October 18, 2012

Shut up & ride your bicycle

Please note this post is my own opinion. If yours differs, you are free to leave a comment, but if we could avoid the troll-like finger-pointing that would be superb. Add something of value and I will happily debate.

We are all aware of the lifting of the veil on the biggest organised cover-up of doping & fraud in any sport throughout the history of time. It’s in every headline, on every blog and every troll with a voice has publicly declared their disgust for the polarised central figure in the fiasco, the hope of millions and the man who turned certain death into a circus of no less than seven perfect years at le Tour whilst flying around in a private jet, dating a real rock star and seemingly owning everything he participated and was seen in. From his partial ownership of companies like SRAM, Honey Stinger and FRS to owning the team which rode for him, the world of cycling had seen no force like this before.

For me, it’s not about the use of performance-enhancing banned substances. That I understand. Cycling is filled with boys who come to directeur-sportifs who become their fathers. They come from broken homes, filled with anger, ready to prove a point. A gentle nudge and a promise of stardom along with the “father figure” culture in cycling is enough to push 90 out of 100 over the edge. Suddenly, they belong.

How people believe rugby, athletics and gymnastics are different, I am not sure. Comfortable beliefs I assume, like assuming your “free range” label on your meat means what you`re shovelling in your face didn’t stand around in its own faeces eating chocolate, hormones and genetically modified grain for 100 days before you got it. It’s free to roam in those conditions though, so the label sticks.

We are tested and we didn’t get caught, so we are clean.

“But everyone is taking painkillers at Ironman on the run, so there for its ok if I take too.”

I’ve been there. The gateways are lined with mediocrity and the lines get blurred faster than you can say “Pan y Aqua” in every arena you can imagine. I’ve taken pain killers to get through an Ironman run. I didn’t like what it did to me. I opted to train smarter and teach myself to get to the race less broken so that I don’t have to be faced with the choice.

It’s just a race.

Professional athletes may not have that luxury, in their minds. They are told it affects their entire team when they don’t perform. The pressure on the big stars is even worse. Key sponsors demand results and the father figures push to get the big win so that next season, 40 people still have a job.

So as you sit there saying they are all so dirty, I ask you to stop defining never getting to your goals by the supposed filthy behaviour of people you have never met and never had the chance to spend time with, to know what it’s like to be faced with those decisions.
While their dirty behaviour disgusts you, because they have been caught, what disgusts me is that you have taken only 15 minutes to read about the allegations, read the headlines and read it in places that need to sell copies of something to maintain their jobs.

Dig in the forums, talk to the guys who are faced with these choices and a world may open in front of you. Perhaps you`ll discover there is a deep-seated culture here. That the culture attracts a certain personality. That the prerequisites are easy to see:

– Lack of father figure
– Middle to lower class upbringing
– Desperate need to succeed at all costs

Put yourself in the culture. Where the option is a million euro contract on the horizon or returning home to work in a vegetable factory, like the rest of your family. You have shown talent. What’s left of your family says you can do it, must do it – for the family. When you sign your first pro contract, a father figure appears and tells you that you are going to be a star. A bit more “preparation” – completely safe – is the way to go. Its 100% safe and you won’t get caught either. Do it for your future. For your family.

Let’s talk again when you`ve done your research.

If you want to be a troll about something, shouting loudly and doing it from the highest seat in the land, then perhaps you should be focusing on why you haven’t reached the same success in life.
Are you an expert in the field? Have you put everything into your training to get to your goals or have you moaned about the sessions you have missed and the weather and the stress of life?
Is the doping validating your mediocre approach to life? Because it’s not possible without the dope, without the cheating? Do you take the same approach to your job? To your relationship at home?

Where does it stop?

But you are heralding new champions, right? Read THIS before you continue.

While you`re at it, read THIS & THIS & THIS. Some interesting stuff in there.

Am I upset about doping in cycling? The answer is no. I never thought they were clean. I am too much of a realist of that and I have some stories that would shock you. Not read on a blog, but first hand experience with some really key people stuff.

Am I upset about an egomaniac threatening other riders’ wives, ruining other people’s careers because they dared to stand up and be heard? Am I upset about cover-ups and fraud? Am I upset at bribery, lies and sociopathic tendencies by one of the most talented sports people the world has ever seen?

Hell yes.

Am I tired of a thousand tweets on allegations and grabbing onto the latest headline?

Damn straight.

Am I seeing anything suggesting this is going to go away?


Convicted dopers are still running teams, managing athletes and the “system” of father-son trust, success and abuse will continue as long as there are suppliers and clients / managers and cyclists / criminals and broken souls.

But really, what is there to do about it? It’s forced me off Twitter for a few days as I check in once or twice a day so avoid being bombarded. I am doing my research wisely and looking for inspiration in a sport that I truly love. Road cycling is something I adore.

So what I am doing about it is riding my bike and redefining my own “what’s possible”. In 2013 I am going to attempt to ride 100 cols in 9 days through Italy. Simply because I love riding the bike. I am going to enter a few new races and search out new training routes, mountain bike parks and trail running routes.

I am going to get as humanly fit as possible for Challenge Roth 2013 and try and blow my expectations out the water there. Expectations of what is possible when you are a working athlete in a high-pressure environment that loves to train.

I am going to take more photos of riders having an absolute blast so that they can have the simplest joy in their riding.

I am going to organise rides like this:

The Rapha Continental: Tohoku from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Complex by design, simple by nature, a bike is nothing more than circles turning circles; it’s the human motor that makes it elegant. But no matter how far the bike is come, no matter how much you can already do, the pushing doesn’t stop; we still haven’t found the edge.

I am going to help organise absurd races that celebrate the world’s most efficient machine, powered by its most efficient animal. The bicycle – our noblest invention – will be the celebration.
If you are not going to make a difference, stop the incessant wining and justification going on around you. Be a part of the solution.

I want to stop talking about doping. I want criminals to be brought to justice. I want to celebrate riding my bicycle. If you want the same, please shout out and be heard…

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