It’s been a long time (over a month, to be honest) since I’ve updated this blog. A lot has happened in the cycling world. And most of us are not surprised. I’m not going to rehash all the doping arguments going around the cycling world, it’s been done before and it’ll be done again. But I do have something to say.
All of this doping crap has made me think. About what? Well, me as a fan. No, before you get all upset, I’m not about to stop being a cycling fan. I think what’s going to change is the way I watch/root for the sport. I’ll watch it however I can (listening to it via Eurosport, or catching it on Versus when it’s on), but I’m done with teams.
I know, the Slipstream fangirl is no longer one. I’m calling it quits. Why? I just don’t have the loyalty to the teams — in fact, they don’t really encourage it. We’ll compare it with the spot that’s slowly becoming my second favorite: soccer/football. There are three main teams I’m a fan of (leaving out the US national team): Arsenal, DC United and AC Milan. There are other teams I follow (Birmingham City, Odd Grenland, Chivas USA and SC Heerenveen — but for slightly fickle reasons, I like certain players more than the sum of their team). But with cycling, I’ve lost too much faith in the ‘team’ part of the team sport of cycling.
I know it’s hard to imagine, and I’m not saying that cycling isn’t a team sport, because it is. But not for me as a fan. I have a friend who loves T-Mobile, regardless of who rides for them. I have another who loved USPS/Discovery, regardless of their riders. The same with CSC and so on. I thought that was me. Why? Because I love my soccer teams for the sum of their parts instead of individual players. I would be sad if, say, Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal — but I’d get over it (case in point: Thierry Henry leaving Arsenal). The team means more to me than even my favorite footballer (who does happen to play for Arsenal).
But not when it comes to cycling. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it stems from bitterness I have surrounding T-Mobile and the quitting of my former favorite cyclist. In a way, it felt like the team betrayed my trust as a fan. Sure, it’s not the same as doping and yeah, it was Werner’s fault for not sucking it up and riding on a lower team like other riders who have recently made (or are making) comebacks. And maybe he saved himself from the whole doping saga, but to me there’s not a lot worse than your favorite cyclist quitting. I know, doping allegations suck, but there you go.
So where does that leave me? Well, rooting for riders. As people who read Wannabe Bike Girl know, I love several riders. On the top of that list are Sylvain Chavanel, Philippe Gilbert, Kjell Carlström, and Francis Mourey. While two of those four riders are on the same team (Gilbert and Mourey are on FDJ), the other two are not. And, to be honest, I don’t necessarily root for their teams. I thought I did, I even tried to care when Cofidis riders won stages at the Tour and other races. But to be honest, I just don’t care.
What’s important to me is Chavanel or Gilbert winning races. It’s how my boys do compared to the rest of the pack. And, Slipstream, I like some of your riders (Steven Cozza being one example), but I can’t really get behind the team. I support their anti-doping efforts, just like T-Mobile and the other teams trying so desperately to change the sport. But I’m not rooting for you to win everything you race in, because the riders are more than their teams.
The more I think about this, the more I realize this is because the teams are not teams in the sense that European soccer teams are. They change and they change relatively often. Why get myself attached to a team, when next year it could disappear. I’ve had too much fan heartache for me to expend that much time and energy. So instead, I root for the riders themselves. I support the teams in that they support my riders, but that’s it.
Perhaps I ask too much as a fan, but I don’t think so. I think, perhaps, the problem is that we, as fans, don’t ask enough of the teams. I doubt that will change, and I’m fine with that. I’ve made my peace, as it were, and I know where I stand as a fan. And that’s what’s important.