Monday, October 16, 2017

Opportunities missed

I wrote the post below on October 16th in response to another blogger's post about his departure from competitive cycling, and have been back and forth about publishing it. I published it that day, but quickly pulled it down. I'm still bothered by it. It churns through my head at every race that I've been to since reading this other person's words. And sometimes, that's good. It has helped me to re-evaluate why I'm there. Why I'm stealing time away from my family to ride bikes around in circles. Why I'm suffering through heat and humidity, cold and rain, frostbite and uncontrollable shivering. I'm still figuring it out, but I think it comes down to the people. This cycling community -- and more specifically, this cyclocross community -- is my tribe. We share something that can't be explained. We might not always agree, or even always get along, but we understand each other and we share a love of the effort, the journey, and, yes, perhaps a bit too much, the bikes. And with that, here's the old post:

Someone I've raced bicycles against the past couple years just posted his treatise on why he's "retiring" from competitive cycling. After assuring his readers that he doesn't judge them for not making the same decision as he, he writes about how competitive cycling is self-serving and self-aggrandizing and that he longs for a more "sustainable" lifestyle. Actually, he choses to use the phrases "self-promotion", "embellishment of the ego" and "selfish". This, after I've just read D.Lowe's thoughtful and touching piece and the resulting facebook comments about the cyclocross community and how it's really more like a family than anything else:
my goals in cross, some are not about the racing,
I got to the course early, and had a bit of nice extra time.
Pedaling around the parking lots, I got a chance to stop and chat

and listen, shake hands,
talk racing,
whomever I came across.
And while these people cherish the effort and the time spent together "on and off the bike", this retiring athlete has the gall to project his motivations on the community. You can never know exactly how another feels, but from his address, and I quote, "racing and trying to win races is nothing more than self-promotion and embellishment of the ego", it seems that for 38 years he may have been doing it for the wrong reasons. Others race for lots of other reasons that have very little to do with ego and winning. Many people line up every weekend with no thought of winning, but with every intention of putting forth their best self "on and off the bike". Some people race to have a measuring stick for their own personal improvement.  Some people race to have the motivation to stay fit. I, myself, fall into this category. I know when I am not racing, it is easier to let my diet slip, easier to have a few more beers or glasses of wine than I should, easier to shrug off a day of exercise if the weather sucks or if I just simply don't feel like it. Some people race to meet others who also love bikes and/or bicyclists and/or mud and/or beer and/or heckling and/or hand-ups and/or community and/or whatever. There are a whole host of reasons that people race, and I would argue that most of them are NOT "embellishment of the ego".

The whole thing rubs me the wrong way.

Please, tell me in the comments below, why do you race bicycles?

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