After the last few weeks, we at VeloVoices were feeling a bit jaded about all the news from the US. So we decided to revisit why we love the sport in the first place – a renewal of vows, so to speak. Over the course of today, we’ll be posting up our ten reasons why we love cycling. Here is Tim’s list, in no particular order!
1. Cycling is a beautifully aesthetic sport to watch. From the tourist porn of those helicopter landscape shots at the Giro, Tour and Vuelta to the technicolour blur of a speeding peloton to the flowing grace of a well-drilled team time trial, even the dullest race can still be a mesmerising visual spectacle.
2. Cyclists are tough. They ride in blazing sunshine, freezing cold and pouring rain. They ‘only’ ride for two or three hours on a rest day. They regularly push themselves to their physical limits, and beyond. They ride on with broken bones, or after being knocked over by a car and flung into a barbed wire fence. (Yes, you, Johnny Hoogerland.)
3. Cyclists feel like real people. They aren’t all earning as much in a week as the average fan does in a year. They’re accessible at races and on Twitter. They haven’t been media-trained to within an inch of their lives and are (mostly) happy to voice their own opinions freely and give good quote. Can you imagine any Premier League footballer regularly shooting the breeze as honestly and thoughtfully as a Cav or a David Millar? Of course not.
4. It’s a proper team sport. In general, only one man gets the glory but it simply wouldn’t be possible without the support and self-sacrifice of his teammates. All for one and one for all.
5. But it’s also a sport where great individual feats are possible. Think of Alberto Contador or Joaquim Rodriguez laying down the hurt on a steep climb, or the madness of a Thomas Voeckler long-range attack (and the tumultuous joy on the occasions when he succeeds), or Jens Voigt on any day, or the astonishing finishing burst of Mark Cavendish in chasing down a breakaway almost single-handed, as he did in Brive at the Tour de France this year:
6. The sheer variety of cycling races. Yes, tennis is played on grass, clay and hard courts. Golf courses vary, sure. But does any sport offer the kind of variation that cycling does? One-day races and three-week Grand Tours. Flat bunch sprints and excruciating high mountains finishes. The anonymity of the peloton and the ‘race of truth’ that is an individual time trial. Hour after hour in unforgiving 40-degree heat and on snow-covered mountains. Every race is different, truly different – not just variations on a theme.
7. The multiple races within the race. Not just the general classification, but the points and mountains competitions, and the quest for individual stage wins. I love the way that anyone – even a humble domestique or the last-placed rider on GC – always has an opportunity for individual glory in the right circumstances. Which means that …
8. … Cycling is gloriously unpredictable. It’s not always the most talented rider or the richest team which emerges victorious. A random mechanical, faulty tactics or just everyone else in the peloton ganging up on the favourite means that the winner on any given day is less predictable in cycling than in the vast majority of sports.
9. In its greatest moments, cycling is gladiatorial combat on two wheels. Set aside whatever you think personally of Lance Armstrong : ‘The Look’ is one of those moments of pure sporting theatre that transcend fandom. The kind of moment that even non-followers of the sport are aware of: the infamous Olympics men’s 100 metres final in Seoul, Andrew Flintoff sportingly consoling Brett Lee at the end of England’s two-run victory at Headingley during the 2005 Ashes, Liverpool’s ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ where they came from 3-0 down to win the Champions League final. Cycling is full of moments like these. Full of them.
10. Cycling fans are just about the most friendly, patient, supportive and yet fiercely passionate people you will ever meet at a sporting event. It’s like one big, happy (and occasionally inebriated and badly sunburnt) family. It’s the racing that attracts us to cycling in the first place, but it’s the people – fans and riders – who make us stay.