Rob Blog: RIDE #59
The closing line of RIDE Cycling Review #59 (volume 01, 2013) marked the end of the first 15 years of the magazine. Now, onward to another stanza…
Note from the publisher
A lot has happened in our sport since the first issue was released on 8 July 1998. In fact, that very day heralded the beginning of a great cleansing for cycling. Three days later Chris Boardman would win the prologue of the Tour de France in Dublin, Ireland, but few people were talking about the racing. Instead doping was the topic. The arrest of a soigneur from the Festina team – one that boasted the runner-up from the previous edition, Richard Virenque, as well as the reigning world champion, Laurent Brochard – marked the start of the so-called “Festina Affair”. It’s an old story and it’s been told many times over the years but it’s as relevant today as it was back then… perhaps it’s even more poignant in 2013 than it was in the intervening years.
Cycling is different now.
As we’ve often referenced, no issue of RIDE has been released without a mention of one doping saga or another. But still, somehow, we remain optimistic.
Above all, the reason for this is that cycling is beautiful. I offered my explanation on this in the ‘Why Ride’ column in #58 (p.28). The closing paragraph reads: “Trust me, my friends, cycling is not dead. Doping is dying and hope is emerging. There’s a lot of good that can be taken from this. We recognise that there’s fraud, and we detest it. We understand that there’s temptation and plead that riders resist it. We have our anecdotes of where we were when someone won somewhere and stories of how races influenced our lives. But cycling is alive. And there’s no single reason why we ride… for it’s the whole experience that counts.”
I’m proud of that sentiment but only wish that we could create an issue of RIDE without having to reference the sordid aspects that have been exposed in greater detail since the time of the title’s inception. Still, it’s all part of the story of cycling.
Success is questioned like never before. But, thankfully, achieving it with artificial enhancement is also more difficult. Still, complacency is costly and the moment that anyone believes there are no more cheats in sport is the time when those types emerge once again. It’s human nature to seek an easier route if one exists but there’s no glory in cheating and praise should never be lavished on those who try to con us with a myth.
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As we begin the countdown to the release of RIDE #60 (due out in May 2013) the intention is to publish some blogs. This is the first but you can expect more in the coming months as myself, the staff of the magazine, and contributors alike share their thoughts on the world of cycling.
It’s a shame to start of this series of blogs with commentary on an obvious topic but it would be silly to simply ignore the reality of what has happened. You’ll find plenty of material on our site relating to the woes of the past (there are links at the bottom of this page that steer you towards some of these posts) but for now the aim is to relate to you some of the machinations involved in putting issues of a magazine about cycling together.
We are blessed that, above all, cycling is beautiful. People may cheat to win races but that doesn’t stop others from enjoying the simple act of riding a bike.
This is a prime time for cycling. In places where it was once seen as a second-tier sport, it’s now mainstream. It is possible for fans to watch the world’s biggest races live on television in 2013 and it wasn’t like that 15 years ago when RIDE #01 was released with the coverline: “A celebration of cycling”.
Before starting this magazine, I had worked for two other publishers responsible for cycling titles: Bicycling Australia and the now-defunct Cycling World. Before that, I’d worked for a race promoter who was responsible for the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic. And before that, I loved riding my bike. I still do. And that’s why I do what I do.
Cycling is many things to many people. There are a multitude of emotions that are conjured because of the act of riding a bike. Of course there’s the joy of cresting a steep hill, the thrill of racing down the other side. There’s the fulfilment that comes with knowing you’ve ridden further than you previously may have thought possible. There’s the pain that comes with cramp. The frustration of not being able to follow a wheel that had once led you up and down a paceline. There are the days when rain falls while you’re out on the bike and you’ve got no option but to push on through the wet – when every part of your being is sodden – and yet a smile emerges because of the ridiculousness of the situation. There’s the heat of summer that bakes your skin as you pedal and draws lines on your arms and legs no matter how much sunscreen is applied. There are the moments at the end of a race when the bitter taste of bile sneaks up your throat and makes you question why it is that you opted not to stop. And there are the instances when you’ve beaten others and feel as though you are invincible.
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I see the racing season differently now to how I once did. One reason for this is, quite simply, that it is different. Over 30 years ago, when I discovered the world of professional racing, the events seemed exotic and distant. The European scene was a mysterious other world: something that enjoyed an enormous following in the places where the races took place but were obtuse and difficult to fathom for people from the other side of the world.
The Tour de France was – and still is – the biggest event of all and my dream was to one day see it. I’ve done that now. In fact, I’ve attended a total of 319 stages (and 11 prologues) and been a part of the race every day since Boardman’s win in Dublin. My job at the Tour is a highlight of my year. It offers me a chance to relay the action to an audience of millions as I tap out a live commentary on the official site of the race. And it has introduced me to many professionals who have eked out a career because of bike racing. The people I’ve met because of cycling are fascinating. And each has a story to tell.
Every page created for RIDE Cycling Review is a conquest in its own right for me. I’ve written many of the words that have filled the magazine over the years and edited all others. And yet, although I’ve seen everything that has been published since July 1998, there are still moments of reflection when perusing through copies from the past. Stories which had been laboured over for hour upon hour can now, at times, surprise me for I’ve essentially forgotten about their existence. They can also please me enormously because often the content is as relevant today as it was when it was published.
The notion of RIDE is to celebrate cycling. That hasn’t changed but I’m no longer the wide-eyed fan who traipsed off to Europe with a backpack at the age of 21 dreaming of seeing some professional racing. Nor am I a bitter old man who has lost enthusiasm because of what human nature has done to my sport. I’m an optimist who will ride until I’m no longer physically capable of doing so… but I dread the day this happens – because cycling is beautiful.
Not every blog is going to be an affirmation of the benefits or beauty of cycling. In the course of the coming months, I plan to share my thoughts on some issues from the past and explain the processes involved in putting a magazine together. I’ll talk through which issues or stories are my favourites. And I’ll be asking my staff and contributors to share their thoughts and anecdotes on what they do and why.
In the meantime, have a look around this site, join in our conversations on our Facebook page, flick through the pages of back issues you have lying around, recognise the passing of time and the evolution of our sport. And, above all, ride.
– Rob Arnold
Publisher, RIDE Media P/L
(01 March 2013)
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RIDE Media publishes RIDE Cycling Review, a quarterly magazine all about cycling.
RIDE Cycling Review is now available in a digital format via Zinio.