Show some humility.
What is it about bike racing that breeds selfishness? Are we just a sport populated by well-to-do, mostly white, mostly spoiled kids who live a sheltered life of titanium and carbon? I have interacted with a number of fast racers in my cycling tenure. While I have met many amazing, interesting, humble riders, I am usually left with the same reoccurring question at the end of the day. Do these guys care about anyone but themselves?
I’ve kept quiet about the sickening pretentiousness of upper-tier cyclists. This is my appeal to bike racers everywhere. Shed your sense of self worth and consider that your struggles in the face of the local Cat 2 field are important only as much as they make you a better person. Your wattage, your bikes, your results, they matter but likely do not define your existence and surely do not justify your conceit.
I have a treasure chest of examples of cyclists whose selfishness makes me cringe. My family once hosted a few guys from Columbia University who ate our food, dirtied our sheets and towels, pissed on the side of my house, and forgot to say any kind of thanks after it all. I have hosted bratty (but oh so promising!) junior riders who cared too much about their cycling development to share gratitude for the free housing and personal inconveniences. I have raced the collegiate scene for six years, during which I’ve seen many A riders who are just too fast to get up early and cheer for their slower teammates. I raced for four years with a guy named Andrew who never once asked me how my race went. Andrew had thousands of dollars worth of carbon TT equipment and all the cycling entitlement in the world. He also had a team who couldn’t give a shit if his threshold improved by four watts or if he won the race.
Today I was blown away by a blog post from a past ECCC champion about the first weekend of racing this year. I can’t help but cite a few choice quotes, at the risk of breaking anonymity. I’ve never met this guy personally. He is very fast. He is probably genuine and well-intentioned. Yet, all we get is a pretentious air of elitism. About his unique bamboo bike he writes,
…it attracted such incredible crowds of people that I could barely warm up for my races!
I was there. This was just not true. Next, he humbly says,
I personally had great sensations and am clearly the strongest in the field.
Oh really? That’s nice to hear (he did not win any of the races). Even if he was holding back, or not peaking, or whatever reason you want to put forward, what is the point of saying this? Hey everyone, I’m so fast that I could have beaten you if I wanted!
Finally, he sells us this gem of untruth,
Bamboo is just an amazing material because nature has found a way to optimize stiffness, strength, durability, and pliability over millions of years of evolution.
Ummm, no. Bamboo is “optimized” by evolutionary pressures to grow more bamboo. Bamboo does not care about bicycles. There is no a priori reason to assume bamboo gives a rat’s anus about the demands put on a bike frame. But I digress; we’re getting off topic…
I am continually amused at the number of semi-pros, elite amateurs, and self-professed awesome riders who maintain blog shrines to themselves. These blogs can be identified by tables of personal wattage conquests, self-centered race/training babbling, and the distinct feeling that nobody is reading them. To be clear, I’m not against setting personal goals, tracking progress, and sharing training thoughts with the world. I am against boring posts, inflated egos, and the thinking that going fast somehow qualifies one to be a pompous ass.
I love cycling and am anything but bitter about the people with whom I share the activity. Yet there persists an ugly hubris amongst its upper ranks. These people forget that fitness is frail and a privilege. They have forgotten, or never experienced, what it is like to get dropped from every race one enters. They operate under the disillusion that the world watches their threshold power progress with bated breath. Their passion for the sport is wed to a desire to accumulate gear and count kilo Joules.
I’ll end with a quote from the website of a successful professional rider and convicted doper who once stayed at my house. His website puts forth this quote from Thoreau,
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
And don’t forget to wear your palmares on your sleeve.