Why Would Anyone Want To Do It?
Look at the recent headlines:
- Oregon rider dies in collegiate road race in Washington
- Daan Myngheer dies from heart attack
- Antoine Demoitié dies following Gent-Wevelgem crash
- 41-year-old gets four-year ban for steroids
- Who is Thorfinn-Sassquatch? The mysterious case of a Los Angeles Strava legend
The takeaway? You're likely to get killed when participating in a sport that's infested with dopers.
First it was the professionals that doped to get results and get paid. Then it was the elite amateurs that doped so they could become professionals and then presumably dope at a higher level. Then it was the pathetic Masters racers trying to gain some glory (as if anyone was watching), a pair of socks, or, if they were dedicated enough, a state/national championship jersey that wouldn't fit. There are even guys who dope for charity rides, gran fondos, or other "non races". In the age of social media, guys like Brandt-Sorenson dope for Strava. Makes you want to abandon the real world and do everything virtually, except there's dopers there too.
The jaded view is that if there's any perceived value in something, someone will cheat to get it. The ethically-challenged view is that since the deck is stacked against you, one might as well jump in with both feet to "level the playing field" or not play the game at all.
Doping aside, there's also the death thing. Even Lennard Zinn says not to ride your bike so hard, because it can lead to kicking the bucket. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and (apparently) even guardrails hate us and are looking for their chance to kill a cyclist. Drunk/stoned/entitled princesses know that they will get a slap on the wrist if they do manage to off one of us. Even on a closed course, missteps made by oxygen-deprived minds (ours or others) can lead to very serious consequences that far outweigh the value of that water bottle prime you were gunning for.
I have no articulate answer for that. I wish I did.
The best I can come up with is that it's fun. Compelling argument, isn't it?
For me it is.
When I discovered bike racing after a decade of relative inactivity and obesity, it changed a lot of things in my life for the better. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for me accidentally falling into the sport. Professionally, I probably would have been medically retired/separated long ago. Lacking a degree of any kind at the time, my path to financial security would have been somewhat shaky. Lacking the energy to tie my shoes, I would have had a hard time to settle into the multiple, concurrent, low-paying jobs required to survive. Malnutrition and illness likely would have followed, and my life would have continued to spiral out of control. Sounds bleak, but I've seen it happen. Multiple times. I would have survived, trudging along as I circled the drain, but that's not what I want.
Instead, I'm connected to a community of really awesome people (and a negligible amount of jerks for balance). I've found a place and a role within that community, and that's fairly important to me (even if my role is to be a giant douchebag). I have a whole set of role models that constantly remind me about my poor life choices and then double down by reinforcing that lesson on race day. I have something to aspire to, even if it doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. It matters to me.
I've found something that I like to do, that has so far resulted in far more positive in my life than negative. I've found something that holds my sugar-impaired attention span. I've found something sustainable. I've found something healthy. I've found something fun.
Even with dopers and death seemingly looming around every corner, I am still having fun. Even with the constant struggle I face with losing weight and buying every sparkly bike toy that catches my eye, I am still having fun. Even trapped in a trainer dungeon all winter, grinding my lady parts into the saddle and getting nowhere, I am still having fun. Even dropped by my betters on climbs I have no business attempting, I'm still having fun (doesn't look like it, but I am). Even on my worst day on the bike, I'm still having fun.
When it stops being fun, I'll find some other kind of fun. Hopefully it never comes to that. Hopefully I never get run over by a guardrail while I'm transfusing lizard stem cells, so I never have to experience the darkest sides of the sport. I'm not going to ignore them or pretend they don't exist, but I'm not going to let them spoil the fun.
I've done life without fun.
I much prefer fun.