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Pope Francis says road cycling shows value of teamwork – but warns about sport’s dark side

Pontiff says sport exemplifies teamwork - but warns against pursuit of success at all costs

Pope Francis says that road cycling  provides an example of the value of teamwork – but has warned that the pursuit of “prestige and profit” can lead riders astray.

The Pontiff was speaking at the Vatican yesterday to officials from the European Cycling Union (UEC) and the African Cycling Federation, with both the regional governing bodies holding meetings in the Eternal City today, reports Carlton Reid on

He said that cycling is “one of the sports that places emphasis on patience in effort, on long and difficult climbs; courage, in trying to breakaway or making a sprint; integrity, in respecting the rules; altruism and team spirit.”

Speaking of how it exemplified teamwork, he continued: “If we consider road cycling we can see how the whole team works together during the races: the support riders, the sprinters, the climbers.

“They often have to sacrifice themselves for the leader, and when a teammate experiences difficulty it is the other teammates who show support and accompaniment.

“In life too, it is necessary to cultivate a spirit of selflessness, generosity and community in order to help those who have fallen behind and who need help to achieve a certain goal.”

Warming to his subject, he continued: “Many cyclists have been examples, in sport and in life, for their integrity and consistency, giving of their best in cycling.

“In their careers they have known how to combine strength of mind and determination to achieve victory, but also solidarity and joy of living in bearing witness to having discovered the potential of the human being, created in the image and likeness of God, and the beauty of living in communion with others and with creation.”

But he cautioned that the single-minded pursuit of success all too often came at a price of sacrificing morals, warning that when “sport becomes an end in itself, and the person an instrument at the service of other interests such as prestige and profit, then distortions appear that taint it.

“I am thinking of doping, dishonesty, disrespect for oneself and one’s opponents, and corruption.”

The two organisations gave the Pope a white city bike, not the first time he has been gifted a bicycle.

Last year, three-time world champion Peter Sagan presented Pope Francis with a Specialized road bike, and five years ago four women undertook an 800-kilometre charity ride from Monza to Rome to present him with a new electric bike, which was promptly auctioned for charity.

Made by Atala, it was the second e-bike he was given that year, with Daimler having gifted one to him several months earlier.

In 2013, the year in which he was elected Pope, he said told novice nuns and trainee priests that if they needed a car to get around, to choose a humble model, not an ostentatious one.

“I’m telling you, truly, it hurts me when I see a priest or a sister with a brand new car. But you can’t, you can’t!” he said.

“Now, you’re thinking, ‘but then, father, must we go by bike?’” he said.  “Bikes are nice. Monsignor Alfred [his private secretary] goes by bike, he does it.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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