So has the road mentality changed? Are roadies nicer nowadays? Not if you ask a newbie racing for the first time.
First-time racers comment the most often about how rude other riders are. They notice that roadies never smile or wave out on the road. Even if the newbie rider smiles and waves, they'll likely only get a frown or a sharp look away in return.
On the other hand, women seem overly friendly to one another. Just watch and listen on the starting line of any road race. They're talking amongst themselves, asking each other how they feel. They'll talk about what to expect on the course and how to race it. They seem to really care about each other and bond as a group. During an event, you'll hear them talking to one another, even providing encouragement--a stark contrast from what goes on in a men's only event.
At the start of a men's race, there's very little talking. The camaraderie seen in other team sports isn't evident and there's often a feeling of animosity among the riders. They jostle for a spot at the line and they elbow for position at the front. Is it the sport itself or is it the people?
The sport of cycling is a high-stress environment. Guys at the startling line are tense. They're not thinking about the nice dinner they'll have tonight with their girlfriend or the friendly gesture of the guy who loaned them a pump before the race. These things are all in the periphery. They're irrelevant to the task at hand and therefore they are out of mind. It's not that guys don't appreciate a kind word or friendly gesture, it's just not important in the moment.
But What About After the Race?
All this doesn't explain what happens after the race. Too often, guys will bring the competition off the course and into the parking lot. A bad line here, a bump there, a touched wheel. Post-race arguments can get heated and if a race official loses track of the finishing order, things can get ugly.
To be fair, plenty of guys will comment on how well their teammates performed that day. It's a common sight for men of all ages to gather after an event to discuss the outcome. But predictably, these shared experiences are almost always between teammates and buddies. On a rare occasion, you'll hear a guy provide congratulations to his competition at the finish line. Positive words and kind gestures do probably occur and just aren't heard among the masses.
What Should Roadies Do About It?
Chalk it up to testosterone or the history of the sport, but it's up to you to make an effort to be nicer to all the cyclists you see out on the road if you want things to change. For example, last season during a criterium, I cut a guy off with a bad move on the sprint to the finish. He howled at me when it happened, but afterward I sought him out and apologized for the bad maneuver. He was extremely gracious with my apology and I think we both felt better afterward.
Letting go of your ego and remembering that we're all supporting the sport of cycling is a good place to start. Most of us aren't professionals and having fun and being safe should be the number one goal.
This year, make it a goal to be friendlier with those you race with. This is the only way juniors and new riders who race will learn these good behaviors. And maybe 30 years from now, the reputation of the rude roadies will be history.
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