Cycling is a paradoxical beast of a sport. Lately it’s been tagged “the new golf”, and sure enough, in any well-to-do, SUV-dominated, gated-community-overrun suburb in the US-of-A, you are likely to see cyclists—mostly male, mostly past 40, mostly riding bikes that cost more than any 1st year professional bike rider’s car.
And yet professional cycling at the world class level is still, in many ways, a blue-collar trade, albeit a relatively glamorous one. Sean Kelly famously chose to be the hardest working rider of his era because, he said, it was preferable to working the family farm, digging potatoes. Many riders have avoided careers as coal miners, sign painters, and day-laborers for the romantic pursuit of sport.
In the present era, though, this everyman quality of cycling is easily eclipsed by the zillions of dollars spent on equipment, team buses, wind tunnel testing, doping, fighting doping, fighting about doping, etc. And to me, there is something a little obscene about seeing top professionals training out on the road for 5 hours with a car following behind, burning at its least efficient rate. Yes indeed, there are more than a few paradoxes to professional cycling.
There are more than a few paradoxes about Graeme Obree, as well, but most of that is a story for another time, better told by someone else. The takeaway I get from watching the remainder of this documentary is a reminder of a different paradox: the spectacle that world cycling—via the edicts of the UCI—has made of itself has created some great races, and some decent entertainment; but top-tier bike racing as it is today is a closed shop—it’s an innovation killer.
So for the DIYers, the malcontents, the aging punks, the aspiring Olympians, the artists, and the humanists; cheers to Graeme Obree, for being exactly what he was, and making the sport come to meet him on his own terms.