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by Matt de Neef
August 1, 2013
We’ve all had enough of the talk of doping in cycling. Sure, it’s important to have those discussions – burying our heads in the sand does no-one any good – but amid all the doom and gloom it’s important to reflect on just why we love this sport so much. I’ve played and followed many sports over the years but nothing has captivated in the way that cycling does. Here’s why.
Road racing has an incredibly rich history. This narrative has been well documented (and embellished) from day dot and out of it has come fascinating legends and folklore that continue to capture my imagination.
Who could forget the tales of Tom Simpson’s tragic death atop Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour de France, the story of Fiorenzo Magni riding stage 13 of the 1956 Giro with a broken collarbone, chewing on an inner tube tied to his handlebars for leverage, or Andy Hampsten epic ride through the ice and snow on stage 14 of the 1988 Giro to become the first non-European to win the race.
Every day history is being written right before our eyes. Chris Froome’s dominant win of the Tour de France all the way down to Taylor Phinney’s nail-biting win at the Tour of Poland.
And of course, I’m not even skimming the surface.
More than any other sport road racing is the perfect vehicle for great stories. At its heart road racing is an adventure — a journey from point A to point B in which anything can and will happen. The ups and downs — physical, emotional and topographical — the heroes and villains, the underdogs, the triumph over adversity, the mystique, the drama, the scenery, the elements, the legends and the myths.
Few sports are able to turn inanimate objects and geographical features into the stuff of legends, but in road racing this is a defining feature of the sport. The 21 switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez, the moonscape of Mont Ventoux, the cobbles of the Arenberg Forest, the shower block at the Roubaix velodrome, the Muur, the Champs Elysees, to name just a few.
And of course the allure of road racing extends well beyond the road. The politics, the corruption, the presidential races, the rivalries — all fascinating threads in the rich tapestry of the sport. You can’t make this stuff up.
To most of us, the riding itself is the most important part. Almost everyone rides a bike at an early age and there’s something about reclaiming that in our later years that makes us feel young again. It gives us a reason to catch up with our mates, the thrill of competition, the war stories, the next new gadget, the roadtrips, the sense of adventure, the incidental fitness, the loss of 20kgs, a strong community, something to get excited about. Exercise is no longer a chore.
It’s never made easy, but it rewards us with a rich life beyond anything else I’ve experienced.
Even with all its rough edges and controversy there’s never any doubt in my mind: cycling truly is the most beautiful sport on Earth.