Why be a cyclist?

Jun 26, 2009
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What kind of person becomes a cyclist as opposed to other sports that are much easier and often with more money? If you could anylise the psychology of an elite cyclist maybe there are some clues to be found there in order to change the attitude to doping from within the peleton itself.
 

the big ring

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Jul 28, 2009
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Please bring something more than a papier mache gun to this gun fight.

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=2957355
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/brennan/2007-07-18-brennan-player_N.htm

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=2239115
Of the 384 college golfers tested in the NCAA's anti-doping program, seven flunked.
Bottom line is - many sports are tested, not everyone who dopes gets caught.

And since when was golf easier than cycling. I can ride and race a bike at the A grade club level, but would struggle to complete 1 hole in golf let alone 3 days of 18 holes in anything less than 1000 strokes.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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beroepsrenner said:
What kind of person becomes a cyclist as opposed to other sports that are much easier and often with more money? If you could anylise the psychology of an elite cyclist maybe there are some clues to be found there in order to change the attitude to doping from within the peleton itself.
Great thread...I have always thought that very competitive cyclists were on average highly individually motivated to be successful. They also must like a dose of solitude in their lives. My son races and he plays soccer as well. The difference is he goes to soccer practice, while when he rides he is training. There is a big difference there. I tell my son that to be a good cyclist you have to train even when it hurts..and doing interval training or sprint training hurts...it is not really fun...unless you are a masochist? Maybe that is part of the psyche too?

Anyway, highly driven people (in my opinion) are willing to do what is necessary to be successful. In this case it may be doping. I am against doping but put me in position to be a racer on a big team, win a few pro races, and it gets muddy quick. I am very critical of doping...but not so much of the people who are doing it. It is almost like politicians...they all seem to be the same type of personality...cyclists maybe too. I hope I am not generalizing...that is not my intent..but I have thought about this a lot.

beroepsrenner you could probably help me with this...since you came up racing in the Netherlands I presume...I am always hoping that there is a fundamental change in the way young people are brought into the sport and introduced to training and racing. In your neck of the woods has this changed over the years...and is doping less tolerated? I know it is bad when I see a young rider lighting it up here and in the back of my mind I think....that is crazy I hope!!

Anyway, I love this sport and the riders even with their faults. Thanks for starting this thread!
 
Mar 18, 2009
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the big ring said:
Please bring something more than a papier mache gun to this gun fight.

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=2957355
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/brennan/2007-07-18-brennan-player_N.htm

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=2239115


Bottom line is - many sports are tested, not everyone who dopes gets caught.

And since when was golf easier than cycling. I can ride and race a bike at the A grade club level, but would struggle to complete 1 hole in golf let alone 3 days of 18 holes in anything less than 1000 strokes.
You miss the point...golf is a skill that can't be grown quickly. It is not the same as cycling. Easier or not...can't compare.

As for doping in other sports...true...but you should tone down your argument as we are trying to have a conversation about the psyche of professional cyclists...not other sports.
 
Jun 21, 2009
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beroepsrenner said:
What kind of person becomes a cyclist as opposed to other sports that are much easier and often with more money? If you could anylise the psychology of an elite cyclist maybe there are some clues to be found there in order to change the attitude to doping from within the peleton itself.
what 6-y-o thinks about money?

"let's see i've got this bike here that i really love to ride very fast but on the other hand, i should probably pick golf. 20 years down the line there will be more money in that if i just become a pro"
 

the big ring

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Jul 28, 2009
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TRDean said:
You miss the point...golf is a skill that can't be grown quickly. It is not the same as cycling. Easier or not...can't compare.

As for doping in other sports...true...but you should tone down your argument as we are trying to have a conversation about the psyche of professional cyclists...not other sports.
It sounded to me like the point was - cyclists dope due to their psychological make up, and if they took up another, easier, more lucrative sport they would not be doping.

Bottom line answer is - it's far easier to find out you're a good cyclist vs a good rock climber or golfer or sky diver. Simon Gerrans was loaned a bike, many, many kids have bikes as a means of getting around. Not many kids have parachutes, or climbing shoes, or a golf course nearby.

It's disingenuous to think there's something specifically in the psyche of the cyclist that sets them apart from other professional athletes in an attempt to understand why they dope.
 

the big ring

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Jul 28, 2009
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If anything, I think it's the relative easiness of cycling that makes the sport so appealing and the doping so prevalent. Particularly road racing / TTs / tours, where recovery and capacity is more important than fine motor control or advanced technique / skills.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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actually that IS the point - 100% no doubt about it.

Golf:
Development:
A lot of years spent learning and refining the swing and developing mind and body to be able to consistently flight a ball through varying conditions to land within less than 1% of where you want it - every single time for 72 holes over several days - every competition.

Rewards:
Well, until you are actually winning at better than club level you are never going to be putting meals on the table. You are going to be working as a pro on a course or in a shop and training around that hoping that one day you will be good enough to get a tour card and perhaps a decent sponsor or two. Then you need to start REALLY working on your game to be able to stay there against all the new players coming up.


Cycling:
Development:
Anyone can ride a bike right? Wrong. Its going to take years of junior and senior development to build a smoothe and efficient cadence and to increase endurance capacity to huge levels. You will possibly build a speciality, be it climbing, sprinting, time trialling, or 'going for the long one'. You'll be riding in almost any weather conditions almost every day of the year - and virtually nobody will ever see that.

Rewards:
Well, until you are actually winning at better than club level you are never going to be putting meals on the table. You are going to be working in a shop and training around that hoping that one day you will be good enough to get on a team and a decent sponsor or two.

wow - that seems amazingly similar doesn't it? In fact its pretty hard to find any sport that doesn't decompose into a similar story.

Yes doping occurs in road cycling - like it does in every other endurance sport. It also occurs in track cycling, like it does in every other anaerobic sport. In shooting, fencing, archery, freestyle skiing - not to mention golf, we see mind alering drubs used, such as Mary Joanna. On top of all this we see equipment constanly being redesigned to 'extend' the rules and gain competitive advantage (see swimming recently).

You can try to analyse the mind of the competition cyclist but I think that is rather myopic. You can just as easily look at the minds of sportspeople in general. The question isnt really why cycling instead of other sports, its more like why sport instead of a 'desk job' ;-)
 
May 6, 2009
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I went to school with somebody who was a cyclist and I was impressed by his efforts (ie ride 60km before school, that his bike was worth so much money that he had it kept in the teachers staff room) so eventually I started to watch the Tour de France in 2003. I had heard of Lance Armstrong, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Bradley McGee, Phil Anderson, and Miguel Indurain.

So around 2003 and 2004 I basically fell into cycling as I had a crappy old bike which was too small for me (I'm 6ft 2''), but anyway, I had way too much spare time so I went cycling for a few hours every day just to give me something to do for a few hours (hey I could of done a lot worse things then that), and hey presto here I am.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Martin318is said:
actually that IS the point - 100% no doubt about it.

Golf:
Development:
A lot of years spent learning and refining the swing and developing mind and body to be able to consistently flight a ball through varying conditions to land within less than 1% of where you want it - every single time for 72 holes over several days - every competition.

Rewards:
Well, until you are actually winning at better than club level you are never going to be putting meals on the table. You are going to be working as a pro on a course or in a shop and training around that hoping that one day you will be good enough to get a tour card and perhaps a decent sponsor or two. Then you need to start REALLY working on your game to be able to stay there against all the new players coming up.


Cycling:
Development:
Anyone can ride a bike right? Wrong. Its going to take years of junior and senior development to build a smoothe and efficient cadence and to increase endurance capacity to huge levels. You will possibly build a speciality, be it climbing, sprinting, time trialling, or 'going for the long one'. You'll be riding in almost any weather conditions almost every day of the year - and virtually nobody will ever see that.

Rewards:
Well, until you are actually winning at better than club level you are never going to be putting meals on the table. You are going to be working in a shop and training around that hoping that one day you will be good enough to get on a team and a decent sponsor or two.

wow - that seems amazingly similar doesn't it? In fact its pretty hard to find any sport that doesn't decompose into a similar story. Thats the point.
Similar in path only. Not in physiological demands by any stretch. Actually, the path is probably similar for anyone who has reached the top in any field. I could give a rats **** about golf...I am talking about cycling here and what my life experiences bring. I have tried to address the question the original OP brought up. If you don't like it go play some golf.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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actually mate. you havent really at all have you. re-read my post - it was being added to while you were writing your pointless rant.

Physiological demands are not the be all and end all of sport and its not necessarily the prime motivator for trying to get an edge over the competition
 
Jun 16, 2009
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TRDean said:
I have tried to address the question the original OP brought up.
I think you will find that the original poster asked why cyclists choose this sport instead of others. How exactly do you propose to answer that without making comparisons with other sports?

You clearly like this thread but I am not sure why as you seem to want to take it off topic by getting annoyed with people that attempt to draw comparisons with other sports....
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Martin318is said:
I think you will find that the original poster asked why cyclists choose this sport instead of others. How exactly do you propose to answer that without making comparisons with other sports?

You clearly like this thread but I am not sure why as you seem to want to take it off topic by getting annoyed with people that attempt to draw comparisons with other sports....
Fair enough.
 
Most of the potential pro's started cycling because they liked it as a sport, not to become a pro cyclist. When they are 18-22 they see that they have a shot at becoming pro in cycling because they have talent and mastered their skills for years. It's not like they also had the opportunity to become a golf-pro as well, simply because they didn't train themself for years in golf.

As for making the step to dope: I can see why a young kid who trained for years, who really wants to be succesfull, who get's blown away by the topriders, sees them get all the fame/money/woman and who sees doping being used everywhere might get tempted to use it. Especially the part that most top-riders use it (just look at who got caught the last 5-10 years) would be very frustrating, imo it takes a strong kid to say no i don't do it.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Martin318is said:
actually mate. you havent really at all have you. re-read my post - it was being added to while you were writing your pointless rant.

Physiological demands are not the be all and end all of sport and its not necessarily the prime motivator for trying to get an edge over the competition
Actually, I totally disagree regarding the physiological demands of sport...cycling is a much more demanding sport than golf. A person who wants to reach the pinacle of cycling puts his body through much more demands than a golfer. Sure the path is the same..but as I stated before, that is basically the path anyone takes to reach the top, whether in sports or business or politics. If you have lived or raced in Europe as an elite amateur or pro I can guarantee you that life is a heck of a lot harder than hitting the links. You have to have some serious drive.

And I think you would be surprised at the number of very young kids who are interested in the money they can make in a sport. Just recently at a race a 13 year old boy said he may move to triathalons because you can make more money if you are good. Money is a huge driver.

Your points are very well taken and I apologize for misreading the orginal posters intentions.

Rock on.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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I read an article on the BBC web site a while back stating there may be drugs in golf too. They don't need the endurance like a cyclist but they do need to concentrate for 4 hours at a time. There are drugs that can help with that and no testing on the golf circuit
 
Jun 16, 2009
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Well written TRDean. I am aware of the dedication needed at both pro and am levels in Europe in particular. For the record, I myself didnt have it although I have raced on an elite licence for a number of years . If anything I sensed that being a top amateur can be worse as there are so many more riders at your level all trying to get a pro contract. Whereas there are some pros who seem to 'make it' and then just do enough to maintain their contract and not achieve anything more.

For me this is the point where the drug pressure really kicks in. You're 20 years old, a Belgian (just using that one for the purpose of this theory) and you are racing in the same field as a Neo-pro team fielded by Lotto. You know the rest of the entrants and you have been beating all except two of them for the last 2 years. Do you drug up in the months leading up to the race in the hope of impressing? Or do you leave your one big break up to chance and do it clean?

But I do come back to the professional archer who feels they need to take valium or something similar to 'take the edge off' and allow them to win. Likewise with skateboarders, snowboarders, downhill mountainbikers, and my god I completely forgot darts players and snooker players! :-O They need to be cmopletly drunk to succeed!

But anyway, as Ronhino indicated - I dont think its actually the physical demands of the sport itself that promote doping, I think its just that doping gives a clear advantage in specific aspects of the sport

(and because I cant resist - are you aware how many balls a day a player like Tiger Woods or Greg Norman hits every day? Or what that does to the spine, shoulders, and wrists? Its not a 'heavy breathers' sport but golf still does damage that requires recovery... Like I said, different drugs for different sports - for mostly the same reasons)
 

Dr. Maserati

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Jun 19, 2009
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beroepsrenner said:
What kind of person becomes a cyclist as opposed to other sports that are much easier and often with more money? If you could anylise the psychology of an elite cyclist maybe there are some clues to be found there in order to change the attitude to doping from within the peleton itself.
Well Beroepsrenner - you haven't made this an easy one for us!!

I dont believe there is a difference in psychology between elite athletes of different sports per se.

Certainly any young cyclist starting out in the sport realizes that they have to take proper care of themselves - proper training, eating properly, rest etc

I think the difference is that there has always been a drug culture in cycling - that unfortunately, at a certain level has given way to acceptance and apathy to its existence.
This has more to do with the history of doping within cycling - because of the demands of cycling trying medications to dumb down the pain was in evidence at the inception of the sport.
As you pointed out in a separate thread you knew of doping within cycling from a very early age.
 
Jul 27, 2009
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Generally bike racing is about suffering. Who can inflict the most, who can endure the most. Racing is painful at best, and never really gets easy. Drugs don't make it easier, just faster. It tends to attract a certain type of person-generally obsessive in some way or another. It feels good to put guys in a world of hurt, because you've been there before and understand. Because it requires critical thinking while riding through the pain cave after you dropped your flashlight. Because its like war, and no other sport creates team bonds such as cycling.
 
Jul 30, 2009
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I’m not sure what age the typical pro cyclist first picked up a bike, but it was likely very young (I did read that Cav didn’t really do much until he was 16…maybe he’s the odd one out, but was probably cycling long before that).

Most kids learn to ride a bike; however there are some kids that find it distinctly more interesting and appealing than other sports. Perhaps it’s the ones who have more of a mechanical aptitude (analytical mind) that are more attracted to it than other…I know that was the case with me, and my son is the same way.

Taking the step from enjoying cycling to racing and wanting to compete is a pretty natural progression. Once you get to the stage where you’re trying to compete and win you analyze your performance and decide what you need to do to get to the front…different bike/parts, different training and diet approach…make some changes and keep going.

After making changes and improving performance if you’re still not winning then is when further analysis would lead to the question “what are the guys ahead of me doing differently?”. That would be the point where the analytical mind has to make a decision (if the answer to the question before is doping). Invariably everybody will reach a plateau…the best they can be without cheating. That might mean you’re the best in the world and don’t get beaten, but 99.99999% of people won’t need to deal with being the best at their chosen sport.

I assume the decision whether or not the risk is worth taking is not totally straightforward. If you’re a young rider at the cusp of winning you’ll have a coach and possibly team-mates who will apply peer pressure, etc. I’ve never been in that position so don’t know what the attitude towards doping is and could only go on what I’ve read…no doubt skewed.

I’m not sure how many athletes got involved with their sport with money in mind. It’s tough to make a living at any sport and to become wildly wealthy due to your sporting achievements is VERY rare.
 
Jul 30, 2009
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What kind of person becomes a cyclist as opposed to other sports that are much easier and often with more money?[/QUOTE]
Sports can be lumped into three categories.
1) strength
2) skill
3) endurance.

You can not take an athlete that excels in one and get them to excel in another.
Think of it this way, could you get a pro basketball player to become a pro cyclist? I don't think so. Their body type and build would deny them the ability to succeed.
What makes them successful at one sport would be a hindrance in another.

beroepsrenner said:
If you could anylise the psychology of an elite cyclist maybe there are some clues to be found there in order to change the attitude to doping from within the peleton itself.
That has nothing to do with it.
Manny Ramirez makes MILLIONS playing baseball yet got caught with illegal drugs in his system.
It's that the 'strength' group rely on steroids while 'endurance' sports rely on blood boosters.
'Skill' sports rely on drugs that help you focus.

Drugs will always be in ALL sports.
 
Jul 13, 2009
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I think it has to be related to an addictive personality. First addicted to the endorphins produced by exercising on a bicycle. next comes the addiction to the adrenalin of winning bike races (for me it was actually the adrenalin of just competing aginst more talented athletes who had more time to train than I ever did). Then comes the addiction to winning and maintaining a level of income. Then addiction to the performance enhancing drugs that make it possible to continue.

Cycling is a gateway drug, that is all.:D

My cycle racing career ended well short of the addiction to winning by the way.
 

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