Schadenfreude, No-Show and An Era Lanced
I don't do this a lot but when I have to I really have to. Last time was at the bike-show at NEC a couple of weeks back. Jules sensed I was about to lock and steered me like a friendly tug-boat to a quiet space behind all the stands and then took pictures of my pain, distress. What a pro.
We were at NEC because we were nominated for an industry award at a bash the previous evening for our Cyclefit School. In the event we were ignominiously defeated by Cycle-Scheme and then got drunk with Jason and Ian from Sigma.
I digress, but I was not in the best of moods when we stumbled down to the void off all things aspirational and beautiful that is the NEC. And within that it was very clear that the bike show was similarly disappointing in scale, scope and ambition. Surely a sexy industry like ours that is driving forward can do better than that?
And that is when my back went. Again. It was a perfect excuse to leave and swear never to return to the NEC for anything ever.
Where the NEC was a very disappointing show within a space that is a vaccuum of style. Eurobike is actually a gigantic show in an impressive space within the old Zeppelin factory in Friedrichshaffen. The catch being that Friedrichshaffen itself is not well served by any modern transport medium, hotels, restaurants or in fact anything. It is in fact a town by a lake in search of a reason to exist.
Hence Jules' idea that was leapt on by Guy from Pearson to drive to the show and camp; we would thereby in one strategy avoid all the horrendous traffic jams, fake bullshit Heidi hotels and Bavarian 'cuisine'. I agreed because I am weak and Jules and Guy were so pathetically excited.
The drive down was predictable - Jules fell sound asleep as soon as it got dark, Guy ate his own body-weight in Haribos and almost drove into a lake in a diabetic trance, I ended up driving up most of it with my glasses Eric Morcambe style because the lenses were scratched and it was the only way I could see out. Usless the pair of them. Spectacles and Jules and Guy.
It rained all the way down and all the way back and all the time we were there. And the more Duke of Edinburgh's Award it got the more Guy and Jules loved it. All I could muster was a frisson of Schadenfreude as Guy and Jules felt compelled to run around organising tractors and general logistics the more poseidon Adventure it all became. I felt no guilt sat in the car with the heater on while they ran around like a pair of faux Bear Grylls. I only half-opened one eye when the tractor towed us out.
I liked the show because it is a huge village of a thing. Lots of people with unusual dogs, fried chicken and curried chips for breakfast and millions of bikes and bike bits. The best bit of the show is the fact that fitting was everywhere and the real buzz theme of the industry. About bloody time everyone!
The worst bit is that the industry is going less niche and more mainstream. The problem is that many of the small companies have the imagination and passion to innovate and drive standards. If we are not careful we will end up with a couple of huge 'Foxcon-esque' giants making virtually every bike in the world. This is a problem on so many levels: cultural, diversity, local economies, technological, style and flavour. Look at the green picture above. I really have no idea where that is made but I am pretty sure Ugo De Rosa would have never rocked up to the world's bicycle show with a spelling mistake and lumpy paint 'back in the day'! It bothered me and it bothered Rohan Dubash as well when we met the Rouleur crew for lunch. It was the first thing we both mentioned. Standards everyone, standards.
Where something is from, who made it, using what materials, what they had for lunch and how they live is important because cycling is about heritage and culture. Life is about heritage and culture.
An Era Lanced
Not sure I want to stray too far into Planet Lance. Friends and family not heard of for years are contacting me by means I can't spell or understand, to tell me they feel betrayed by me. Betrayed because I dragged them into watching The Tour by my own obsession and enthusiasm. and now it feels hollow, shallow, deceitful and worse corrupt. Has it undermined a whole generation of viewing pleasure of professional cycling? Too soon to say. It would have been easier to preserve the sporting legacy and therefore viewing legacy if we knew they were all on drugs and at least on a level playing field. But they weren't and there are many unfortunate young and talented athletes whose dreams and potential were shattered by the systemic corruption. Witness Christophe Bassons who deserves a a mention and our collective respect for his courage and strength.
I still think that overall Lance had a positive effect in terms of legacy on cycling and of course the cancer community. I have sat in front of hundreds of clients over the last twelve years and I would say that at least a third have at some point in the session have cited that Lance is a significant factor in why they are cycling. Multiply that around the cycling community and the Lance-Factor is responsible for millions of people being front and centre loving cycling. Remarkable.
So the fall-out of Lance has been positive even if his actions and intentions were not. As I type I can hear my old friend Professor Atterton from San Diego State University Department of Philosophy fizzing on the end of his modem.
"Only actions with good intentions can possibly be construed as being wholly or even partly good" he will be screaming at the screen in his accent that has morphed into a laconic and polished intellectual burr shot through with a solid underbelly of Ray Winstone that betrays his Romford roots.
To the innocent viewer and new enthusiast these new doping revelations are horrible. To the rest of us - cheering super-charged freaks on after-burner, up climbs in the big-ring at speeds implausible twenty years ago, has long relied upon a collective denial on biblical scales to sustain our viewing pleasure. The complicity is complete - athlete, team, sponsor, share-holders, medical community and me the consuming viewer.