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Yesterday my friend, Calvin Jones, sent me an email about a lot of different stuff. It kind of addressed some of the stuff in cycling we’ve done together and the thoughts about those very experiences. About Guatemala, the Iron Curtain, pertaining to US racing and development.

It got me thinking about what is the difference between ethics and morals. Especially when using those words in relation to the sport of cycling. Obviously, we all have a huge difference in both those concerning the sport. There are certain things that seem okay to me that to others seem questionable.

I have one example that comes to mind. It is a small thing, but I still think about it often when I address bigger issues in the sport. Anyway, one year at Superweek, at The Holy Hill Road Race, there was a big crash in the race before the Pro 1/2 race, so we had to sit in the parking lot more than an hour, maybe two, before they got us off. (I think the rider died.) Anyway, I was talking to my team and told them that the whole race was going to be over between 30 minutes and an hour. It was close to 100 degrees and the wind was whipping. There was no shade at the start area, so we were all sitting there roasting.

The race started and it started fast. Anytime there is a ton of wind on a circuit race, that is going to be the case. We got to the 2nd side of the course and the wind was coming from the left. That put the majority of the field over the center line. Pretty soon, Heidi and the other officials following, stopped the race. They said something about if we crossed the center line again, they were going to have to cancel the race. I took Heidi aside and advised her she should just let us race a couple more miles. There was hardy any distance left before we turned into headwind and then after a couple more miles it was going to be in the gutter, thus the race was going to explode. Heidi did just that and it was all good.

I think Brian won that race and I was in a small group going for maybe 5th or so. I thought everyone else on our team had quit because we had a ton of people handing up bottles in the feed zone. At the finish, after the awards, I said we should take off. Someone said that a guy on our team, Tony Wilhelm, a big, corn fed boy from Nebraskan was still out there. It had already been a long while since we had finished, but the race is about 100 miles. Anyway, Tony comes rolling in not that long later. He was by himself. So we pack up and go.

That night I talk to Tony about the race. He ended up finishing 25th, the last paying place, but at Superweek that is hardly enough to buy a Coke. I asked Tony when he got dropped and he said right when they restarted the race after the officials stopped us. I said that wasn’t possible, because it wasn’t that far to the corner. He said that he hadn’t crossed the centerline. I said, “What? They weren’t enforcing the yellow line rule.” He said that it didn’t matter because it was against the rules and he wasn’t going to break the rule. I tried to explain to Tony that the center line rule in cycling is like a foul in basketball. Something that everyone does once in a while, but try not to get caught doing it. That if it came down to getting dropped out of the field, especially when it was so windy, and crossing the center line, then you had to cross the center line. He didn’t go with it.

He emphasized once again, that it wasn’t right and it wasn’t something he was going to do. I asked him if he sped on the highway and he said no. I was amazed. His ethics in this instance were way beyond something I was going to understand. I’d raced 1000’s of bike races and had only been disqualified once for this infraction, when I was a first year Senior, in Texas by Tom Boyden, bless his soul.

I haven’t seen Tony for a while now, he lives in Colorado, but our little conversation has made me look at lots of other things much differently. I even apply it sometimes to the drug use issue in the Pro peleton and try to somehow try to figure out some of the issues better. I have to thank Tony for that.

One of the reasons I like the sport of cycling is because there really aren’t that many rules to follow. A lot of the rules are for the riders safety. There are some out there that seem ridiculous, but in general, compared to other sports, most of the rules aren’t too subjective. I like sports where they blow off a gun and the first guy across the line wins, compared to sports where a bunch of judges sit there and tell us who was the best. Basketball is kind of in the middle of the two, with the officials in control of much of the pace of the game.

I was watching the Bjarne Riis video below and thought how surprised I was that he didn’t seem to feel any remorse for earning his nickname, Mr. 60%, pertaining to his hematocrit (limit now 50%). I felt badly for him. Badly because he isn’t a smart enough guy to realize that in today’s cycling world, publicly, you need to act remorseful for using drugs, because it is viewed as cheating. It might not have been viewed that way, in the sport, when he was winning races, but it is now and he doesn’t seem to get that. You would think a guy that has made such a good life for himself by cheating would at least appreciate how he made it to this point of his career and act accordingly. His ethics are obviously much different than mine.

Below is an awesome picture of my friend, Dan Hughes, winning the Dirty Kanza last Saturday. He sent me an email asking me about a dilemma he was having after the event. It turns out that Dan and the other guy in the picture, Rusty Folger, had made a deal, towards the end of the 200 mile race, to ride and finish together. I guess, Rebecca Rusch, the women’s winner, was privy to the conversation and didn’t approve.

I have no problem with their arrangement. It was made between the two of them out on the road. I have no idea what they had experienced together or what either of them were trying to accomplish, but the mutual agreement to finish together wasn’t cheating. There was nothing immoral about it. They both had their own reasons for wanting to do that and they did it. Case closed.

Some probably think I am completely wrong on this. I accept that. Many believe, that in an event where you blow the gun off and first rider across the line wins, you should duke it out until the last millimeter. But, it doesn’t always work out that way. It doesn’t make it wrong, it just makes it different. It’s not that cut and dry, so both of them will probably be mulling it over in their brains for a few weeks until it just becomes a memory. Or maybe they’ll send each other an email, 30 years later, and still be pondering it?

14 thoughts on “Ethics/Morals/Randomness

  1. Rad Renner

    Regarding the Dirty Kanza 200, it’s not your usual “race” anyway, so an agreement to finish together is perfectly in the spirit of the event. While I certainly congratulate Dan and Rusty on their very speedy completion of the 200 mile course, I know that every one of those who completed DK felt the same way that Dan did in that photo. Proud, elated, and very much thrilled. People finish DK to prove something to themselves, and while the finish order is important, it’s not nearly as important as just finishing. That’s why people stick around until 2:30am to see their buddies finish – it means something.

  2. Thom

    So how is two guys off the front of a race agreeing to ride it in together worse than half a road race that’s been dropped on the climbs agreeing to ride it in together? Most people have no problem with the sprinters hanging out in the autobus, why should there be an issue with the lead two guys riding in together at whatever speed they want to. If it’s deemed offensive to the race or the promoters because they “slighted” the spirit of a race then I guess every race will have to be a time trial format so that this never happens again. Sigh.

    BTW internet, the above is sarcasm. I have no issue with the guys riding in together. It happens all the time everywhere else in the race (middle pack, OTB, etc.) why not at the front.

  3. Formerly Jim

    What is Rebecca’s specific beef in this arrangement — sounds like normal racing to me, not a long individual tt.

    Tony…I grew up in Nebraska and never met anyone like him but the farmboys in the dorm would speak of his type like they were aliens, kind of a mixture of awe and pity.

    I admire Riis for not expressing remorse — he had to do what he had to do and his actions did not hurt anyone other than himself (physically). If he had expressed remorse that would indicate an emotional scarring which really isn’t in his makeup. Or maybe he’s suppressing and will become a shivering mess in his later years…

  4. Wildcat

    I knew a guy that raced for KSU that was like this “Tony” you speak of from Nebraska. Wouldn’t do ANYTHING he thought was wrong to any degree. Certainly not the norm for guys from around here. Although, we do have very strong values and while I do not believe in the bending of rules in general – when it comes to having a good time; nobody parties as hard as a country boy.

  5. K

    How is crossing the yellow line not cheating? Is it cheating if you cut the course on a circuit race, soft pedal and then tag on the back of the field? How is crossing the yellow line any different? You’re breaking a rule to use less effort. If you cut the course at least you’re not at risking an accident.

  6. sda

    Yep. That is the Tony we all know and love. I’m proud to call him a friend from my hometown (Lincoln) and super psyched to have him living in Fort Collins.

  7. Fields

    Here’s a question to stir up the mud:
    Did Dan Hughes and Rusty Folger commit a crime (or crimes) under Kansas law?

    See Kansas statutes, secs. 21-6507 and 21-6508.

  8. channel_zero

    Definitely wasn’t there, but Ms. Rusch says the pace was too much towards the end to hang on.

    “but the big rollers around mile 170 were just steep enough that pushing to stay with them might have put me over the edge. I had to do my own thing at this point and ride my own pace.”

    Maybe just asking Ms. Rusch directly would be better than “stirring the pot?”

  9. Dan Hughes

    In total fairness to Rebecca, whom I have tons and tons of respect for, her disapproval of the finishing order at the Kanza was totally based on “disappointment” for me not putting Rusty to the sword at some point along the run-in. Her perception was that I was stronger and she was bummed for me, her friend.

    That said, perception doesn’t always jibe with reality and Rusty and I were very evenly matched near the end, hence out agreement to ride it in together and get it over with. I have no problem considering Rusty the co-winner of the Kanza this year. It was nice to finish with someone, as opposed to a lonely slog.

    I certainly don’t want to risk the ire of Rebecca (because she’s really pretty sweet…even as she’s breaking you over her knee), and I don’t want to diminish the efforts of Rusty because he’s a strong, strong rider. Likewise, I’m grateful for Steve’s perspective and I wasn’t looking to “stir the pot” by asking him his opinion (mostly I wanted to see a photo of me on his blog…a photo where I didn’t look fat).

    In that spirit, perhaps we should set the whole thing aside as next year Cameron Chambers (or some other similarly fast honch) will come and mop the floor with all of us at the Kanza and make this all academic.

  10. Scott Dickson

    It is no surprise to me that Russ Folger was there to contest or broker the finish. Russ was a freshman at THE Ohio State University while I was the OSU cycling team coach in 1997. Always a great training partner, it was his willingness to take on new challenges that really impressed me. Hope to ride with him again next month on RAGBRAI.

  11. Jim Cummins

    For the record… I think what Dan and Rusty did was noble. Two racers, in different race categories, working together to assist one another… and themselves… in achieving an extremely difficult goal. Then, once that goal was in sight, embracing one another arm-in-arm as they approached the Finish Line. It was a true display of good sportsmanship, and a very special moment, evidenced by the roaring cheers from the crowd. As one of the Race Directors of Dirty Kanza 200, it was a moment I will never forget. Thanks, Dan and Rusty, for being such a special part of DK200 – 2012. Hope to see you both again in 2013.

  12. Seis_Pendejos

    K, do you understand the basis for the yellow line rule? It’s not to make the course shorter. As Steve said, many rules are for safety and this is one them. The idea is partially to keep racers and drivers safe by not letting racers potentially ride into oncoming traffic, force oncoming traffic off the road when they have the right of way, and to help race organizers by offering a viable alternative to shutting down a road completely for a closed course.

    The only cheating that occurs on a yellow line violation is advancing your position. Shortening the distance by crossing the yellow line is negligible and irrelevant. Rule 3B1.

  13. Trey H.

    Yellow-line violation is cheating. I can’t understand how it can be rationalized away…plain and simple it’s violating the agreed-upon rules of the game.


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