The Cycling Collective

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The sport of cycling is a collective. A collective of individuals from all over this planet that, mostly, have the same thoughts, desires, and visions of the sport.

This is one of the many things that drew me to the sport. I’m a pretty much individual type guy. Subjective or teams sports never attracted me much. But, cycling did and it was/is sort of a team sport. I think that too much emphasis is put on the team aspect now, but that is just because the abuse, that seemed to appear right at the same time as the all for one, one for all bike racing tactics appeared.

Anyway, I was reading Tyler Hamilton’s testimony from the Puerto thing in Spain and what really bothered me was his statement saying “we were all breathing through our noses.” after flying to Spain for a blood bag. I’ve seen way too many people breath out of their noses when I couldn’t get close to enough air through my mouth.

All these guys, these 100’s and 100’s of riders that broke the rules and cheated us all out of life experiences, aren’t part of the collective. They’d like to think that they are, or they might want to get back into the collective, but they, as individuals, thought of themselves first and didn’t take into consideration the consequences of what they were doing or what collective they were joining at the time.

Most of the Americans that have “went down” in all this doping saga, I know personally. And nearly all of them are nice guys. Most cyclists are, there are a few exceptions. I feel badly for these guys when they reminiscence about how they got into the sport and what is so beautiful about the sport to them. They forgot these things when they decided to cheat the collective. They became individuals at that point, or maybe they joined another collective, I’m not sure.

They forgot that cycling is a journey, not a destination. When they decided to fast track their careers, no matter how or why they came by that decision, they derailed themselves from the collective’s path. Their journey was over.

Now the all the individuals, or the members of the newly created collective, want to rejoin the original collective. Better than that, they want to lead our collective back from the edge, saying they have the knowledge and the experience to do just that.

I say the collective isn’t just a bunch of guys that have had the fortunate luxury to be able to race the Tour, the classics, etc., under false pretenses. The collective is much much bigger than that. It is a bunch of guys that get together to ride MTB bikes in 14 inches of snow, just because. It is the guy that commutes to work 20 miles each way, in tennis shoes, because he loves riding his bike and thinks that his actions are good for his children’s future. It is a bunch of old, fat guys that can name every climb in the 1981 edition of Flanders, or any year for that matter. It is all the guys that show up every Spring in Cassody, Kansas, for the Bazaar road race. Where the temperature is hardly ever 50, and the wind is blowing just about that hard. And the fields are burning so that the smoke blows across the road for long periods, racing for virtually nothing, when their form is just about the same. And doing it because they love the sport and are part of the collective.

The collective is much bigger than a bunch of prima dona bike racers, that decided individually (or maybe collectively somewhat), to go it on their own, to get the prize by dumping out all the Crack Jacks. These guys shouldn’t get to led the collective anywhere. They should just open up their little prize and realize what they did it for, a rub-on tattoo or junkie plastic trinket that doesn’t even work.

I think most of us are sick of these guys telling the collective that they were really that good and really didn’t need to do it to start with. That they need us just to give them a 2nd, maybe 3rd chance, and they will show us all how great of riders they really are. What they don’t realize, it is super easy to spot the guys breathing through their noses when the rest of us are gasping for air. They already got to their destination, while the rest of us are still on our journeys.


23 thoughts on “The Cycling Collective

  1. Jason

    Well said, Steve. All us weekend warriors love the sport and lifestlye benifits as a natural way to approach life. Too many of the old collective wanting to gaurd the hen house these days.

  2. SalRuibal

    You, Trudi and Bromont are what the sport is all about. The cheaters should not be allowed back in. They were willing to destroy cycling, their careers should be destroyed. Go back to being the wankers nature intended.

  3. Rsteve

    Lifetime ban for cheating. It’s the only way. Or prison time. Hope the shoulder is getting better.

  4. Bernd Faust

    If every kid would play in a teamsport , f.e. soccer (which i consider best choice), basketball, baseball, volleyball, waterpolo etc…..and you have a good coaching stuff which explains to the kids the technical/skill stuff of the game and the camararderie aspect etc….the benefits for society would be great no question…definetly less cheaters….or people with “mental problems”. Even a slow kid in a treamsport, coached wisely and excepted by his pals will become a great individual. This is far harder to achieve in individual sports like track, cycling ,swimming etc….I love cycling but if I had to make the choice to compete in a bikerace or play soccer with my best buddies, i play soccer. In my younger years I rode once with a friend of mine who was a top amateur cyclist (goalie in the game) to a friendly soccermatch , 50 mile trip. I played midfielder, tough day, happened only once. My friend Kunibert Bock who is a cycling legend in my homeregion is also a soccer and boxing fan. His son plays soccer (no interest in cycling) “goalie like dad but on the highest highschool level in germany, namely for a proteam “Kaisererslautern” where they recruit there on players from within.
    Teamsport first , cycling second-for the kids growing up!

  5. channel_zero

    I don’t know Steve. I think you are talking about two different sports/activities and the UCI is only interested in one of them.

    One sport has people that are doing the sport, not particularly interested in monetizing it. I’d lump commuters in here. Doping is mostly outside the mindset.

    The other sport’s only goal is to develop a show and generate wealth and power as a result of owning the show. Doping is welcome because of the great show it makes. This is the IOC/UCI sport.

    The doped athletes cannot be rehabilitated. Their internal life permits the cheating and lying over long periods of time. I would not trust them to hold my wallet.

    I don’t know if you have been following the coverage on velonation about Ashenden vs. the UCI. It has shown the bio-passport to be an elaborate and completely fake system. The IOC should be in serious trouble with this one. Why hasn’t the story gone to mainstream media coverage?

  6. Wildcat

    Awesome post! Very well said, and I love the Bazaar reference. Will you be there this year driving a wheel vehicle for Kris??????? LOL!

  7. Scott Cahow

    Thanks for a great post. The Handmade show sounds like a great place reconnect with some of the best artisans and cycling souls. Enjoy the trip and good luck with your recovery.

  8. Tony Fiorini

    Best wishes on your road to recovery, Steve. I’ve been reading your post for years now and never really got into the conversations but this one felt a little closer to home. That “collective” that you spoke of has always been my view on the activity of cycling. There’s never really been a grand attraction for me to compete. I was only ask to compete because at one point the local racing collective ask me to. It was fun for the 25 years or so but that part ran its course. That is not the reason why I still ride.
    Over the years cycling has been a very physical and sometimes even spiritual form a human expression for me. I’ve always thought riding well, skiing well or whatever, is an art form. For instance, I could never really dance , though my wife was a dancer and gave me a great deal of grief and chiding for not being one over the years. But when I finally learned how to ride a bike fast or ski and with some level of form, grace and efficiency I felt like a dancer. That was the thing I was looking for. The sights, the feeling of joy and even the pain experienced while on a simple ride have an intensity I have found no where else. I have never, ever considered the use of PEDs as a racer. That intensity and focus of body and mind was already there. It needed no enhancements. The majority of us do not need the artificial boost. They want something like art. That’s the “collective” I feel that rules our sport and I am proud to be a part of that. And I am glad you’ve have been part of that too (and a great spokesman). Get better soon, Steve. We need your bike-dancing artistry on the road and trails again.

  9. jim robinson

    Good post, Steve. Unfortunately, crapping on the collective, whatever that collective is, is pretty much the human condition.

  10. Chris Ronan

    Steve – Extremely good post.

    No way would you remember me, but I remember you. A guy named Chris Hipp took me under his wing and showed me the light. He was generous, talented, prickly, and very clean. One of my first races with him was the fastest race I’d ever see in all my years of racing.

    It was Beauty and the Beast in east Texas somewhere in the early 1990’s. Coors Light, and a bunch of other pro’s. My buddy Wes Keeton and I always talk about the speed of this race. Everyone figured Coors would win. But we finished that race, 100k, in one hour and fifty nine minutes. I was astonished by the speed.

    There was some hubbub after the race about who won. Was it someone from Coors? Nope. Wes and Chris told me it was Steve Tilford. In my youthful astonishment all I could say was, “who in the hell is Steve Tilford?”

    Your winning that race never surprised our more experienced buddy Hipp. I remember years later driving around the country to races with him and how he’d tell old stories about the legends from the mid west. He always said you were a bad ass.

    Steve that was an amazing win. Certainly made an impression on us younger riders.

    Love your blog. Keep up the great work.

    Chris Ronan

  11. Bernd Faust

    Tony, 2 thumbs up! All good things come in 3! If you have the cycling, skiing (alpine, crosscountry is great too) and the best of them “Dancing”. you are the man!. I haven’t been skiing for 20 years now, i skied a lot as a kid with real old equipment on selfmade slopes in the Hunsrueck Region of Germany, from my 20th thru my 31st year in the german and austrian alps. After skiing, apres skiing = Beer and Dance. Dance was always a part of skiing, i would like to see that after bikeraces……
    I wonder and i doubt that all those poor soul cheating bikeracers can dance..I believe if they would be Dancers they would not dope, ask your wife! “Great to have a wife who is a dancer, once again Tony you are the MAN!

  12. The Cyclist

    First u ride 100 miles. Then u go to a rave till sunrise. Then u go for a ride to wind down. Then u r done.

  13. The Cyclist

    Life is a bitch. And then we all die. Collectively. Not sure who wins this and why, but I’m pretty sure we all lose in the end. So let’s enjoy it while we can. Live, and let die.

  14. Jim C

    Great post, Steve. I have read a lot of commentaries on this issue these past few months, as have most of us in the Collective. Some of these other commentaries have been spot-on… some not so much. Some have been eloquently written… some not so much. But your post here is hands-down the best one I have come across. I have always enjoyed and appreciated your real-world, no nonsense writing. But this just might be your best post ever. Thanks, Steve.

  15. Larry T.

    I dunno. Rather than simply throw these guys away, why not (one way or another) get them to share how and why they cheated? With that information the sport can improve, if in no other way by getting rid of the crooked docs, managers, sponsors, etc. that have either looked-the-other-way or worse, facilitated this fraud for far too long. We need a totally independent anti-doping body and a lifetime ban for those caught with banned substances in their samples or nabbed via other ways as has been demonstrated. The ONLY way a lifetime ban gets reduced (whether it’s a rider, doc, manager, etc) is if the cheater names EVERYONE involved and cooperates fully with the investigation. Certainly that person may face some scorn upon return, but eventually the cheaters will either a) be banned for life, therefore no longer an issue or b) racers who cooperated with the investigations who will not likely seek retribution against someone who did the same thing they did (cheated and then ratted out the others) so eventually the omerta is destroyed. So the “collective” can be all those you mentioned plus the ones who lost the plot BUT came back to help others avoid the same fate. Those who are uninterested in helping or offer some half-assed, self-interested baloney can simply be discarded…no longer part of the “collective” in any meaningful way. Sadly I think the current poster-boy of cycling cheats will be in this latter category…but THAT is up to him.


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