“Damn, the young rider jersey is definitely the best looking,” I said to Cole.

“It’s not the jersey; it’s the guy in it,” said Cole. “Kieran Haug is ūüĒ•.”

“Nah, bro, he’s handsome enough, but those white lines and tasteful highlights really accent his figure.”

A blue-kitted rider riding for a team that rhymes with Lebanon turned to us and said sarcastically, “You guys are great.”

Cole and I were sitting in the starting corral right before the start of Stage Two at Tour of the Gila. We were grab-assing as the clock ticked down to our race start, cutting our nerves and the boredom with a bit of playful, well-meaning banter. But that’s not how the guy riding with the team that rhymed with ‘phenomenon’ saw it.

Weeks later, his tetchiness stayed with me. Cole and I weren’t dragging any riders‚ÄĒat worst, we were objectifying another rider in flattering terms, which, ironically, if you objected to it, would only reveal light homophobia‚ÄĒsomeone else’s lack of comfort with strangers who might not be 2×4 straight riding in the peloton. If your reading of our statements was that we were being assholes rather than ridiculous, your reader needed calibration.¬†

This was a nothing exchange, and neither Cole nor I responded to that rider, but to me, the prickly, gruff, cold exchange was symptomatic of one of the cancers in low-level semi-professional road cycling‚ÄĒwitless, aggrandized self-importance.

Fun fact Рrumors swirled after 2022 that Silver City may not host the Tour of the Gila in 2023. 

Why?

Was it the traffic disruptions? Did business owners dislike hundreds of people dumping money into their businesses? Is tight-fitting lycra too edgy for a hippy, artsy town like Silver City?

Nope – the reason was that many had bad interactions with the ‘pro’ cyclists. Many found them to be ‘rude,’ ‘entitled,’ and ‘jerks.’¬†

Somehow, unlike every other race in America, Tour of the Gila wasn’t canceled in 2023 or 2024. Hell, there are even rumors it’s coming back in 2025 and might be even longer!

But never mind that the race survived despite the ‘Pros’ interaction with the locals‚ÄĒthat goes against my narrative. The real question is, why are the so-called ‘Pros’ such self-involved, entitled jackwagons?¬†

Before I get to that, I want to say something devastating to anyone in the 2.2 UCI Tour of the Gila race who acts that way. Ready?

You’re not that fast.¬†

That’s right – you’re not that fast. Here’s the truth – if you were actually fast, you wouldn’t be at the UCI 2.2 Tour of the Gila – you’d be in Europe competing for a World Tour team in the Tour de Romandie or some late spring Dutch stage race.¬†

Here’s another banger‚ÄĒnot only are you not that fast, but you’re not ‘going to make it’ either.¬†

By ‘you’re not going to make it,’ I mean that if you’re in the UCI 2.2 Tour of the Gila, you’re older than 23, and you’re¬†not in the top 5 and mobbing on everyone, the chances that some World Tour team checks the results list post-race, sees your name, and says, “Yeah, I’ll offer this 28-year-old rider in 30th place a two-year contract to race in Europe” are effectively zero.¬†

ZERO!¬†It’s not going to happen!

Getting on a World Tour team is like any other fairytale adolescent dream of being the next Michael Jordan or Taylor Swift‚ÄĒ the chances you make it are basically impossible because thousands of equally talented yet younger riders out there would give anything to ride on those teams for free.¬†¬†

I am NOT saying that the riders in the ‘Pro’ field at the Gila aren’t talented‚ÄĒafter all, I’m in the field (lol)!¬†

Most are, more or less, national-class to national-class adjacent and super-high-level athletes by any measure. Many have lab-breaking VO2 maxes, extraordinary technical skills, and all the intangible qualities that mark them out as exceptional. 

But in comparison to World Tour Riders, everyone in our field is laughably slow. For example, the Tour of the Gila winner Taylor Stites probably couldn’t avoid getting dropped in the first hour on a mountain stage in the Tour de France.

Why? 

Because¬†to stay in the main group as the break is forming, the Tour riders regularly do 7w/kg for 5 minutes.¬†Yeah, 7w/kg and that’s not even to get in the breakaway; it’s just to stay in the group.¬†

What is Stites doing on these climbs? Mid 5w/kgs – yeah, for longer than five minutes – but c’mon. When Pogacar ‘cracked’ at the Tour in 2023, he still held 5.2 w/kg. If you had that on the final day of Gila, you wouldn’t win, but you’d probably be in the top 10.

I repeat – if¬†you were¬†actually¬†fast, you wouldn’t be at the 2.2 Tour of the Gila because if you were World Class, you would walk away from the field.¬†World Class is just a different level.¬†

And that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad‚ÄĒ‘Pros’ are arrogant because they think they’re special. They think they’re special because they’re fast. But they’re not fast‚ÄĒnot really. So, the entire foundation on which they build their attitude is a lie. LMAO.

And the end result of this unfounded arrogance?

Host cities would rather forfeit the money and spectacle The Tour of the Gila brings to Silver City just so¬†they can avoid interacting with ‘pros.’¬†

So what gives? Why are pros like that?

Because of human nature. Any time a human being gets a whiff of status, no matter how insignificant, chances are they play that up and pretend they’re the best thing since sliced bread:

CAT 4s flex on Cat 5s. 

CAT 3s flex on CAT 4s.

CAT 2s flex on CAT 3s.

CAT 1s flex on CAT 2s. 

Domestic Elite’s flex on Cat 1s.

Continentals flex on Domestic Elites.

Pro Continental flex on Continentals.

World Tour’s flex on Continentals.

And Pogacar flexes on everyone.

While I’m making the case that humans, by default, will make the most out of any label or designation that confers status, cycling is especially prone to this narcissistic preening. If you’re competing in something, definitionally, on some level, you’re competing because you want to be better than other people.¬†

I’ve run this by a few people, and they’ve objected to it, but this is dispositive. If you didn’t want to be better than someone else, plain for all to see in black and white on paper, you wouldn’t sign up – you’d just ride your bike – there’s no reason to pay money to show up for a race if you don’t care about competition.¬†

So, what is putting off the locals? What’s that unmistakable air of superiority they’re encountering?¬†

The cringe combination of human nature and an inherently hierarchical sport in category and competition. 

Can this be fixed?

Absolutely¬†not‚ÄĒat least culturally.¬†

Competitive cycling is an expensive, bizarre, reclusive cult filled with strange people wired inverse to the general population, which exalts in eating its own and has no interest in growing its numbers or endearing itself to outsiders.

But individually, sure! It’s pretty easy. Just visit your mom, go into the bathroom, and read one of the Bed, Bath, and Beyond signs on the wall –

No one remembers what you did; they remember how you made them feel. 

You may not be able to change the competitive cycling culture, but you can change yourself. 

How?

By being the sort of grounded competitive cyclist who vibes with normies, smiles, and is polite, considerate, easy-going, and approachable. It won’t make you feel better than anyone else, but it will encourage people in control of whether the competition that makes you feel better than everyone else happens, happen.¬†

One last thing. Let’s run a quick thought experiment to illustrate a point – let’s pretend the ‘pros’ at the Tour of the Gila really were as fast as they pretended to be. I’m talking world class, with multiple riders with legs capable of giving Wout Van Aert nightmares.¬†

Honest question Рwould that give those riders permission to act like an elitist jackass? To ignore fans? To be rude to locals? To lip off to officials? 

Don’t answer that – think about this:¬†

  1. Is anyone better than anyone else?
  2. If so, by whatever standard, is it acceptable for a person higher in status to demean someone lower in status?

Again, don’t answer that, just think about it. There’s something I’d like to point out. The Celebrities we revere the most, the elites that do have high status, that the masses esteem ‘better,’ don’t become universally adored because they double down on the parasocial mythos built by the public.¬†

They do the opposite – they humanize themselves. How?

Think of soccer players staying for hours after practice signing autographs and even playing a pick up game. Think of Taylor Swift showing up to fans’ weddings, visiting them in the hospital and donating to GoFundMes. Remember Keanu Reeves giving up his seat on a Subway, complimenting the audience, buying people coffee at a coffee shop, and a million other random acts of kindness.¬†¬†

In other words, even though all these celebrities are GALACTICALLY more famous than even the fastest ‘pro’ in the Gila field, instead of trying to reinforce the status differential, the public figures we admire the most proactively work to deconstruct it.¬†

But Gila ‘Pros’?¬†

  1. Pretend to be fast.
  2. Even though they aren’t.
  3. Because fast in cycling = high status.
  4. If you’re high status, you can feel better than other people.
  5. But if you act like you’re better than other people, less people like you.¬†
  6. If less people like you, they won’t support you.
  7. If no one supports you, races disappear. 
ūüėā

I’m a father, so I opted to rent an AirBnB on the crit course and enjoy some peace and quiet for a week, but the rest of my cycling team stayed at host housing just down the road.¬†

The team has stayed there for several years, and the house’s owner is Robert.

Robert is 76 and has lived in this sprawling, gorgeous Victorian-era mansion on College Street in Silver City for decades. It’s a miracle that he opens his door every year to random strangers and allows them to trash his kitchen and lounge around in their bibs at all hours, but he does it, probably despite his wife’s wishes.¬†

I came over one night for a team meeting when Robert appeared from around the corner. Without prompting, he began talking.

We all stood around the kitchen listening to him rattle off story after story from his youth, how he grew up, and what his father was like, all while weaving the role various bikes had played in his life. 

None of us said anything. We listened.

At times, I noticed that Robert seemed to get very emotional, not quite tearing up, but if you looked closely, you could see the beginnings of inflammation around his eyes and the flush of blood into his cheeks as he recalled formative moments in his life, especially whenever they involved his father.

And, without warning, he stopped talking, wished us all goodnight, and left the room. 

It was then that I realized that the host housing wasn’t free. Robert wasn’t billing us for anything, but he did someone to listen to his stories. If even one of us had gotten up while he was talking and left the room, I guarantee he wouldn’t extend an invitation next year.¬†

That would be a heavier price to pay than money for many people‚ÄĒcertainly¬†many people in the ‘pro’ field with more important things to do (lol)‚ÄĒbut, to our credit, every one of us did a great job sitting quietly and listening, giving him the gift of our attention.¬†

I think we made his year.

Because my father is 85, and as Robert was talking, I sometimes saw my Dad in him. When Robert was close to tears, I also felt a stab of emotion. 

You see, in our society, we trash the old. We ship them off to homes. We ignore them – they’re invisible. Nobody on the team realizes this because all we have is our own experience, and we’re still young. People, by default, don’t look through us yet or reflexively discount everything we say and do like you would a toddler.

But for thirty minutes – guaranteed – Robert didn’t feel that way. No result any of us could have won, no cycling-related feat on our part compared to how we made him feel for thirty minutes, all because we listened. We made him feel seen.¬†

When promoters meet to plan for the Tour of the Gila 2025 and locals fill the back room asking to chop the UCI race, Robert will stand up in the crowd and push back Рnot because of how fast we are (lol) but because of how we made him feel. 

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