The value of skepticism, and the vacuous place where it often comes from


Photo: Cycling Inquisition

In a recent post, I tried my best to explain what draws me to cycling, at least to the extent that the limited amount of self-awareness I possess will allow. In typical fashion for this blog, the post meandered a bit, and dealt with Catholic imagery and out-of-body experiences as part of my assessment, which was largely written in the  present tense.

But in the face of yet another lengthy post from last week, which dealt with issues I currently see within Colombian cycling, I began to think about what first drew me to cycling as a kid. To be perfectly honest, it wasn't anything very deep. It wasn't human struggle, the sport's often-referred to beauty or anything of the sort. Cycling was everywhere in Colombia then (early to mid 80s), and I merely followed the crowds, much as I did later on, as my passion for cycling was traded in for soccer. And really, how could it not have.

Looking back upon those years, one thing that is both clear and memorable (aside from how misguided my extreme use of Brut cologne and gold chains both were as a child) is the fact that sport in Colombia has always been sold as proxy. Not for human struggle and suffering, but the struggle of one nation in particular against all others. Forever the underdog in matters of sport, culture and politics, Colombia has been so maligned as a dark and violent place, that sport serves as a stage where rights can be wronged. And while I can understand the source and reasoning of this narrative, I sometimes question its validity as Colombia (once again) begins to mature into being a leading force within cycling.

I bring this up because I've come to realize just how big of a role deep-seeded patriotism plays in how some nations (Colombia included) take in cycling, and thus how Colombians like me watch any sport. This remains true even after we've realized how peculiar this all is. Flag-waving Americans, with their borderline xenophobic sentiments have nothing on us, because we feel we've been wronged so deeply on the world stage, that coming out ahead holds a similarly deep significance.

This is not a completely negative notion mind you (perhaps I'm letting myself off the hook pretty easily here, but so be it), but an interesting one nonetheless. And it's one I encountered earlier this year as two commentators here in the United States accused Nairo Quintana of doping after his victory at the Tour of the Basque Country.



At first, I assumed it was my sports-fueled patriotism that made me react so negatively to the comments made in the clip above. And while that may have been part of it, I quickly realized something else was at play, at least on their end. Binary logic. Many commentators and fans were blind believers at one point, but in a post-Oprah confession era, all logic has been inverted in hopes that they'll get things right this time. In other words, if what you believed before turned out to be wrong, the opposite must be true. And thus, the current mood in cycling has been shaped not by a much-needed spirit of inquiry, but by simply inverting previous beliefs, often under the guise of being brave. So I must ask: what is the value of skepticism when it comes from the same vacuous place as the blind faith that preceded it?


If the question above interests you in the least bit, I must pause here, to insert a bit of crass commercialism into this post. That's because an article I wrote for the third volume of Cycling Anthology aims to answer precisely that question, or at least study it closely. If you so desire, you can purchase a copy of it here. Even if you find my writing in the book to be sub-par, I assure you that other real authors whose work is included will make up for it.

And speaking of crass commercialism, allow me to also tell you that few summer caps (in M/L size) remain. All others (summer caps in S/M and all winter caps) are now sold out. If you are even half-considering getting one, get on it, because they are going fast, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to get more ribbon from Colombia to have another run made.


And now, a culinary sidebar. Please note the photo below, which was tweeted out by Rigoberto Uran recently. Disregard the fact that he's drinking from a mug with his own...well...mug on it. Focus on the food he's about to eat. Three large arepas, a beloved staple of Colombian cooking that I've written about before. Also notice the large brick of cheese on the bowl. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that block of cheese is a rough indication of just how much of the stuff many Colombians consume. Though I no longer partake in such delicacies, I can tell you that my mother used to buy ten pounds of the stuff every month, which we kept in a casket-sized tupperware container in the fridge. She would buy that much of it every month, though it would seldom last more than two weeks. Can't have a proper arepa without cheese after all.


Today, I also wanted to share another photo with all of you. It's of young Mathias (who was born in Colombia) and his very proud adoptive father Mark, who happens to be a reader of the blog and a fan of Colombian cycling. Since fatherhood can be a tough and time-consuming affair (which can mean a lot less riding for a cyclist) Mathias' mother Josie bought the Cycling Inquisition jersey for him as a gift, before they went down to Colombia to pick up their son. Today, the family is happily together in the United States, and are already planning a return trip to Colombia in order to ride and practice their Spanish.



Lastly, I wanted to quickly mention how much I appreciate the comments that many of you leave here on the blog. I've made leaving comments as easy as possible (it can be done anonymously, with no need to log in via Facebook or anything of the sort). This leads to an amazing amount of spam comments being left, which I try to clean up on a daily basis. The amount of work involved is well worth it though, so if you ever feel like giving feedback, or voicing an opinion, feel free to do so, and know that your comments are welcome. Unless, of course, they are about the propensity I had as a child to wear both cologne and gold chains. If you even think about approaching that subject, your comments will be deleted faster than you can type "Klaus also had a brutal mullet back then".