Today, the U.S. held their National Cycling Championship Road Races in Chattanooga, TN. It’s a pretty big thing. The winner receives the prestigious title of National Champion along with the stars-and-stripes jersey that they’ll wear for one year. Forever after, they’ll carry that title with them in one form or another. For instance, only a national champion can adorn their jersey with any form of stars and stripes. If you look at the collars or sleeves of a former national champion, you’ll see this distinctive mark.
But they don’t win it alone. Cycling is a team sport.
In both races today (both men’s and women’s), team tactics were beautifully employed by both the winning teams and the losing teams. Obviously, the winning teams’ were employed a little more beautifully, but that’s not my point.
Teammates in both races turned themselves inside out for their team leaders. They chased, blocked, attacked, paced, sat on, reeled in, and worked like dogs to put their ‘leader’ in the proper position to win the race. (I place single quotation marks around ‘leader’ because it’s a nebulous title, a role that changes during the course of the race. It’s not etched in stone.) By doing so, they gave up their own chances of winning the prestigious title for themselves. For all their work, they get … essentially… nothing.
But if ours is truly a team sport, then it’s kind of silly that we don’t award the championship to the entire team. That the guy who spent his last pedal stroke to close the gap between the breakaway and his team leader gets nothing more than a party tonight and a hearty handshake. That the woman who turned her own legs to fire to hold onto the wheel of a competitor so that her teammate could ride easy wears no token on her jersey next year.
It also makes it hard to explain to the common spectator that cycling is a team sport when they watch the Olympics and see only one rider get the gold medal in the Road Race.
We should change it.
Whomever rides on the winning team should also be on the podium. They should get a medal. They should also get stars and bars on their jersey. They should also be allowed to wear some sort of designation on their jersey for the rest of their career.
Whether you’re a new racer, an aspiring pro, a team manager, or even a roadside fan, Reading the Race will elevate your cycling IQ for better racing.
Find the book in your local bookstore, bike shop, or online: