline Ridge (Land of many climbs)
Germantown 1: Feeling like many dollars
Germantown 2: Hard to keep camera still
Germantown 3: Last photo before camera goes away for a while
NW Benny Drive - I guess I'm a pretty big deal
Mt. Hood from the state line