I have had quite a few folks ask me recently what I think of this whole Lance debacle and I keep going back to my original thought that society’s appetite for sport has driven this cycling doping complex. Lance and drugs is not earth-shattering news. It is hard to stomach a former IRS investigator and now FDA investigator who is spending our hard earned money to take him down.
I was at the OTC when Rene Wenzal was giving minors cortisone and I was ostracized because I called bullshit on him and the program. If you really want to get to the root of the problem we need to recognize the fact that the sport has become too difficult. Grant Peterson nailed it when he said, "The weekend warriors look like amateurs, the amateurs look like pros, and the pros look like aliens." Where does that leave the pros?
I feel like it is a supply and demand. Now that everyone is so "linked" in to the global information systems, the days of sports figures having some anonymity or mystique are over. For example, we can read what routes Lance is training on and how many watts of power Levi is generating while out training in California or on some obscure road in Europe. We have up to the second feeds that showcase everything they do. Unfortunately, mortals like us take that information and expect that we should be posting numbers that are similar or at least try to emulate someone who pedals for a living. I find it fascinating that you can take a 50 year old physician who races on the weekends and can post a sub 50 min 40k time trial which happens to only be a few minutes slower than the greatest time trialist in the world.
What I am trying to say is that a lot of cyclists buy into the “I am a racer” attitude. This popular attitude does not leave room for riding for the sake of riding and letting the professionals be heroes. It was not that long ago that you did not know who was going to be at the big races and how they were going to perform. Indurain and LeMond would show up for the Giro 10 lbs over weight knowing it was acceptable to managers and owners. That would never happen now a days because of all the corporate pressure to sell the ideal product which is the “ professional cyclist”. There has been a bottom up push from consumers that has left the pros somewhere in the stratosphere regarding fitness and expectation.
If the UCI had a minimum salary it would help with some of the "survival" doping. For example, you have a guy who makes $30,000 per year and living and racing away from his family 200 days a year and he "finds" a way to make $130,000 per year which means he can move his family with him. Do you think that individual is thinking of morals? I would do a lot of things if it meant providing for my family. One of the best Inmate Firefighters I ever worked with used to say, "Hey Cap, if my kids ain't eating then I am cheating".
I am not saying that Lance needed the money but I can guarantee you that Stephen Swart and Frankie Andreau are not rolling in it. If they were in the NFL or MLB, they would have retired with some serious cash even if they were mediocre players. If the big 3 (football, basketball, baseball) had as many deaths and underpaid salaries as the UCI their unions would go absolutely sideways at the owners and corporate sponsors. Our buddy, Damon Kluck was bringing home less than 20K without health insurance while riding for the USPS Team and representing the US at the World Road Race Championships. One solid result at Paris Nice or Criterium International would have bumped his salary into the 6 figures. I am pretty sure that the feds did not step in and recommend a cost of living allowance for him when he was living on a shoe string.
Who is looking out for the Pros? I guess this takes me full circle to why we started the SW club. We wanted to start a club where we got back to the roots of it all and enjoy every opportunity to ride with friends and family. Don't get me wrong I like putting power to the pedals just as much as the next guy, but I enjoy the act of chamoising up and meeting friends and chasing new roads even more. We have created an environment at Steel Wül where you can ride ego free in the spirit of heroes and scenery and still have wasted legs at the end of the day. I challenge folks to honor the pros - not try to be one so that the 15 year old aspiring racers can have someone to beat. For the record, the Steel Wül model is healthier than the racing model, I can contest to that.
We would love to hear your thoughts!
Lets give the future a sport they can be proud of.