Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.
By Rick Crawford
One of the most enamoring aspects of cycling is the community that shares the passion centered on the two-wheeled human-powered velocipede. The bike itself has a romantic attraction to it, and once drawn, cyclists become part of a culture rich in tradition, and a society clustered around the simplicity of its universal medium. The bicycle gives us visceral affirmations of our existence, bringing pleasure through contrast with our physical efforts and self-inflicted pain. Without the human element to give life to the machine, the bike is but a tool whose potential awaits.
No competitive cyclist stands alone. If nothing else, the steed that transfers our efforts to forward motion is a critical partner in the venture. But most cyclists who have achieved success at any level have benefited from the vast energies of a tribe dedicated to the objective. Indeed, the talents and energies of the cyclist are a critical part of the equation, but only a part.
Typically, the head of the hierarchy are the parents of the rider. This is not always the case, but mostly, a young athlete who discovers the bike is supported by and large by mom and dad, who finance equipment, travel, and really just about everything until their charge is emancipated. It has been rightfully noted that the best thing a successful athlete can do is pick their parents well, not only for their genetic array, but for the endless supply of love and care that only a parent can provide. Riders who succeed without parental support do so with a large handicap to begin with and deserve all the more credit.
There’s almost always a shop. The bike shop and its owner and staff are often at the center of the cycling quest. The shop is the hub (pun intended) of cycling activity, where relationships are forged, passions inflamed, broken steeds repaired, new steeds displayed and lusted for, and rides begin. My own cycling career began thus, in Athens, Georgia, where Gene Dixon fanned the embers of my cursory interest in cycling into an inferno that still rages.
Another standard cycling unit is the club, the gaggle of like-minded enthusiasts that meet, organize, and roll out on a regular basis to enjoy each other’s company, feed of off each other’s energy, to get a workout, and to earn bragging rights. The club provides a large range of support for riders, but at the least it is the prime social center that cyclists revolved around. The club becomes the basis for territorial patriotism in the cycling community, and feeds the fire of healthy competition that pushes athletes to new heights.
Absolutely essential in the athlete support mechanism is the significant other. There’s always a significant other, and if there isn’t, there’s an emotional chasm that needs filling, and will be a big problem until appropriately filled. Significant others are patient, long-suffering, and tolerant, with a deaf ear and a blind eye toward their mate’s affair with the bike. They wash bottles, prepare food, massage legs, listen to our incessant bitching, put up with our training buddies, allow us to disappear for long hours on the weekends instead of doing honey-do’s, and accept our bike as a co-partner in an open relationship. My wife always tells me that behind every great man there is an even greater woman … that is certainly true in my case. Translated to context, behind every great cyclist is an even greater significant other.
Coaches have become a critical part of the cyclists’ community. This is the demographic I have occupied for the last couple of decades. I am particularly sensitive to the coach’s role since as an athlete in the 70’s and 80’s, cycling coaches were a rarity and a luxury that I never had access to. I paid dearly for that in terms of a learning curve that seemed steep and endless. Fortunately, it became my impetus to become a cycling coach, which I am grateful for. Nowadays, cycling coaches are practically mainstream and are an integral part of the cycling village, developing and guiding their athletes towards their potential in the most efficient path. Coaches need love too! Be sure and give your coach a hug now and then.
Mechanics, massage therapists, doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, team directors, training partners, teammates, sponsors, sport psychologists, personal trainers, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, race organizers, officials, the journalists who cover our sport … don’t forget the thousands of motorists who share the roads with you and pass you by daily without complaint (never mind the ones that harass us). Did I leave anyone out?
The coaching message here is that the construction of the champion cyclist’s village should not be a random set of serendipitous occurrences. In fact you can’t choose your parents, but you can choose almost everything else. Choose well. Build a network of support that creates an environment fertile for a happy and successful life. All of the above entities can be good or bad, and as the manager of your own fate, the more good people in your village the better the chances for success.
Rick Crawford is Director of Coaching and COO of Colorado Premier Training. He is also the head coach for the Fort Lewis College cycling team in Durango, Colorado.