Are the Pros Pro enough ?

(Eddy Merckx was fanatical about his equipment)

Before the days of twitter , Facebook and the Internet the greatest cyclists in the World were almost supernatural . Fans would spend days recounting any brief glimpse of a Champion in the flesh . Monthly magazines like ‘Winning’ were torn apart as pictures of Hero cyclists were blue-tacked to bedroom walls . Classic and Tour winners had an aura similar to Film stars where just their presence in a room could be felt without even seeing them . They were Hero’s who could inspire a nation !

(Lance and Johan tweeting)

Nowadays with so many Professional and not so professional riders on twitter , Facebook etc. every small mundane part of their lives is immediately in the public domain , as are any personality quirks or irks . Many will think that this is a good thing as there is no such thing as too much information and the sooner they get it the better .

But , and it is a big but , is the ability to see the current crop of professional sportspeople , warts and all , taking from the inspirational hero qualities that the Champions of the past had .

(Geraint Thomas on Twitter )

On twitter last week two of Geraint Thomas’ team mates got hold of his phone and tweeted that a girl was pregnant . Immediately tweets of congratulations were flooding into his twitter timeline and he quickly had to make a denial and apologise to his actual girlfriend , all live on the net for all to see . Nicholas Roche took umbrage at a mediocre review of his book and asked the reviewer on twitter what they had accomplished . Most of his tweets are also punctuated with some very unusual spellings . Robbie Mcewen apologised to Mark Renshaw for puking on him during a race . All of this is hugely interesting to those with a tabloid mentality but is it ‘professional’ . Is all publicity good publicity ?

Now , obviously the carry on of Thomas and his team mates was just a few lads having the craic and Nicholas Roche comes across on twitter as a really nice down to earth guy , just as he does in his book but would any of this make you want to get up at 5 am to get out training on your bike in order to emulate your heros ?

Think back to interviews with the ultimate professional cyclist Sean Kelly . Each and every answer given to a journalist’s question was preceded with a deep inhale of breath followed by a pursing of lips to allow the air back out as the eyebrows raised and the forehead furrowed before all releasing as the answer poured forth . This all took 4 to 5 seconds during which the answer was being well thought out and a concise insightful and very professional answer was given . Kelly was a 24/7 professional and was always aware of representing his sponsors in a professional manner .


(Kelly then and now always a professional)

Nowadays it is the sponsors who want the riders on twitter , Facebook etc. as they see this as free widespread viral marketing , but is this going to be a short-term gain at the expense of the true fanatical following that real Hero’s inspire ?

Many of today’s pro cyclists are dependant on their coaches , nutritionists and mechanics to do every thing for them so that all they have to do is ride the bike . Some don’t even know how to wash a bike properly or even change a tube if they puncture on a smooth road in Mallorca with no team car around . Kelly and Champions like him knew every facet of their profession inside out and their attention to detail was legendary . I remember building a bike for Kelly and when he was collecting it he asked if the saddle was level , I put a level on the saddle and showed him the bubble perfectly centred , then he asked ‘is the floor level ?’ I put the level on the floor and sure enough it was very slightly off . The saddle had to be adjusted slightly to compensate . That is the attention to detail that he brings to everything he does !

Perhaps today’s professional sports people should be given classes in how best to be ‘professional’ in their dealings with all forms of media , or maybe those days are gone and true ‘God like’ Hero’s will never be seen again .


5 thoughts on “Are the Pros Pro enough ?

  • January 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Barry, A very good Blog and well put. I believe they some times these guys allow the guard to drop to make and do stupit things which they think is a great laugh at the time but do they really think or care about the consequences of their actions or is a lack of respect for the other person? Do they realise the Hurt they can cause by their actions & their comments. God help the future generations.

  • January 11, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Not sure if this is entirely printable, but it serves to illustrate your point:

    “Many moons ago, I attended a coaching session where Sean Kelly (still racing at the time) gave a very good piece of advice. ‘Always wear gloves’, he said. ‘Why?’, asked a young cyclist. ‘If you fall and tear your hands you won’t be able to w*** for weeks’, came the reply.”

    I wet myself laughing, but to this day (some 25 years later) I always wear gloves when cycling. 🙂

  • January 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Entertaining piece! While on the one hand it is interesting to see the pros “close up,” perhaps too much information really is too much. I think of Miguel Indurain, someone who never said much of anything but let his performances speak for themselves, and I just can’t imagine him looking like Geraint Thomas on the Twitter photo above. Making pro athletes into “normal” people is letting too much daylight onto magic, as the saying goes.

  • January 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Interesting Blog Barry !!! I’ve personally never taken part in hero worshipping, sporting or otherwise, but I respect talent when I see it. Respect being the key word in my opinion. Self respect is where it begins and ends. Sadly respect for our fellow human beings is slowly being destroyed and social networking is certainly playing its part. The recent abuse of Stan Collymore via Twitter being a perfect example. People are turning to social media to get there own views into the public domain, which is fine, but be respectful. That’s all it takes “RESPECT”.

  • January 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    kelly said the same thing to me 10 years ago as he said to ivormc 25 years ago, only he said you won’t be able type (work with computers). i took it to be his smart arse way of saying don’t give up your day job. Lost the will to train shortly after that, started drinkin and gave up the bike, thanks kelly ya ould F***er


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