Monday, January 03, 2022

The State Of The Gravel Scene 2022: Crashing The Party - Part 2

 With the start of each New Year I have taken the opportunity to speak out my opinions about the condition of gravel cycling in the USA. This started as a series I posted in 2018. I've added to this ever since. 

This will mark my fifth year of offering my opinions on things. Keep in mind- these are only my thoughts and they may not reflect those of yours or many involved in gravel cycling. Part 1 of this year's series can be seen HERE in case you missed it.

Toward the end of December last year a story emerged concerning Floyd Landis and his "Floyd's of Leadville" company's plans to sponsor some athletes in 2022 gravel and mountain biking events. Athletes tied to the effort were named as Tinker Juarez, the MTB legend, former road racers Genevieve Jeanson and Dave Zabriski, with Floyd himself possibly riding in a few events as well. 

On the surface of it, this is no big deal, right? Former road and mountain biking Pro riders have been taking to gravel events now for several years. Ted King, Peter Stetina, and Ian Boswell along with a raft of others are out there pounding pedals on dirt roads now. So Floyd Landis starts up a small gravel and MTB team- so what? 

Well...... History shows us that several of the folks involved with Floyd's little effort here have had a bit of a rough patch in the annals of Pro road racing's record book. Seems that doping has a common thread here amongst a few of Floyd's Of Leadville's  proposed team members. This makes the Floyd story a bit more interesting.  

How do you navigate this development? The answer to this will tell you a lot about the person answering the question. Early reactions to the 00's era doping scandals were that "dopers suck" and that any riders caught 'cheating' should summarily be "banned for life", with no real definition of just what that meant. 

I tackled this very subject about eight years ago when I was questioned whether or not I would allow a "convicted doper" to ride in my event at that time which, of course, was Trans Iowa. Here is a snippet from that post which pretty much covers what I thought then, and still do today, when it comes to people caught doping/cheating in Pro/UCI/USAC events: 

" In my view, it isn't an issue about "the rules". It isn't a "Trans Iowa" issue, it isn't a cycling issue, and it isn't even a Pro Road cycling issue. It is an issue of human character, however, and it also should be an issue of how we build up or tear down character. In my opinion, forgiveness and love win out over crucifying and castigating every time. Should there be consequences for ones actions? Absolutely. But there should be a path to forgiveness and restitution, if possible, as well. "

I found a recent article on Floyd's new gravel/MTB team to be rather enlightened in its take on this subject, and on the athlete's stories in particular. You can read that here. I highly recommend taking the time to soak in what is being written there. The stories of these "convicted dopers who should NEVER be allowed to race again" is told in a very matter-of-fact way with no bias. I think that if you read that with an open mind the "black and white" of the rhetoric surrounding doping and cycling will become, well perhaps, a bit more grey. 

Another interesting facet to this, which I noted, was how this story was teased by other cycling media. Those other outlets I saw covering this story had a lead which read something to the effect of " This Team Is Dope". Wow....I have no words for that one.... Or how about this one- "Well, let's see how inclusive gravel is now", as if that one were a quote from Floyd. Which it very may well have been, but I wasn't going to honor those click-bait leads with my click. 

I could be reading it all wrong, but many in the entrenched cycling media have not always been supportive of the gravel scene. Obviously, some think it is still a joke, a place where 'dope' teams go to ride. Many times vestiges of the contempt for gravel riding sneaks out. Culling that quote concerning inclusiveness, (if it is a quote) from the Landis story is an interesting choice when you don't see that line at all in the story I linked. Yes, click bait is a thing, and apparently certain corporate-owned cycling media are not above using the ploy in their game plan for making money over informative story-telling. 

I'd rather be led to read level-headed reporting which allows me to think things through for myself and balances information with a bit of a humanistic touch, as the story I linked did.  I'll take that any day over 'journalism' with a designed lead to create drama and ultimately division. But, as we know all too well, dividing groups up with finely crafted narratives aimed at causing a stir instead of fostering understanding is what pays the bills by getting you to click in to find out what the fuss is all about. 

So, if you asked me again in 2022 if I'd let a known 'doper' come and ride in an event I put on, I would say the same thing I said in 2014. I wouldn't summarily 'cancel' a person just for past sins. That's not my- or anyone on Earth's - job here. Or at least, it shouldn't be. 

Should we be careful who we let in the door to the 'party'? Perhaps- yes, but I'd keep a closer eye on those who are looking to pull in the big bucks from the gravel scene. People riding, as Floyd expresses, "for the fun of it" don't really need to have such scrutiny. Corporate employed media, corporate events, and chasers of big prize money and endorsements? Keep yer eyes peeled. 

But be kind to all.....


MG said...

Very well said, Brother.

Owen said...

I agree, but a person's actions after the fact can and should play a role in whether or not they're offered forgiveness and a chance at redemption. In my view, Floyd meets this criteria, however a certain someone (initials L.A.) certainly does not.

Does this mean that race promoters can pick and choose who's allowed entry and who isn't? Absolutely. As long as gravel events remain outside the purview of USAC or the UCI, individual promoters should have discretion to determine who they do or do not want representing their event. That being said, they'd be wise to respect lifetime bans handed out by the sport's governing bodies, otherwise it's just more ammo for the folks who don't take gravel seriously.

Fear rothar said...

The headline, which you wondered if it was a quote from Floyd Landis, is actually attributed to Will Geoghegan, the manager of the Floyd’s of Leadville Racing team, in this Velonews article:

Genevi√®ve Jeanson and Tinker Juarez headline new Floyd’s of Leadville Racing team

Guitar Ted said...

@Owen - Or- Should we as gravel cycling enthusiasts offer redemption and then invite the offending party to partake in that redemptive process?

Either way, in my view, in terms of what I would have done- I wouldn't pay any mind to those who were/are slagging the gravel scene. The folks who once were castigating the gravel scene are strangely silent these days. Too much at stake now. I would think that those who once were gleefully passing judgement and have something at stake now in gravel would continue to be silent. Those that never would/will give the gravel scene any credence would wail away.

Let them wail.

Guitar Ted said...

@Fear rothar. Thanks for clearing that up.

GrinnellTim said...

Watching this with interest. Though I’ve never been a big fan, Floyd brings real heart to the Big Bucks gravel scene. Love his quote referencing needing to start the pro team up again to give Tinker Juarez some health insurance. Wow! And the Brit 12 year old, Genius!