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Have pro cyclists ‘gone soft’? Perceptions of elite sport (and us mortals) discussed + Simon samples Drum & Bass On The Bike!

On the latest episode of the Podcast we’re chatting about one of the hot debates from the Giro, while Simon enjoys the “carnival atmosphere” of a two-wheeled rave through London

On episode 52 of the Podcast, we turn our attentions to a debate that helped break up the monotony during what was, to put it kindly, a rather uninteresting, if especially grim, opening two weeks to the recent Giro d’Italia: Have pro cyclists ‘gone soft’?

While George, Jack, and Ryan discuss why such a question – a common one among some fans and ex-pros seemingly obsessed with how ‘hard’ our sport is – deserves an equally blunt answer, Simon also joins us to chat about his experience of taking over London on a bike at the weekend… as part of a two-wheeled rave.


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Cycling is a tough sport, we all know that. But during last month’s Giro, a race (despite its sensational, nail-biting final weekend) characterised by horrible weather, crashes, and the return of Covid-19 in the peloton, it seemed even more gruelling than normal.

However, as discussed by Ryan in a recent opinion piece, off the almost inevitably soaking wet bike, the first grand tour of the season was dominated by a debate that raged on social media, cycling websites, and in commentary boxes – is the class of 2023 betraying the sport’s age-old (and often imagined) traditions of suffering and survival?

> Why pro cycling needs to ditch its ‘hardness’ obsession

That particular debate was fuelled in part by the decision to shorten a mid-race mountain stage due to torrential rain, and even prompted some cycling fans to accuse the Giro peloton of being “weak” and modern racing of being “tailored to comfort”.

The riders hold last-minute discussions with the organisers to shorten stage 10 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia (Zac Williams/

The riders hold last-minute discussions with the organisers to shorten stage 10 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia (Zac Williams/

In part one of this week’s episode, George, Jack, and Ryan chat about how cycling’s continuing obsession with hardness – an obsession romanticised by tales of historic epic feats in shocking conditions, and riders ‘bravely’ carrying on through injury and illness – is beginning to butt against the reality of a sport which is now beginning to display a more modern, science-based, and human side.

That dichotomy between the past and present, and modern and traditional views of cycling, can even be present within teams – an issue discussed by former track cyclist Tony Gibb in a recent interview with – where star riders are protected and kept in cotton wool, while their domestiques are squeezed for every inch of their ability.

The peloton endures another miserable day at the 2023 Giro d’Italia (Zac Williams/

Zac Williams/

We also chat about how pro cycling’s views on toughness can trickle down to amateur racers and weekend warriors, to whom logging massive miles and riding in horrific conditions can be badges of honour, despite a claim made by the hardest of hardmen, Sean Kelly, that he no longer rides in the rain (I know, a shocker).

We then question whether comparisons between different generations, and even sports, can ever be helpful. For instance, is toughness a requirement for every elite sportsperson, regardless of whether they’re a cyclist, a runner, a rugby player, or – even, God forbid – a footballer?

Just don’t ask Jack about cricket…

> Drum & Bass On The Bike is coming to London again this weekend — and its creator is still trying to make sense of it all

Meanwhile, in part two, Simon joins us to discuss a rather unusual Sunday spin, in which he joined DJ Dom Whiting for his by-now iconic Drum & Bass On The Bike ride through central London at the weekend.

If you’re unfamiliar with Drum & Bass On The Bike (where have you been?), it’s the lockdown-inspired brainchild of High Wycombe-based disc jockey Whiting, who had the idea of retrofitting a trike with decks and speakers and using it to cycle around a nominated city or town blasting tunes, now often with thousands of cyclists tagging along for the ride and rave.

Dom Whiting 02 (copyright Simon MacMichael)

> Joining Dom Whiting for a Drum & Bass On The Bike ride – a glorious afternoon in every sense

Simon, who joined him, along with thousands of others on Sunday, described the “carnival atmosphere” of the event, with people riding all sorts of bikes, including children in cargo bikes, as well as scooters, skateboards, roller blades, you name it, all enjoying the tunes and the glorious sunshine.

And, perhaps surprisingly, Simon even says the bike and beats takeover of London was greeted with enthusiasm by tourists and local motorists alike. Maybe we’ve seen the future…

The Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music, and if you have an Alexa you can just tell it to play the Podcast. It’s also embedded further up the page, so you can just press play.

At the time of broadcast, our listeners can also get a free Hammerhead Heart Rate Monitor with the purchase of a Hammerhead Karoo 2. Visit right now and use promo code ROADCC at checkout to get yours.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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Matthew Acton-Varian | 10 months ago
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I think people need to get real on the whole "going soft" trope.

Around the same time as the Giro, there was a documentary released on GCN+ about the Gavia stage at Giro '88, where they rode over the mountain in a snowstorm.

There were a number of riders who struggled in the conditions, and some ended up with permanent injury. One rider, now a team staff at Bahrain (Can't remember his name) has permanent nerve pain in his hands following that stage, nearly 40 years on.

Riders on the very physical limits put their immune system through extreme pressure and fatigue, the result being that they are much more highly susceptible to illnesses. Riding beyond that limit for too long also, as we now know, can have negative long term health affects. Had this information been available back then, things may have happened differently.

Those extreme events in days gone by would have likely shortened the careers of a number of riders, and who knows how many of them had causal health issues from it.

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