On this day of the annual racing of the Joe Robinson handicap, I feel inspired to reflect upon changes I’ve seen on the racing scene since 1992 when I first took up the sport. There are many, so I will be brief.
Race entry has gone from $5 to $10 per race, with no increase in prize money, due to clubs having larger overheads now, most self-imposed; this of course means races are ran from comfortable clubhouses, not the boot of Joe’s car. Handicaps are less frequent, meaning handicappers rarely get it right the way old Joe used to. The economic boom of the Howard years put many riders on far better equipment, even specialized time trials bikes that only come out a few times a year.
There are more riders, the extra ones being the ones who won’t shave their legs—their lack of respect being further evidenced by their tendency to not hold their lines. The greater numbers, and P.C. tolerance of clutzes since the advent of terms like "sledging", and "road rage" is a factor, I suspect, behind all the accidents and comas etc., that seemed less of a problem in the 1990s. If I may generalise, teenagers and riders who start in their 50s are the most clumsy, although there are a few long standing incurable miscreants—oh how I would love to name names! One is French.
On a personal note, people who entered the sport during my 8 year "retirement" don’t know who I am, so I am very rarely marked now, and can easily slip to the back of the peloton with nobody caring. There is less swearing in races. There could be more swearing—I mean, where the f__k else can we do it these day! There are spectators. There never used to be spectators. Naturally, I have chosen photos of me winning to illustrate this post.
Now I should mention that I do not know a cyclist who I don’t like, and this shocks me. As a rule I don’t particularly like anyone. Perhaps my liking of people I ride with has something to do with the nature of cycling, how we spend most of our time working together to maintain a higher speed than any of us could sustain on our own, how we put our faith in the riders ahead not to fall or cross wheels, how it is understood we are there ultimately to beat one another when the finish line comes. Moment by moment cooperation with the transparent aim of making losers of those you have worked with, leads to friendship. In the workplace, by contrast, disingenuous teamwork toward some common goal that we all know doesn’t exist, leads mostly to loathing. Perhaps organizations would be more cohesive if work mates were pitted against one another?