Is cycling getting like football?

There is plenty of evidence creeping online that cycling and its fans are getting a bit "Premiership Football" over certain issues...

by jimmythecuckoo   June 9, 2014  

05 Chris Froome at the TDF 2013 launch © Simon MacMichael

This summer marks my 24th Tour de France. I have enjoyed each and every one of them, even back in the day when a Sean Yates time trial win was our only hope of any glory as a nation. 

The revolution that has come through the sport in recent years has been fantastic. Especially from the grass roots up where seeing more and more people on a racing bike and enjoying their ride has saved me from long lonely solo rides. 

There was a similar effect in Rugby Union after England won the 2003 world cup with that Jonny Wilkinson drop goal. 

However now there are rumblings that the effect this catapulting of the sport into mainstream hasn't come without cost. 

Recent reports of crowd trouble and both the Heineken Cup final and Aviva Premiership final left rugby message boards and forums blaming the influx of football fans into their sport for the unheard of swearing and intimidation. 

So have people who have become bored of the crazy money and childish behaviour of Premiership football started spilling over into other sports bringing loutish ways with them?

First things first I have to declare my interest. I am a massive football fan but have turned my back on the top flight for all those things mentioned above. Its non-league for me all the way now which, even though it still has its moments, is more about the occasion and family. I dont think all football fans are louts and thugs, merely that this is an easy way to group people who can't behave. 

Rugby Union can sort its own house out I am sure. Plenty of people who watch it seem to be as big as some of the players who compete. I can't imagine that there wont be some self policing of the terraces!

What's this got to do with cycling?

Well, for me, some of the recent outcry and the probably non selection of Bradley Wiggins for the Tour dr France has reminded me of some of the tabloids hype of the round ball game. I have heard of people planning a protest on the route to boo Chris Froome. I read that some people had proposed a mass cancellation of Sky subscriptions to try and force Sir Dave Brailsfords hand. 

Most have stopped short of lighting bonfires comprising solely of Rapha clothes, but considering their cost it's hardly that surprising. 

I just hope that this isn't indicative of the way the sport will go in this country. I don't want to read about a rider getting surrounded and ran off the road in a sportive for wearing an Ag2r jersey " I upset the FDJ supporters in the event by attacking on a hill"...

For me the sport is enough and doesn't need pages of nonsense in a newspaper to sell it. The racing, the riders and the scenary are the best of any sport. That'll do for me.

Although Frotch vs Groves III with Wiggins vs Froome on the undercard could get me logging on to Sky Box Office...

29 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Interesting take on something I'd been thinking about for a while now. Every year sees the emergence of the armchair Director Sportif and the current popularity of cycling has meant that there are ever more of them commenting with various degrees of intelligence and insight on pro cycling.

One problem which is becoming more pronounced is that the majority of new cyclists now develop an understanding of cycling as an activity and as a sport through the internet rather than in any face to face context. This allows opinion and cycling old wives tales to develop into a kind of received wisdom which is then perpetuated with every post.

We are also saddled with a peculiar kind of patriotic and insular appreciation of any kind of sport which does not sit well in a sport like cycling where national allegiance is of little consequence to everyone except the Brits.

This seems to have combined in an almost perfect storm with the Wiggins/Froome issue which has beautifully exposed the new UK cycling scene as immature in comparison with other countries especially in Europe.

posted by crikey [272 posts]
9th June 2014 - 17:28

154 Likes

Such, unfortunately, is the price to pay for success. That price being the media world. Look at women's cycling. It is often said it cannot raise sponsorship money because of the small audience, for which it relies on the media world to bring. Media brings bandwagons when it brings money.

I quite enjoy these meaningless tiffs and speculation, anything to distract me from my miserable life!

The Human Cyclist A blog. Try it, you might like it...

sm's picture

posted by sm [355 posts]
9th June 2014 - 18:14

158 Likes

Oh get a grip.

Who do these armchair fans think they are!

I'm sure Chris Froome can handle a few people booing him from the roadside. I can't imagine there will be so many people committed to going through with that.

Unless thing descend into physical violence, bring on the razzmatazz. Its all part of the theatre of professional sport.

posted by snifter83 [12 posts]
9th June 2014 - 20:14

162 Likes

I would generally agree with this blog posting. There does appear to be a change in the attitudes shown by some British fans and it appears to be heading to the football-style tabloid melodramas where the handbags and tiffs are focussed upon more than the actual racing. 20 years ago you could not really get a clash of 'national' interests in cycling. Millar, Boardman, Yates etc were not direct competitors really. Perhaps Obree vs Boardman was as close as it came to that. Even then it was generally polite and the press interest was not such at it would inflame things.

The average Brit cyclist was used to supporting foreign riders as much as British ones and I think that due to the lower and perhaps more restrained media coverage, a rider's exploits on the bike were what mattered in choosing your favourites.

There are more column inches to fill now and more fans have been drawn into the sport. There will always be more extreme views the more fans there are and the more of a circus things become in the press.

But I do not agree that Brit fans are the only cycling fans who are a little nationalistic. In most countries fans support riders from their own country, or perhaps who ride for a team from it (just look at the Giro for loony insular fans!). What is different is that we actually have a choice now who to support, and those who like to have a tribal soap opera can enjoy getting themselves all upset over what they read in the papers (like Anquetil vs Poulidor, Bartoli vs Coppi did in previous years in other countries). If Wiggins had not won the Tour, then I guess most Brits would be behind Froome without a doubt.

posted by domofarmfrites [20 posts]
10th June 2014 - 9:03

158 Likes

Football fans bring their retarded tribalism over to cycling. I'm sure it's these idiots that are getting upset about Wiggins not being selected for the Tour. They have very little understanding of the sport.

posted by redmeat [112 posts]
10th June 2014 - 9:21

156 Likes

Multinational media company with a hefty specialism in sport sponsors cycling team and media coverage increases.

Whodathunkit?

This is just yet more cycling snobbery, if people have a different view point then they must be Johnny-come-lately types, which is why people feel compelled to shoe horn in that they joined a club in the 70s or how many Tours they have watched, or they are football fans, which in turn means they must obviously be violent braindead hooligans or retarded tribalists.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
10th June 2014 - 10:24

160 Likes

domofarmfrites wrote:

But I do not agree that Brit fans are the only cycling fans who are a little nationalistic. In most countries fans support riders from their own country, or perhaps who ride for a team from it (just look at the Giro for loony insular fans!).

Loony? Don't you mean passionate? In my experience cycling fans are fans of the sport first and while they will have favourites, usually but not always the local rider, and enjoy a good rivalry (Italians for example love a spot of "polemica"), most understand just how hard the sport is and will support and encourage all of the riders. Best current example I can think of is how popular Cancellara is in Flanders. Of course the locals love it if Tommeke can win, but there is real admiration and affection for Chinny.

Closer to home, Mark Cavendish is loved in Italy and in Belgium, people who love the sport don't care about nationality, but they do love a racer.

posted by mmag1 [18 posts]
10th June 2014 - 21:57

158 Likes

Why do we Brits become stupid when a sport comes to town, I like many others follow and support the sport, you will always get the odd idiot fuelled with drink and good spirit. As long as all the riders are safe and allowed to race I, like so many true fans of the sport couldn't care less who wins. I believe the best man wins on the day that's Cycling it's entertainment for millions. If the sport does decline and follow many other sports it will be due to sponsors and shareholders not the odd mindless idiot.
Roll on the remaining Grand Tours and other tours and long live cycling........

Richard Vickers

posted by CraggValeClimber [1 posts]
11th June 2014 - 8:56

149 Likes

Well done Jimmy the cuckoo for bringing this subject up.

Rupert's picture

posted by Rupert [119 posts]
11th June 2014 - 19:37

149 Likes

farrell wrote:
This is just yet more cycling snobbery, if people have a different view point then they must be Johnny-come-lately types,

Not quite what I said or meant.

The sport will only be successful if it grows.

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1299 posts]
11th June 2014 - 20:32

148 Likes

I think a lot of sports get destroyed by their success. You get focused on the fans, but it's the win at all costs that does that. The failure to fail is what really kills sport. Tennis became sterile when it's Champions kept championing. Football has become stale because the big teams never lose. Cycling will become stale if it allows the same to happen. It was the worst thing about watching Lance. There was no drama in watching him dominate.....

....it is, to come back to one of my favourite topics, why we should be wary of champions. To fail is human, we all do it. When people don't succumb to pressures, injuries and chance it isn't real anymore - that's how you knew Lance was cheating. Nothing he did was chance. Some things you can control, but not everything. That's one reason to be vigilant and suspicious.

That's the worst thing about Sky too. Most people like dependability, we don't like randomness, we don't like the tension of not knowing - but actually that's what makes sports great when heroes falter and a new champion rises.

There will always be people with different view points and ways of expressing themselves. I didn't like the fans that ran and screamed at their heroes on the mountain climbs, but they add a bit of tension. They add jeopardy and that's what the best parts of life are about - drama.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1200 posts]
11th June 2014 - 22:24

154 Likes

Someone might boo Froome? How simply awful Rolling Eyes I think maybe the author of the piece is more suited to cricket than cyclesport? So long as there aren't bottles of piss or tacks thrown at riders etc. I think the sport of cycling will manage. I recall a few boos for Contador and the sport is still here...

posted by Wrongfoot [35 posts]
12th June 2014 - 0:25

151 Likes

Interesting point although the suggestion that these new football fans are somehow worse than the old generation has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Anyone old enough to remember the football violence of the 1970s and 1980s like myself probably has a rather jaded view of the 'good old days' as they weren't nearly as good as they are now.

Yes cycling is growing in popularity and there are some bad points with that, but in general it's to the good.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
12th June 2014 - 9:07

149 Likes

Wrongfoot wrote:
Someone might boo Froome? How simply awful Rolling Eyes I think maybe the author of the piece is more suited to cricket than cyclesport? So long as there aren't bottles of piss or tacks thrown at riders etc. I think the sport of cycling will manage. I recall a few boos for Contador and the sport is still here...

There was a group of French lads on Alpe D'Huez last year who had doctors outfits and a syringe to taunt Froome but were foiled in their attempts to heckle him which resulted in a brawl between them and some Spanish lads which some riders had to ride around.

This incident was later reported by Froome's ghostwriter David Walsh who decided to write it up as being the sole responsibility of Irish cycling fans in a wonderfully factually incorrect hatchet job because he is a monumentally cheap lying cunt.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
12th June 2014 - 9:57

149 Likes

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/the-northerner/2014/jun/12/wanted-cyc...

Probably a football fan new to cycling.

The fact he was wearing team kit practically confirms it.

posted by redmeat [112 posts]
12th June 2014 - 10:02

144 Likes

Oh come on...hooliganism in cycling is nothing new and it is definitely not a British phenomenon. If anything it is showing that we are catching up with our European neighbours with a more intimate relationship with cycling. All the major races starting from year dot have seen fans jumping in either support for their riders, or to thump their rivals. I don't condone such behaviour but it is not new to the sport.

As for tabloid like headlines - what's wrong with that? It shows an interest in the sport from the UK masses which has sadly been lacking until recently, and is most like a bit of media smoke and mirrors. The papers thrive on a rivalry - as mentioned earlier with Bartali, Coppi et al - and this increase in interest can only be a good thing. It's about time we caught up with the mainland...

onthebummel48's picture

posted by onthebummel48 [12 posts]
12th June 2014 - 10:51

143 Likes

Good article, though I think a lot of this coincides with the massive rise in social media. The rugby worldcup was 10 years, we were pretty much mostly on dial up and facebook twitter fee.

People get angry very quickly on social media and tend post on their immediate reaction rather than pause for thought, we've all done it.

We've seen poor behavior in the giro this year and I expect there is more to come in the tour, partially spurred by the chance of getting your silly face on youtube in a mankini whilst running alongside and shouting in someones ear whilst their heartbeat is at 190 up a 15% slope.....nice.

I think we will see an increase in this but at heart true fans, the ones that fall into the sport and take it to heart will always be - respect for anyone who rides these race, followed by individual rider first, team second, nationality 3rd........or maybe I'm just old school.

Now if you'll excuse me, this is my last post before I douse my sky router in petrol and throw away my Kenyan coffee beans.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [395 posts]
12th June 2014 - 11:44

148 Likes

Clearly the OP has never read Derniere Heure or L'equipe, or Gazette Della Sport, or any other newspaper in any country where Cycling is moderately popular. This sort of coverage, this sort of fanaticism has been going on for years in Northern France.

In this country support of cycling is still a minority interest, maybe some folk had a vague knowledge of Boardman, or Hoy, or even Wiggins when he won some medals at the Olympics, but road racing? Giro is something you cash, not watch.

Now it's all changing and people are getting interested, and some of those folk get a little carried away. You didn't think those guys running alongside Lance waving "Old Glory" with stuffed eagles stapled to their foreheads have always been cycling fans did you?

specs's picture

posted by specs [6 posts]
12th June 2014 - 21:44

147 Likes

Fan = abbreviation of Fanatic.

Fanatic /fəˈnatɪk/ noun

a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme cause.

all you need to know really...

Soccer values are crossing over into rugby union on and off the pitch, I've yet to see and evidence at British cycling evens but I don't watch that many. But team kit is...

...for the team.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [389 posts]
13th June 2014 - 21:33

147 Likes

Continental fans can be very rowdy. Flanders is a bit like being at a football match with chanting etc going on and everybody getting a little bit tipsy on the golden nectar.

Rupert's picture

posted by Rupert [119 posts]
16th June 2014 - 21:28

144 Likes

Thanks for all the comments.

The mix of opinions in the feedback tells me that I am not the only one who has pondered this question.

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1299 posts]
22nd June 2014 - 18:35

143 Likes

Of course one big difference is that, in cycling, if a fan boos a rider, he will hear it for maybe two seconds before he has sped on.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [195 posts]
26th June 2014 - 9:34

145 Likes

Nothing new here, Italians cycling have always had the potential to be yobbish.
Anyone remember Steven Roche in the 1987 Giro? Where Eddie Schepers and Robert Millar (who was not even on the same team) rode either side of Roche to defend him from violent media fuelled fans?
http://redkiteprayer.com/2012/06/the-story-of-the-1987-giro-ditalia/

posted by OnTheRopes [58 posts]
27th June 2014 - 8:20

148 Likes

.

pants's picture

posted by pants [102 posts]
30th June 2014 - 13:29

144 Likes

I didn't see many of the 'nouveaux' fans on the Pavés de l'Arbre this week! It was miserable, wet, cold, and some of the best riding I've seen up close (those boys were getting a proper dose of Belgian Toothpaste). But on a positive side, the amount of British fans who understand what's going on is a significant increase on even 3 or 4 years ago. I've been particularly frustrated with this nonsense about an underperforming Team Sky, a clueless Brailsford and Wiggomania - Arrrgggghhh (just thought I'd get that out!). But surely it's for the more experienced rider/fan out there to calmly explain to the armchair DS/Sunday rider their 'misunderstandings' however hard that may be?

posted by jimbaggott [2 posts]
12th July 2014 - 6:39

105 Likes

YES... I have just finished listening to a certain trios podcast and it was like listening to lineker shearer etc cliche after cliche, on and on about plan B for sky Yawn Yawn Yawn arm chair management is so tedious. You have to ask, if you(they) are so 'expert' then do it for a living. It's sport not life or death, just enjoy it, that is why I no longer follow football, 'the self promoting' self righteous, pontificating experts ruined it. No more podcasts.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

― George Carlin

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

― Euripides, Bacchae

Cyclist's picture

posted by Cyclist [225 posts]
12th July 2014 - 17:49

100 Likes

jimbaggott wrote:
But surely it's for the more experienced rider/fan out there to calmly explain to the armchair DS/Sunday rider their 'misunderstandings' however hard that may be?

That is a broad and general comment, I speak to many new riders who fully understand sports politics it's not exclusive to cycling, I have also met plenty of life long fans/club riders who have a very blinkered and romanticised view of the sport which borders on fantasy. Cycling is not rocket science.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

― George Carlin

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

― Euripides, Bacchae

Cyclist's picture

posted by Cyclist [225 posts]
12th July 2014 - 17:54

100 Likes

Hi - appreciate it's a broad comment so impossible to be accurate.....Just a personal observation through frustration I guess.

posted by jimbaggott [2 posts]
13th July 2014 - 17:25

92 Likes

Next post will be about riders not waving or saying hello when coming the other way Thinking Wink

jimmythecuckoo's picture

posted by jimmythecuckoo [1299 posts]
15th July 2014 - 13:58

72 Likes