Some thoughts on pro cycling

By which I mean, of course, professional road cycling. Like it or not where the “best” cyclists end up.

Cycling is one of my sports, and of the athletic activities at which I’ve become skilled and experienced enough to really be invested, cycling is far and away the most exciting. Watching competition climbing, for instance, is pretty boring even under the best of circumstances. And the ways in which road racing brings together the individual and team aspects of sport generally make it particularly compelling for me, as I’m often drawn up between those two extremes myself. Especially in a season like this, when the spring classics proved so interesting, and the Giro has thus far been living up to what a Grand Tour ought to be: full of suspense until the end.

Cyclists don’t make it easy for me to indulge whole heartedly in the sport. It’s quite sad to see the Floyd Landis saga enter yet another, and even more bitter, chapter. I hope Floyd has or will privately apologize to all the people who donated to his defense fund. I also hope he soon gets a measure of peace with himself. I’m sure he loved and loves riding his bike, and is probably a pretty good person. The last 3.8 years have to have been torturous for him.

In the end questions of doping bother me much less than questions of honesty. I suppose that, when I give in fully to cynicism/realism, I have to presume that all the top cyclists competing at a given time had comparable access to performance enhancing technologies; be they the best rims and tires or the best drugs. Insofar as that may be true, and insofar as doping does not categorically change the game (Lance Armstrong is a great cyclist, just as I am a nondescript one, irrespective of drugs), I must have the greatest sympathy for those who lied in public and by extension had to lie, at least a little bit, to themselves. Internal guilt and ressentiment is a heavy burden.

But watching cycling is still fun, for me, as the Cervelo TestTeam’s publicity machine has demonstrated. They’ve produced a fantastic series of Youtube films on the 2009 and now 2010 seasons, free for everyone to seek inspiration in. They stand out for the relatively small percentage of each actually devoted to racing footage, and while each is a potent marketing tool, they also give a psychological and personal insight into the sport which I find especially compelling.

This one is my favorite.

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