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It’s mid-September, the time of year when our social media feeds pop with personal essays written by pro cyclists who are retiring.
These and other essays provided me some inspiration for how to write my own retirement letter, which, in fact, you’re reading right now. As of today, I am no longer the editor in chief at VeloNews. I have joined the editorial team at Outside Magazine and OutsideOnline, and you can now reach me at my updated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call it a retirement, or call it a team transfer — call it whatever you’d like. Just don’t call me anymore with your hot takes about gravel etiquette or Chris Froome or the UCI’s latest set of bizarre rules. You can tweet Sadhbh O’Shea or Andrew Hood or Betsy Welch about those topics from here on out.
I could write volumes about my affection for competitive cycling, and about my love of writing stories that inform, entertain, or draw some type of emotional response out of you, the reader. A recent search in the VeloNews.com content management system turned up nearly 2,000 stories that I wrote from when I took over as editor in chief in 2016, and as recently as today. I’ll be the first to admit that not every story has been an A+ example of writing or the gold standard in storytelling. But I’d like to think that I did my job well enough on a few occasions to capture the story, and tell it in a way that, hopefully, spoke to you.
During my time at VeloNews I wrote about comebacks and about new trends in the sport. I tried to view cycling as a professional sport as well as a cultural expression, and I wrote about it through the lens of spirituality and from the perspective of personal grief. I tried to tell stories from deep inside cycling’s heartlands, as well as ones from its frontiers as well.
And I always kept my eyes open for juicy controversy.
I took on pet obsessions, like the evolving business model of pro cycling in America, and what we can learn from the handful of entrepreneurs and renegades who have pushed it in new exciting new directions. I agonized over the country’s beleaguered youth development system, and sought as many perspectives as possible on how the U.S.A. can harness the growth of NICA to bring cycling to overlooked communities, and to funnel more talented young men and women to the pinnacle of the sport.
I attended all manners of bike races to report on them in-person, from fixed-gear criteriums to Tour de France stages, to NICA race weekends. I sought stories from crosseyed finishes at Unbound Gravel, and from Tour de France champions alike. I tried to view cycling as a professional sport and a movement of the masses alike.
So, what did I learn from the past five years of reporting? There are far too many lessons to articulate in one column, but here are a few disparate ones…
Cycling is still therapeutic, and still fun, and still a fantastic way to make new friends, and catch up with old ones. American cycling is in a better state than you may assume, and you shouldn’t gauge the health of competitive cycling in North America by counting the number of pro teams and races.
You can watch a replay of the Tour of Flanders over and over again and come away with new perspectives on the race each time. If you want to check out European races in person, go to Belgium for the cobbled classics long before you check out the Tour.
In my opinion, you should prioritize the perspective of people who are actively working to make cycling better, ahead of those who just complain about cycling on Twitter. In the ever-present battle to bring cycling to new communities, and to bring more people into our sport, it’s the passion of individuals and grassroots organizations that will have a greater impact than any national organization or brand.
Gravel is not a fad. Road isn’t dead. ‘Cross is (always) coming.
Marianne Vos is the GOAT.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Writing for VeloNews has been my passion and my pleasure.