By Frank Moak
For more than 30 years I’ve seen the sport of cycling grow and change. I’ve been hooked since my first race as an adult back in 1981. It’s no secret that cycling is a very competitive sport. Unlike some other athletic competitions where you compete against your last best time, or like the Iron Man or even marathon, where your first goal is to finish, with cycling, if you aren’t first you don’t get a lot of satisfaction or recognition. Who remembers who came in second when Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France year after year? My point is that the competition is fierce and everyone is looking for something to give them an edge. For some of us, it is staying mentally tough and challenging ourselves to be diligent in our training that keeps us pushing the envelope. Loyalty to the team is another great motivator. And of course, the never ending supply of new talent nipping at our heels is a factor that keeps even seasoned racers like me staying on top of my training.
When people ask me what I think about the Lance Armstrong situation, I have mixed feelings. There is so much good that he has done for the sport that a part of me would have preferred that his record and reputation not have to be tainted. Through his promotion of cycling and his work with the Livestrong Foundation, he has done so much that is positive. He was a great role model for young competitors and gave so many people hope. Now, his name has become synonymous with cheating. I think that is a terrible shame. By the same token, however, cheating is cheating, no matter who does it, and those of us who love the sport and want it to be “clean,” are all for rules to keep competitive riders on the straight and narrow.
I hope that after all is said and done what will be remembered from this dark period in the history of competitive cycling is how much has been done to regulate and clean up the sport. I was watching the news the other day and there was a report about a pro football player who was suspended for four games for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. A cycler would have been suspended from competition for two years! A second offense would have resulted in his being out for life. I hope people will take away from all of this that as a sport, we are doing everything possible to discourage and catch the offenders so there is an even playing field for those who strive for excellence through hard work and perseverance, not shortcuts.
Those of us who love the sport of cycling talk a lot about how to get more kids involved. There is really no magic answer. For one thing, to get started racing can be expensive and that makes it prohibitive for a lot of young folks. We would love to see schools get involved and encourage cycling events, much as they do track and field, but with budgets strained everywhere, that is not likely to happen any time soon. My best advice for parents, who would like to see their kids get interested in cycling, is to take them to races. The more they are exposed to the sport the more likely they are to develop a lasting interest.
Cycling, like any other sport challenges us to dig deeper, train harder, reach further than we ever thought we could. Winning is great. Let’s face it, that’s why we’re out there race after race, but only when it is earned. Playing by the rules is another way to show respect for the sport and respect for ourselves. When we do that, even if we don’t come in first every time, we still are winners!