New York City is alright (if you like saxophones)
Much in the same way that I expressed my relative uneasiness about Las Vegas earlier this year, I should tell you that my relationship with New York City has been tenuous at best over time. I lived there briefly at one point, and continue to love the place, but also find it to be a monumental pain in the ass. Be that as it may, there are always memorable aspects to every visit. No, I'm not referring to the plentiful free nudity that is afforded to those who walk on the High Line below the Standard hotel, or the fact that while riding a Citi bike at night I was nearly thrown up on (perhaps missed by half an inch) by a man who was holding up traffic, and commenced his puke fest as I was riding by him. No. I'm talking about the fact that in New York City, you can go into a cycling cafe to buy a banana, say hello, and maybe use the bathroom, and you can end up hosting a q&a and book signing with Richard Moore, which in turn ends up being a panel discussion with Moore and Greg Lemond, as a Eurosport camera crew looks on. Say what you will about the likelihood of being thrown up on while riding a Citi bike, but this type of thing doesn't seem to happen in most cities.
Photo: NY Times Fashionable Otherness
A recent New York Times article detailed the growth in popularity that football (especially England's Premiere League) is experiencing among New York's "creative class". Depending on your point of view, the article could potentially make you roll your eyes so much that you'll get a headache, because having a 24 year old brand strategist who lives in Brooklyn explain Liverpool's working class ethos and politics (both the city and the team) can simply be a bit much.
"The politics of Liverpool was really sort of anti-Thatcher. It’s become the people’s club. Those hardworking blue-collar values never really left, even though it’s been ushered into the modern era of the club being a global franchise."
Nevertheless, the article does zero in on one aspect of the sport that seems to be attracting these American fans, namely "Europhilic allure and fashionable otherness". Is the same true for cycling? I have certainly said as much before. Could cycling ever experience a similar rise in popularity, though perhaps to much lesser extent (in part because its worldwide popularity is far below that of football)? If so, would it's "otherness" wear off for some, as the unfamiliar could suddenly become pedestrian? I'm not sure that we'll ever be faced with this issue, but the article made me wonder about such a scenario.
The very foreign otherness referenced by the New York Times regarding football certainly exists in one aspect of professional cycling: rider's names. While some are easy to work your way through, others have been historically difficult for non native speakers. Admit it, you can fake your way through Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Gert-Jan Theunisse, Vyacheslav Kuznetsov, and Sergei Sukhoruchenkov, but you're not completely sure you're getting them right. I mean, most people don't know how to pronounce SRAM (even professionals who ride their stuff don't ), and Leonardo Duque's last name is still pronounced "dookie" by most announcers. Team Sky's Sergio "Hey Now " has not fared much better. To that end, my brother has embarked on a project that I'm helping him with, which gets native speakers to pronounce the names of professional riders. You should head on over and take a listen (note: audio files are not working in Firefox right now).
After Mauricio Ardila posted the image above on Instagram, people in Colombia started to speculate as to who the bearded Sky rider training in Antioquia was. Wiggins? Xabier Zandio? Whatever the case, we Colombians were collectively flattered that any Sky rider would venture over to ride and take in the scenery (much as we were when Ben King did likewise with Janier Acevedo this winter).
Turns out that the bearded man was not a team rider at all, but Oli Cookson, Brian Cookson's son (say that three times fast), who works for Sky as a performance assistant. He's in Colombia working with Henao on the testing that the team has scheduled in hopes of clearing up the results that caused him to get suspended. This explains why the bearded man is full Sky kit, with a Pinarello bike, and team-correct water bottles. He works for Sky, I get it. And at the same time, learning this made me wish that professional cycling could be just a tiny bit bigger. Not only for the obvious reasons (more funding for the sport, better coverage, better pay for staff and young riders etc), but because the pool of people to draw from, even now that the sport has become far more international, seems awfully small. Doesn't it? Oli Cookson most certainly has the right to work within cycling, a sport he no doubt loves. That he's employed by Sky is not some nefarious secret...but it does make you sort of wish for a larger talent pool. Right? Am I way off here? That's always a possibility that I'm open to.