“Pro cycling will die”

According to Rigoberto Uran, if the 2020 Tour is cancelled only three teams could survive. He echoes Roger Lefevere of QuickStep, who was the first major person inside the sport to link cancellation of the TdF with the collapse of professional cycling.

Neither Uran nor Lefevere bothers to speculate on what could possibly explain an arrangement so horribly tilted against riders, teams, and their employees that the cancellation of a single race could end employment for everyone. And why should they?

The pandemic is already teaching a profound lesson about human behavior. When threatened, the last step that people will take, if ever, is to analyze what got them to the brink. It’s the same in every corner of the U.S. economy, where people are frantically trying to figure out how to get dishwashers back on the job so we can reopen the fast food joints and bars rather than trying to figure out what is wrong with the system in the first place that would cause the very first casualties of the pandemic to be the poorest people with the least access to healthcare.

Economy of course is a horrible, sterile, inhuman, vicious word. This isn’t about an “economic” collapse because there is no such thing as an “economy.” There are people, and it is people for whom this euphemism called “economy” was coined, because if we were to actually call it the collapse of “human society” or the collapse of “people and their lives” rather than the collapse of the “economy” it would force us to think about something other than money. People can’t do that because the “economy” is built on two principles.

  1. Money is the most important thing in life.
  2. People should acquire more things.

These two principles are what make the “economy” run. But they aren’t what make people run. People run on food, shelter, clothing, and community. People run on religion, imagination, storytelling, communion with nature, love, and social interaction. In other words, the #fakeeconomy simply isolates two twisted principles that historically few people accepted, and makes them into commandments more powerful than any tablet ever handed down atop Mt. Sinai.

Neither Uran nor Lefevere seem to recognize, let alone question, that as the rug is yanked out from under the feet of billions of people, whether it’s because the structure itself is designed to do that very thing, that is, to aggregate more wealth in the hands of people who already have most of it. Instead, they point out the obvious, something along the lines of “Losing the Tour is going to really hurt.”

Actually, it won’t. Losing the Tour is about the least painful thing that could happen in a pandemic. Moreover, for now the Tour isn’t going anywhere, whether it’s cancelled, whether ASO files for bankruptcy, or whether pro cycling ceases to exist. The only issue is whether it will happen this year (how could it possibly) or next? There will always be people ready to race in the Tour, whether the teams fold or not. I’m buffing my race resume right now, in point of fact.

And why does it matter as long as the riders are in servitude, with an entire tier of sorta-pro Continental riders, and all women pros, have salary minimums of zero? And why does it matter when there are cyclists actually paying their teams to race “professionally”? Why does it matter as long as the riders’ salaries are subsistence-level, with no post-career security, no safety net, and no bargaining power over working conditions? It’s no coincidence that the only people speaking out in any significant way are a) Team Boss a/k/a employer and b) Top Tier rider whose financial situation is secure no matter what.

Where are the interviews with the neo-pros? The Continental pros? The 50% of the pro women’s peloton that averages $11,800/yr or the 17% of women who are paid zero? The “amateurs” who devoted the last three years to preparing for the track events at the not-gonna-happen Tokyo Olympics? Those interviews are not forthcoming, by the way. Too many of those voices might lead people to wonder why they even care about a system so exploitative, and that’s just among the “rich” white athletes of “developed” countries. Too many of those voices might lead to having to listen to the voices of the unemployed dishwashers, the homeless families, and the hundreds of millions of semi-starving people around the globe whose life plans go no farther than dinner.

Of course we have a choice, and I think a lot of people will see it more clearly as the pandemic continues. The choice is whether or not we will continue to be cogs in an “economy,” or whether we will demand that the entire community of humans receive its share of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Think about it this way. What if the “economy” never picked back up? What if we continued our lives wholly unemployed or working part-time from home? What if the government had to suddenly figure out how to distribute food, housing, education, and medical care to everyone? What if people were treated equally whether they worked, loafed, were healthy, sick, or just happened to wind up on American soil in between flight transfers?

What if the fact of your humanity entitled you at the moment of birth to a share of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Wouldn’t that be weird?


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9 thoughts on ““Pro cycling will die””

  1. No biggie. Dudes will simply form next year’s Masters Doper Power Team, and the chicks will crush geezer dreams at NPR and Donut because we don’t have women’s races

    1. Because those athletes are amazing, the sport is beautiful, (and it helps that I played it once, or sometimes still do.) Talkin’ basketball here, or middle distance running (Watch Rudisha at the 2012 London Olympics!), sometimes baseball.

  2. I know more about pro beach volleyball than pro cycling. A few years back when the AVP went bankrupt, tournaments like the Manhattan Beach Open continued. After a couple years the AVP returned. Now with this panicdemic history may repeat. I prefer the Swedish model that let’s life continue like normal during a flu. I’d also like to date a Swedish model.

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