Justin Williams Is Reclaiming Cycling
I rarely listen to Rich Roll nowadays. He become too political for me and he showed other colors too. Namely the American ignorance. But let's not get ahead, since I have little bit to write.
Justin Williams is an African-American cyclist from Los Angeles. Early in his carrier had the opportunity to go to Europe and be in Axel Mercks' team, which is a developer team for young cyclist. Instead of staying in Europe, he blamed it on his blackness (he said they would view him as "typical black angry man", but it looks like he just acted like typical black angry man).
Compare this to Peter Sagan, a Slovakian (small country in Europe, probably Californa itself is bigger) - without any language knowledge (no French, Italian or English!), he also wanted to quit road racing, but his parents kept him on the road, and he become the best known cyclist, and one of the most accomplished too (multiple World Championship, stage wins, record number of Green jersey at TdF, etc.). I compare Williams to Sagan, because they are both sprinters, one year in age difference, etc. One stayed and fought, the other went back home, because…
The first half hour of the episode is basically blaming everything on "because I am black", or that American cycling is shit. The problem with the second one is that cycling is Europe-based. Everybody who wants to do something in road cycling, moves to Europe. Williams not alone, because South Americans are also having trouble, so when they move to Europe, they usually go to Spanish teams where they don't have language trouble. And they are not without results either. Last year one Columbian and one cyclist from Equador won the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, respectively. I don't think they really cared about their origin, since they are still in the minority.
I also have the problem how they talked about cycling in general. Like it has such a high barrier of entry. But if we compare to American sports where outsiders are not really welcome (when was the last time somebody played in the NFL from Europe?).
Rich also showed his American ignorance: "Some guy standing on a podium in Belgium.. is that even meaningful anymore?" - well Belgium is still one of the beating heart of cycling, so yes Rich, very much meaningful.
As one commenter said: "All this feels very american. As a belgian the perspective is quite different. The team kit is just cheaper than all the Rapha stuff. Cycling is imbedded in our culture, and it feels a lot that what is being said here feels likes commercial bullshit. It's about consumerism in this conversation. People are not in the sport for the money here. Even without the money the racing would continue, but americans and money, money, money."
I am not Belgian, but I agree with this. If you want to be a sportsman, you don't really go for cycling. It's one of the most cruel sports, very physical. This year Jumbo-Visma team had a 20 million euro budget. If two top NFL QB put there money together they could finance a cycling team, and they still could afford their mansions. This is a very big difference money wise. You simple want to be a cyclist because you love the sport. It has a lot of suffering, but you don't go for the money. Compare to frakking teamsports cyclist are earning pennies, and even at the top, most of them have heavy sponsors.
I still don't understand the sports world with this diversity thing, when sports is all about performance. Are you good enough to get into the team? Or qualify for bigger races? Yes, sometimes it's cruel, and professional sports is not for everyone. But I don't think it's good that we should push diversity, just because let's say cycling doesn't have many black or hispanic racers. Interestingly I still remember when Santiego Botero climbed on mountains or raced through ITT (individual time-trial). He was a Columbian cyclist in the 90s and 2000s.
If somebody is good enough and if he is a minority that's cool. After all if you look at cycling, we have growing number of hispanic cyclists.
Nobody talks about the NBA, and its shrinking number of white players. And they are not even American, since many of them are coming from Europe.
It's clear that Justin's problem is not cycling itself, but mostly that in America cycling is not really a sport. It was for a while, but after the Armstrong-case, everything went back to shit. It's hard to get sponsors for a sport not called: football, basketball, baseball or even hockey. Yet it's probably the most accessable sport, since most people can just buy a cheep bike and learn it at an early age. I also understand that many countries doesn't really support safe cycling, but that doesn't