With all the talk of Cavendish a few feet from breaking the outright TDF stage win record, then failing, and then crashing out, artist Richard Pool found inspiration in the G.O.A.T. and drew this up. It seems the outright stage win record, will now never be broken. Read on below for an op-ed on why Eddy Merckx will always be the king.
On Friday, we saw our little corner of the world slow to a cadence of 50 rpm, to see if Mark Cavendish could squeak out a Tour de France stage win. This would have broken Eddy Merckx’s outright Tour de France stage win record, but we watched with heartbreak as he came up just short. Then ultimately crashed out the very next day. I saw post after post wishing it went the other way. We all want to see history, but rarely does it go this way. Ive never seen a world tour cyclist out on top, and I doubt I ever will. More often than not, they go out stripped of wins and caught in lies of doping, cheating, or outright abuse. After this weekend that out right stage win record seems untouchable.
That same day we saw one of the biggest American gravel events BWR, excluding transgender racers. Released late Friday afternoon trying to sweep this conversation under the rug. Caving to the pressure of the vocal minority. Putting the glory of pro-American-competitive-
Finally we saw actor and current style / body image icon Jonah Hill be accused of emotionally abusive behavior. After a breakout documentary just last year, garnered him an entirely new fanbase for his perspective on mental health, body image, and health relationships.
While this all seems like a chaotic swirl of pop culture, sport, and transphobic gravel race bigotry. It is undeniably the norm of the modern world. Pop stars, athletes, actors, politicians and every other facet of the idol diamond is cracked and somehow rotten to the core. Think about it, in bike racing we’ve seen everything from the murder of a female rising star to amphetamine deaths on Vontoux. Part of the human experience is believing in the good, routing for the underdog, and dreaming some day it could be us on the most successful stage. Yet with each black eye, I see myself feeling shock first, then I come to terms with the scandal and retreat a little further into my own hyper specific sub section of cycling.
All of this has me generally curious about what or who we can trust? I spent years working in trend and color forecasting. My job was predicting what the American average consumer would want before they even knew it. Why do we feel let down when we see a gravel racer who “turned pro” in 2019 fighting about if someone “deserves a win”? It turns out predicting what people will spend money on is light years easier than determining if someone is even remotely a good person. Concurrently, all of this desensitization has our collective memory erasing past behaviors, as quickly as a new episode of Jerry Springer came out in the mid to late 90s. Even I am guilty of this, as I was reminded this wasn’t the first fuck up of BWR. It was only a couple years ago they hired bikini models for aid stations. A blatant display of misogynistic behavior on the grand stage for every event participant to digest.
With the industry in a known and honestly terrifying down turn, with over stocks across the board causing layoffs. Losing the trust in the top level might be the best thing for us. Nothing ever changes if the same people are making all the choices to lead a sport. Pro cycling, big gravel, and other stars are not what we need. We, as a sport, need inclusion, youth, and products designed for the average cyclist. We don’t need to buy into one more gimmick, rather put our efforts into support, community and riding whatever way makes us happy.
Merckx, Cipo, Fignon, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, they are all history, why do we keep looking back, when ultimately we need to take some fucking huge steps forward. Be entertained, be a fan, but idolization has been proven to be a really, really bad idea. Lets stop debating the spirit of gravel, and focus on supporting those who do not have life as easy as us. We need more fans of progression not speed. Or…we can wait a few weeks and watch another Grand Prix pro racer step in shit, or another event land on the wrong side of history.
Most stars rise fast, burning bright, grabbing our attention but they also die in catastrophic explosions.