I feel partly responsible.
Everyone that knows me, knows I am a huge pro cycling fan. I wake up at the crack of dawn and post links to European races on Facebook so that every friend of mine can share in the excitement. It’s an amazing sport and exciting to watch, especially so, if you are a fanatic like me. I have crazy status updates on race day that can annoy anyone, specially fans who hate spoilers.
Pro racing in Europe has captured my heart since the early 2000’s. Lance Armstrong led the way for me to purchase my first ever road bike. This was followed by trips to Europe to see and experience real professional bike racing. Lance was that inspiration that got me into racing my bike. Many years have gone by as an amateur-master racer in the NorCal scene but through it all I was always a fanatic cycling fan. I even tattoo’d my left calve with the Lion of Flanders after watching the Paris Roubaix live in Belgium. Professional racers in my eyes have an exceptional work ethic, they train hard, make huge sacrifices to win and have the burning passion to get up every day to do it all over again. In many ways this inspired me and gave me motivation to train hard and get better. I admire their mental strength and ability to handle pressure throughout every season. To me, that is amazing.
To me, you are not a fanatic fan unless you can ID a rider by their cadence style. That is how much of a crazy fan I am. I loved it. I loved watching the professionals race everywhere, and anytime.
Just last year, I learned to love women’s bike racing. I began to know racers names and learned more about women’s teams. It’s wonderful to know that women’s pro racing is coming of age, and that real growth is possible. It’s a delight to have live coverage of local races as well as big European races. I was hooked. There are more women’s racing coverage, stories, and interviews that help me enjoy the sport. The races are as good, and many times, better than the mens events. It’s been an exciting year!
I feel fearful.
With all the news about professional men coming out to confess their doping I am feeling uneasy. I looked the other way and want to close my ears. As a fan, it’s hard to swallow this current reality. The world which has existed since the time I became a cycling fan, is not the world I fell in love with.
There are even women in the cycling that have been caught taking performance enhancement drugs, in Europe and close to home. I pushed it out of my mind because I wanted to support women’s racing. I quieted my mind of any kind of suspicion when big named racers such as Marianne Vos or Kristin Armstrong won a race by a huge margin. To me, they are awesome. I did the same watching the men’s peloton. I wanted to deny it and hope that I don’t wake up one day and read a confession or failed dope testing. I cheered on and hoped that there wouldn’t be any news about doping.
I feel that I am partly responsible, as a fan, along with sponsors and everybody else involved.
Sponsors sell products. Sponsors want results. This is how they market their brand. I don’t know if sponsors make sure that the athletes they support don’t do anything unethical or cheat. Sponsors don’t do that. They are there to sell their products. The more exposure they get, the better their sales will be. Fans support products with face time on a live coverage of a bike race or even images of professional cyclist promoting their products. Believe me, I am guilty of that 100%!
Change matters. This is the right time to work towards it.
I am going to be honest. I am heart broken, and I’ve committed something called “naiveness.” I felt fooled but at the same time, it is me who keep on supporting a great sport such as cycling. I am guilty of watching cheaters in the Tour de France win, cheering them on for days!
I am a woman biker racer, a huge fan, and am trying to resolve the feeling of uneasiness I get when watching a bike race. In an ideal world, everyone would be clean, but this is not an ideal world. I want to support the growth of women’s cycling. But I don’t want to support athletes who cheat either. I guess I can’t have the best of both worlds as a fan, however there’s always that hope.
I’ve interviewed a few very inspiring women in the pro peloton and it’s amazing to know more about their stories. Stories about how they got into the sport and how they worked hard to become a professional cyclist.
In the perfect world bike racing is not about sponsors, winning, or gaining power. Bike racing is more than that.
My new goal is to share how I experience bike racing with people. Professional cycling is about work ethic, team work, focus, overcoming adversity, being a role model, growing as an athlete, promoting that passion and living the dream.
I hope that moving forward to the future of women’s pro peloton (and men), that women become the catalyst for change. A change to represent clean bike racing at any level.
There’s always hope.
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