Something I find totally fascinating in any vocation in life, be it a job, a sport, a hobby like music or art, is the fact that all of them have in some way unique politics. A lot of the broad strokes can be the same but there are nuances in each and every different political situation, that make them fascinating even to an outsider. Of course it’s possible to stay out of the politics that may surround you. I, for example, try not to get involved in bike racing politics. I have opinions, yes, but I often find myself weighing up the pros and cons of getting involved, and in most cases the cons usually send the pros skyward. Of course there are also those people that go out of their way to get involved.
Before I start in earnest let me say this, I’m in no way taking a dig at anyone, or trying to dig up any unpleasantness that may have gone before, the reason I’m going to tell the story is an exploration of how bike racing politics captivated me for the first time, and how really you should always let yourself form your own opinions of people (although this approach can bite you on the arse as well, I’ve found it usually fares better).
So there I was: a 4th cat bike racer, in search of more points to gain my 3rd cat license. The next race was the Scottish Crit Champs’, in Paisley town centre, support race, 4th cat only. It turns out I got the points I needed to go to 3rd cat that day, finishing 4th. Although, and I’ll tell this part very briefly, the race was dominated, for me, by another event. The course took in part of Causeyside Street in Paisley, before turning left towards Glasgow and round the Abbey. There was one really tight bend on the far corner of the course and I felt as though I had positioned myself really well into it. Coming out I felt someone grab the back of my skinsuit and pull me back down the line, shouting and swearing about how I had cut him up in the corner. I reckon whoever it was had tried to go up the inside in the corner. Not advised. Anyway, that properly shook me and I couldn’t get back into the right position for a sprint. I finished out the race in fourth. It was won by a Spanish guy who was over doing an exchange with Scottish cycling – he had won the Battle of the Braes the previous day too, Alain Ramirez I think his name was. There was another skirmish coming over the line, all of a sudden I had guys shouting and balling at me, one guy was shouting that he couldn’t get round me in the sprint (eh, of course ya dick, that’s the whole point) anyway, the controversy of the day wasn’t that.
In writing this I’ve realised I’m a year out, the controversy I’ve been hinting at was actually when I was a youth, in 2011, the crit champs were held on the same course hence my confusion. Anyway, as much as I’d like to, I won’t go into too much detail about this, some of it is quite unpleasant and I Don’t particularly want to piss anyone off, but here’s some of the details: in the Billy Warnock Super6 race that year, there were some questionable tactics by the Endura development pair of Davie Lines and Gary Hand. I wasn’t there but I’ve heard the story a bunch of times and here’s what I’ve put together: Davie had some sort of mechanical that rendered his bike un-rideable for the rest of the race. Instead of pulling out, Davie apparently commandeered a bike from a spectator (a women’s bike depending who you ask) and jumped back in the race when it came back round again. Now although in real terms Davie should have just appeared on the finishing sheet as a lap down, or a DNF, I don’t know, it was his riding back into the race to then lead out his team mate Gary to win the race that caused the controversy. Or did it. In days past, an event like this may have passed, words been spoken among riders and that would be that. But with the infinite possibilities of communication, brought to the fore by Tim Berners Lee’s greatest invention, small controversies can be dragged out and out until they seem way bigger than they actually are.
For those, relatively, new to the Scottish cycling scene, before all the moans and whines of riders went on Facebook, there was the Braveheart Forum. For the especially young guys, yes this was facilitated by the Braveheart cycling fund that’s printed on the GCT jerseys. But anyway, after the Billy Warnock that day, Scottish Cycling’s greatest antagonist (sorry, Martin!) Martin Lonie took to the Braveheart forum, to post about the events, sticking up for the absent James McCallum. The way it had worked out, by virtue of winning the Billy Warnock, Gary Hand had won the series that year from James, and Martin argued that he would have been mightily pissed off had he been in James’ shoes. The post went viral, before the term viral was even coined. Everyone and their granny had something to say on this post. A notable one was Davie Lines in a rather noble admission of guilt asking to be removed from the results. The forum used to have these wee flames that would appear when a topic was being heavily commented on, this was a veritable inferno.
Anyway, the point of me bringing this story up is this. In 2011 when I went to Paisley first of all to compete in the Youth A crit champs, then to watch the following races including the elite men, I had this image in my head that it was some big showdown between Davie Lines and James McCallum. It was like the boxing posters, “THE REMATCH”, or whatever, this was James’ chance to get Davie back for the series. And the funniest part about all this is, I watched Davie win the champs that day and was totally raging, because Davie had become this villain in my head, a guy that wasn’t to be liked, just because of what my young mind was reading on the Braveheart forum. In the ensuing years I’d like to say I’ve become good friends with Davie (so I hope this post doesn’t piss him off!), he’s always been willing to offer a bit of advice to the young rider, and he even won my dad’s memorial race last year, and in contrast to watching him win the crit champs in 2011, I couldn’t have been happier to see Davie win the race in memory of my old man.
The moral of the story is this: take people at face value. It can be easy in any sport or competitive field, I assume, for people to garner reputations. People can be painted as something they’re not because of what others say and what they hear from others, I think it’s been important for me throughout my time on the bike to feel people out for myself. If you don’t you can wind up with prejudices that have no basis and it’s just not a nice feeling more than anything else.
For now, I’ve rattled past my self-imposed thousand word word count for these posts, so I’ll sign off for now. Next time the end of my first season, and into my most successful cross season