The Power of Sport

Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the human race.

HG Wells

The world is a strange place. Our planet is more globally connected than ever before where our differences are measured by increasingly smaller margins, yet they represent apparently unbridgeable chasms. The horrific events in Paris and elsewhere around the world emphasize this point, and the resulting political responses make us seem as though we were magnets held at opposing poles: the closer we are held together, the more fiercely we are pushed apart.

In this world of increasing violence, the world of sport appears to be a uniquely unifying force. This first struck me at the Whistler Olympics in 2010. People of every religion, ethnicity, and political view came together harmoniously in the spirit of international competition; there was no question of politics or religion, only a shared excitement for the events taking place around us. Having spent loads of time in Whistler before the Olympics, it was striking to feel the contrast between how the village normally felt, and the radiating energy and spirit of goodwill that permeated everywhere. This alone was inspiring well beyond the the performances of the athletes themselves; it is this global spirit of community that is unique to sport.

Terrorism takes place all over the world, with a frequency so staggeringly high that we tend to become shamefully numb to it so long as it doesn’t affect an area we have a personal connection to. At that point, the bubble of isolation and abstraction we built around ourselves comes crashing down and we’re left with the tangible reality that we are at the mercy of chance.

As many of you know, I attended the Rouleur Classic this past week in London. I must confess that the size of London, its proximity to France, it’s own history of attacks, and the recent airline bombing gave me a certain degree of consternation at my impending trip. But once I arrived, I was once again overwhelmed by the incredible atmosphere that these sorts of events can bring; within the walls of the Rouleur event, people from all over the world were united – brought together by a common and unshakable passion for Cycling. Personal differences that might otherwise represent tangible obstacles to friendship were instantly swept aside by an unshakable sense of community.

The world today is an intimidating place, but I am buoyed by my faith in sport and Cycling in particular to find a way to bring us together. For me, Cycling will always bring unity. VLVV.

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72 Replies to “The Power of Sport”

  1. cycling,drink, and food has the power to bring us all together. the only solution is more biking, more drinking, and more eating.

  2. Great article Frank. Cycling really seems to be a firm foundation for so many people.

    You’re almost having me not disliking the people I follow on strava as much as I do.

  3. @frank

    Terrorism takes place all over the world, with a frequency so staggeringly high that we tend to become shamefully numb to it so long as it doesn’t affect an area we have a personal connection to. At that point, the bubble of isolation and abstraction we built around ourselves comes crashing down and we’re left with the tangible reality that we are at the mercy of chance.

    This!

    I was somewhat chastised by a mate after the Paris attacks for wearing my Rapha ” hell of the north” shirt with the french flag on the sleeve, and not one with a dozen other countries flags where atrocities are taking place, somehow the above sums up the way I felt.

    Oh. and can I now send my copy of the Rules to you to get autographed ?  Now that you roll with royalty !

  4. @Rusty Gramm

    cycling,drink, and food has the power to bring us all together. the only solution is more biking, more drinking, and more eating.

    !!!!!!!

  5. I find that if someone I meet is a cyclist, they instantly get the benefit of the doubt that they are not an asshole. Everyone else, starts off being and asshole, and has to prove they are not.

  6. EBruner. I feel the same way! The VMH thinks I’m too cynical and judgmental, and she’s probably right.

    Good piece, Frank. I begin most days riding a bike, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I also play soccer twice a week and running around for two hours with guys from 25-71 (no joke) gives me an immense amount of pleasure. It’s a simple game, like cycling, but it’s also amazingly complex, like cycling. I love both of them for what they provide. As easy as it is to let life become rote, with a 9-5 job, cycling and soccer give my weeks a pattern, a purpose, and some sheer joy.

    The VMH rents out our spare room via the trendy airbnb. Last week we had a guy from Beirut. He told us the recent bombings were 30 km from his lifelong home. That really put things in perspective, how many people live in places with frequent violence. We pulled out the atlas…gosh, Syria to the north, Israel to the south. Talk about being sandwiched between two places that would make you feel uneasy.

    And I thought my life was stressful sometimes…

  7. it’s a brilliant commonality, and the perfect leveller, I don’t like every cyclist but I will suffer with anyone.

  8. Terrorism takes place all over the world, with a frequency so staggeringly high that we tend to become shamefully numb to it so long as it doesn’t affect an area we have a personal connection to. At that point, the bubble of isolation and abstraction we built around ourselves comes crashing down and we’re left with the tangible reality that we are at the mercy of chance.

    This here, sad but true.

    Sports unite. In most cases.

    Until the fans become, … well a rioting mob, as seen so many times here in Europe, and that even crosses national, religious, or any other boundaries.

    Cycling, on the other hand (and some other sports, of course), is different. Camaraderie on the road, and willingness to help a fellow cyclist stranded on the side of the road, really brings hope for the human kind. If but for a moment.

  9. Sport mirrors the rest of life in one important aspect – you get to accept which things you can and which you cannot control. In sport you are forced to do that. Choosing to do that in the rest of life makes it a whole lot easier.

  10. Well said, Frank.

    Too much of society is focused on “Me, me, me, my, me, what makes *ME* unique and special”.  Then, you look at what was said about the Olympics (and the Rouleur Classic), makes one realize that while having a specific identity is important, it’s the things common among many that tie us together.  To form that ‘bond’, so to speak, with one another.

  11. It’s hard to hate people, individuals or groups, when you both love the same thing.

    It’s even harder to hate someone when you’re both grovelling in the dark at the back of the pain cave.

  12. News coming in of a hostage drama and gunfire in Roubaix. These swine are fucking with our heritage. Hope no one is killed…

  13. Sagan after winning the Worlds:

    I was finding motivation in the world.

    I think it’s a big problem, with Europe and all this stuff that’s happening.

    I want to just say, because this was very big motivation for me; I want to win today and say this thing:

    The population in the world – we have to change, because in the next years, can be all different.

    And also I think this competition, and all the sport, is very nice for the people, and we are motivation for the people.

    And I am hoping we can do the sport, next years and in the future, because the situation is very difficult.

    Then I want to say all the people: change this world.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2YKrh4ZK50

  14. @Oli

    News coming in of a hostage drama and gunfire in Roubaix. These swine are fucking with our heritage. Hope no one is killed…

    Just seeing that now. Initial reports that it may be part of a bank robbery. Regardless, hope no one is killed or injured.

  15. @chris

    Me and Donald Trump both love food, but I have to admit I find it hard not to hate him.

    There are plenty of cyclists I can’t stand, also. Commonality is one thing, liking a dick because he happens to ride a bike too is quite another. There’s nothing more bullshit than the idea of forced fellowship.

  16. @chris

    @oli

    Assholes are assholes. Just because you ride a bike doesn’t make you one nor is it an excuse for being one.

  17. @chuckp

    So many newbies with all these fondos and charity rides not to mention all those other sport types jumping on the road cycling bandwagon over the last 15 years.

    It was much better back in the 90s than it is today. Back when everyone was dropping the road bike for the new mountain bike scene roadies were much more of a real brethren thing, that is gone now.

  18. @Oli

    @chris

    Me and Donald Trump both love food, but I have to admit I find it hard not to hate him.

    There are plenty of cyclists I can’t stand, also. Commonality is one thing, liking a dick because he happens to ride a bike too is quite another. There’s nothing more bullshit than the idea of forced fellowship.

    I wasn’t suggesting swapping spit in the shower and of course there are going to be dicks like Trump but at worst there are probably a few people that we ride with that we wouldn’t have much to do with otherwise even if only because we move in different circles.

  19. @Chipomarc

    @chuckp

    So many newbies with all these fondos and charity rides not to mention all those other sport types jumping on the road cycling bandwagon over the last 15 years.

    It was much better back in the 90s than it is today. Back when everyone was dropping the road bike for the new mountain bike scene roadies were much more of a real brethren thing, that is gone now.

    I agree. Late 80s/early 90s is when I came of age in road cycling/racing. Some things are the same (both good and bad). A lot of things are different … like the whole MAMIL phenomena. As someone who just came back to the sport last year, what I noticed most was that there were a lot of people who were physically good/strong riders but who didn’t know how to ride. And they weren’t necessarily newbies, but maybe newbies to group riding. One of the things I do is try to help them along (at least those that want the help).

  20. @Chipomarc

    @chuckp

    So many newbies with all these fondos and charity rides not to mention all those other sport types jumping on the road cycling bandwagon over the last 15 years.

    It was much better back in the 90s than it is today. Back when everyone was dropping the road bike for the new mountain bike scene roadies were much more of a real brethren thing, that is gone now.

    If I could re-publish newsletters from my old club/team, it would be like reading the prequel to the Velominati. :-)

  21. I read a great article about Ivan Basso in this months Cyclist. I can’t quote verbatim but he was basically saying that Cycling has made him a better man. I feel the same, Mrs G knows instinctively when I need to hit the bike and will forcefully order me out on a ride on occasion, knowing that I’ll come back settled, knackered and with sense of perspective back in check; a better man than the one who left a couple of hours earlier. It’s healthy to remind ourselves just how grateful we should be to Cycling.

  22. @chris

    @Oli

    @chris

    Me and Donald Trump both love food, but I have to admit I find it hard not to hate him.

    there are going to be dicks like Trump…

    There ALL assholes, he’s just more open about it.

    (I was going to write “haters gonna hate” but since my street lingo hasn’t progressed past late 1970’s white dude jive, I have no idea what that means and “chump want no help, chump get no help” didn’t seem to make any sense).

  23. @Ccos

    @chris

    @Oli

    @chris

    Me and Donald Trump both love food, but I have to admit I find it hard not to hate him.

    there are going to be dicks like Trump…

    They’re ALL assholes, he’s just more open about it.

    (I was going to write “haters gonna hate” but since my street lingo hasn’t progressed past late 1970’s white dude jive, I have no idea what that means and “chump want no help, chump get no help” didn’t seem to make any sense).

    fixed the grammar (apologies).

  24. @gilly

    I read a great article about Ivan Basso in this months Cyclist. I can’t quote verbatim but he was basically saying that Cycling has made him a better man. I feel the same, Mrs G knows instinctively when I need to hit the bike and will forcefully order me out on a ride on occasion, knowing that I’ll come back settled, knackered and with sense of perspective back in check; a better man than the one who left a couple of hours earlier. It’s healthy to remind ourselves just how grateful we should be to Cycling.

    Hear hear. I had a Grand Canyon sized load of stress in 2012 and 2013. Had I not had the bike and had to seek solace in something else, I’d be so messed up right now I don’t want to think about it.

    I hear the other comments re niche sport versus wider popularity. Both have their plusses and minuses.I hit the Scottish TT scene in the 80s. It was wonderful. With all the increased traffic and the destruction of many courses now, I doubt it’s as much fun. When I rode, the stakes/winnings were so paltry you had to do it for fun.

  25. @gilly

    I read a great article about Ivan Basso in this months Cyclist. I can’t quote verbatim but he was basically saying that Cycling has made him a better man. I feel the same, Mrs G knows instinctively when I need to hit the bike and will forcefully order me out on a ride on occasion, knowing that I’ll come back settled, knackered and with sense of perspective back in check; a better man than the one who left a couple of hours earlier. It’s healthy to remind ourselves just how grateful we should be to Cycling.

    Snap. Very similar situation in the Muur household. She can read the signs and fair play to her for that.

    I definitely consider cycling as – among other things – a form of meditation. Not too long ago, my doctor asked me “what do you think about when you’re on the bike?”. I took a moment or two to ponder on the question. “Nothing”, I replied.

    Some call it Zen, some call it mindfulness, I call it cycling. Without it I would be an angrier, lesser man.

    VLVV

  26. @DavyMuur

    I definitely consider cycling as – among other things – a form of meditation. Not too long ago, my doctor asked me “what do you think about when you’re on the bike?”. I took a moment or two to ponder on the question. “Nothing”, I replied.

    Some call it Zen, some call it mindfulness, I call it cycling. Without it I would be an angrier, lesser man.

    VLVV

    On long rides I like to have well done cycling music running through my head

  27. @nowave7

    Terrorism takes place all over the world, with a frequency so staggeringly high that we tend to become shamefully numb to it so long as it doesn’t affect an area we have a personal connection to. At that point, the bubble of isolation and abstraction we built around ourselves comes crashing down and we’re left with the tangible reality that we are at the mercy of chance.

    This here, sad but true.

    Sports unite. In most cases.

    Until the fans become, … well a rioting mob, as seen so many times here in Europe, and that even crosses national, religious, or any other boundaries.

    Cycling, on the other hand (and some other sports, of course), is different. Camaraderie on the road, and willingness to help a fellow cyclist stranded on the side of the road, really brings hope for the human kind. If but for a moment.

    You bring up a great point; I’m not sure true “team” sports do much uniting across team boundaries as your remark illustrates. That makes Cycling, Skiing, and other Winter Olympic sports unique that way.

  28. @edster99

    Sport mirrors the rest of life in one important aspect – you get to accept which things you can and which you cannot control. In sport you are forced to do that. Choosing to do that in the rest of life makes it a whole lot easier.

    Spot the fuck on. A great example of how sport puts in place the framework from which we live out our lives; it is such a simple world that allows us to build the context we need to understand the rest of this complicated world.

    @rhods

    Shouldn’t all feelings of consternation be immediately squashed by a healthy dose of Rule #5?

    Yes, that and Rule #43.

  29. @Oli

    News coming in of a hostage drama and gunfire in Roubaix. These swine are fucking with our heritage. Hope no one is killed…

    I hear tell it was a robbery gone wrong, which is not unbelievable given what I know of the state of Roubaix. But to the larger point, Robbery or terrorists, it is still awful beyond comprehension. Fuck.

  30. @Oli

    I just heard today that a young man named Max who I met on the Seattle Book Signing Ride last year decided to dedicate his life to helping under-developed countries gain access to affordable food and aide. He travelled to Tanzania with his girlfriend and on the first night there, he was murdered by a group of guys who first mugged him (he gave them all he had) and then attacked his girlfriend at which point he intervened and was stabbed to death.

    The world can be an impossibly cruel place.

  31. @Oli

    @chris

    Me and Donald Trump both love food, but I have to admit I find it hard not to hate him.

    There are plenty of cyclists I can’t stand, also. Commonality is one thing, liking a dick because he happens to ride a bike too is quite another. There’s nothing more bullshit than the idea of forced fellowship.

    I agree to a certain extent; at the same time, if I’ve suffered alongside someone for a few hours, there is some common ground.

    But, of course…

  32. @Chipomarc

    @chuckp

    So many newbies with all these fondos and charity rides not to mention all those other sport types jumping on the road cycling bandwagon over the last 15 years.

    It was much better back in the 90s than it is today. Back when everyone was dropping the road bike for the new mountain bike scene roadies were much more of a real brethren thing, that is gone now.

    That is the fundamental responsibility we have as Velominati: We have an obligation to guide the uninitiated. Sure, the sport is more popular now and more people are getting into it, but I would never want to deny these people the incredible experience that Cycling can bring. Them being uninitiated is not their fault.

  33. @gilly

    I read a great article about Ivan Basso in this months Cyclist. I can’t quote verbatim but he was basically saying that Cycling has made him a better man. I feel the same, Mrs G knows instinctively when I need to hit the bike and will forcefully order me out on a ride on occasion, knowing that I’ll come back settled, knackered and with sense of perspective back in check; a better man than the one who left a couple of hours earlier. It’s healthy to remind ourselves just how grateful we should be to Cycling.

    This.

    @Chipomarc

    @DavyMuur

    I definitely consider cycling as – among other things – a form of meditation. Not too long ago, my doctor asked me “what do you think about when you’re on the bike?”. I took a moment or two to ponder on the question. “Nothing”, I replied.

    Some call it Zen, some call it mindfulness, I call it cycling. Without it I would be an angrier, lesser man.

    VLVV

    On long rides I like to have well done cycling music running through my head

    In your head, but not listening to headphones, right?

  34. @frank

    I don’t race any more, but there are a few guys that I suffered alongside in many a hard race back in the day who I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. There are even one or two I wouldn’t let ride alongside me in those races, let alone training, but then again I am a cunt.

    Sometimes the only common ground is the road you ride on.

  35. @Oli

    @frank

    I don’t race any more, but there are a few guys that I suffered alongside in many a hard race back in the day who I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. There are even one or two I wouldn’t let ride alongside me in those races, let alone training, but then again I am a cunt.

    Sometimes the only common ground is the road you ride on.

    Fair enough, on all counts. And I include in that the cunt count. (hee hee)

    @Oli

    @frank

    Man, that’s so sad. Poor guy. RIP

    Was his girlfriend okay?

    She’s alive and well from a health perspective, but riddled with guilt and feeling the brunt of her boyfriend’s family’s grief. Again, this is not a fair world.

  36. @frank

    @Chipomarc

    @chuckp

    So many newbies with all these fondos and charity rides not to mention all those other sport types jumping on the road cycling bandwagon over the last 15 years.

    It was much better back in the 90s than it is today. Back when everyone was dropping the road bike for the new mountain bike scene roadies were much more of a real brethren thing, that is gone now.

    That is the fundamental responsibility we have as Velominati: We have an obligation to guide the uninitiated. Sure, the sport is more popular now and more people are getting into it, but I would never want to deny these people the incredible experience that Cycling can bring. Them being uninitiated is not their fault.

    It’s part of why I ride and why I’m happy to be back riding after 15 some odd years away from it. There was always a part of me that mentored new riders/racers. In fact, it was one of the “core values” of the club/team I founded back in the 90s.

    Speaking of the uninitiated, here’s a great article on the subject by my good friend Maynard Hershon (one of the best cycling writers/journos ever).

    http://www.bicyclepaper.com/articles/587-A-Few-Suggestions

  37. @Oli

    @frank

    I don’t race any more, but there are a few guys that I suffered alongside in many a hard race back in the day who I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. There are even one or two I wouldn’t let ride alongside me in those races, let alone training, but then again I am a cunt.

    Sometimes the only common ground is the road you ride on.

    Word. I have no desire to keep the company of assholes … either on the bike or off.

  38. @frank

    @Oli

    I just heard today that a young man named Max who I met on the Seattle Book Signing Ride last year decided to dedicate his life to helping under-developed countries gain access to affordable food and aide. He travelled to Tanzania with his girlfriend and on the first night there, he was murdered by a group of guys who first mugged him (he gave them all he had) and then attacked his girlfriend at which point he intervened and was stabbed to death.

    The world can be an impossibly cruel place.

    So incredibly sad and tragic. My condolences to his family. And I hope his girlfriend recovers from the trauma and injuries inflicted.

  39. @chuckp

    @frank

    @Chipomarc

    @chuckp

    So many newbies with all these fondos and charity rides not to mention all those other sport types jumping on the road cycling bandwagon over the last 15 years.

    It was much better back in the 90s than it is today. Back when everyone was dropping the road bike for the new mountain bike scene roadies were much more of a real brethren thing, that is gone now.

    That is the fundamental responsibility we have as Velominati: We have an obligation to guide the uninitiated. Sure, the sport is more popular now and more people are getting into it, but I would never want to deny these people the incredible experience that Cycling can bring. Them being uninitiated is not their fault.

    It’s part of why I ride and why I’m happy to be back riding after 15 some odd years away from it. There was always a part of me that mentored new riders/racers. In fact, it was one of the “core values” of the club/team I founded back in the 90s.

    Speaking of the uninitiated, here’s a great article on the subject by my good friend Maynard Hershon (one of the best cycling writers/journos ever).

    http://www.bicyclepaper.com/articles/587-A-Few-Suggestions

    For newbies that have an income they can always hook up with a World Class Pro Rider’s training camp in a nice warm area for some group riding and coaching.

  40. A day early.  And even if you’re not American and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.  Eat (turkey), drink (wine), ride.

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