Thursday, 3 March 2011

My sentiments exactly.

It seems funny to me how my interest in cycling seems to be receding back into fandom. I have for many years rejected and point blank refused the idea of being a ‘fan’ of cycling.

Part of it, I admit was a need to be ‘cool’, as I was suddenly working alongside the men I had once put pictures of on my wall. Obsessing over the details of races that I wasn’t in – no longer seemed the thing to do.

Another part of it was that these ‘heroes’ I was suddenly rubbing shoulders with would often put me in the ditch, yell at me and anyone around them who they didn’t know and felt the need to intimidate, and generally behave like the arrogant arseholes that they were.

Sometimes it was even worse and they wouldn’t do any of these things, they would just show themselves to be completely normal blokes, something as a fan you can’t get your head around. I mean there must be something special about these guys (they can ride bikes fast, that is it, trust me).

So maybe it is a sign of my changing aspirations as a rider as I enter the twilight of my career, that when I read an article on cyclingnews the other day, I found myself doing so through the eyes of a fan again.

It was an article on Yoann Offredo – I tweeted it, as it was great, a really honest reflection of a young man cutting his teeth in the pro ranks. I liked it, and it got me thinking about how, if I were a fan of cycling, and any team in particular it would have to be Marc Madiot’s FDJ team.

In a world where personality is being sucked out through the PR machine and spat out as gormless corporate spiel, designed to tick boxes for sponsors instead of letting the opinions and thoughts of the actual athletes get out, it is refreshing to read about Madiot’s clan every now and again.

Here is a guy who runs his team the way he wants to, and has done for a while. A guy who claimed to sign Sandy Casar because of how aggressive the constantans in his name made him sound. A guy who openly purported to run a clean team (I think this is an impossible claim) long before it became quite so ‘in-vogue’. A guy who gets genuinely gets excited when his team wins stages of Paris Nice. Also a guy who, despite the pressure, actually stands up for banning race radios.

Now I’m sure Madiot has his faults, I think that Paul Kimmage in particular may feel a little put out by his anti-doping talks after the treatment that he gave Kimmage in A Rough Ride. It was Madiot’s comments after all that landed Bassons in such hot water with Lance Armstrong in 2009. Worst of all he also failed to sign me in 2003; something I’m working on forgiving him for.

Some faults though, in my mind, are good. They can be the spark that sets the flame of debate, disappointment and support. All the things that if I am going to actually become a fan of this sport again, I will really need.

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