The Rise of Nationalism, The Demise of Races

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Nationalism, nativism and populism are on the rise across Europe and beyond. Some like it, some don’t but put your take on this aside for a moment if possible because there’s sporting connection to it. Or at least there used to be. Many bike races have a long history of nationalist association, whether as expressions of patriotism or symbolic illustrations of occupying the terrain. Will today’s politics bring new bike races.

Donald Trump hogs the headlines but across much of Europe other political outsiders are trying to make inroads. Each country is different, often very different, but to use a broad brush there’s a shared theme of nationalism and populism across the continent, for example the National Front tops the polls in France at the moment ahead of the presidential elections due in spring; what is Brexit but a reassertion of national identity? There are independence movements in Catalonia, Flanders, Scotland and other places. Nativism is growing from Poland, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark. Some are in power, most are not.

The route of Stage 7… or the map as a political and military symbol?

Is it history repeating? Certainly these forces are not new. Go back a century and the Tour de France was part of a nationalist streak in France. Race organiser Henri Desgrange is often celebrated as a promotional visionary who launched the Tour de France as a marketing stunt to sell newspapers but we skip over his other side, the one where he labelled Prussians “bastards” and called on his countrymen to “slam the butts” of their rifles into German chests until the blood spilled. For context France had been invaded by Germany so this was a war cry from Desgrange rather than an incitement to murder but it’s shocking to read all the same.

“Strasbourg, nous voilà chez-nous”
Henri Desgrange, 1919

It wasn’t just through his pen or typewriter that Desgrange expressed his national preferences. He designed the course of the Tour de France as an exercise in nationalism, tracing a route to stir national pride with visits to German regions before World War I, lands that France claimed as its own: the symbolism of the Tour de France extending into disputed terrain was obvious. Once the war was over and land ceded to France in the 1919 Versailles Treaty Desgrange wasted no time sending his race to these newly acquired places, declaring “Strasbourg, here we are at home” and delighted in visiting the city of Metz, for years a German military base with a direct rail link to Berlin, so much that it featured every year until 1939.

This idea of a bike race as an exercise in national affirmation wasn’t unusual. The Giro d’Italia was a means to unite a country that was only created in the late nineteenth century, a thread to stitch the regions together. John Foot’s excellent Pedalare! recounts several examples of Italian national pride being played out via the Giro, such as its visit to Trieste in 1946, then a disputed city between fascists and communists, a provocation that required a military escort and the riders were stoned, the full story is a reason alone to read Pedalare. Foot translates an excerpt from La Gazzetta Dello Sport:

The Giro d’Italia has been reborn to transcend a higher duty which transcends itself. Its problems are part of its success. Neapolitains and Turinese, Lombards and Laziali, Veneti and Emiliani… All Italians [all] part of a single civilisation and with one heart they all see the Giro as a mirror in which they can recognise themselves.

Similarly there are many races that used a bike race as a theme to create national unity or even internationalism such as the Peace Race with its assertion of soviet superiority and harmony between East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The Tour of Flanders was created in part to bolster Flemish nationalism.

Protesters await the Giro di Padania in 2011

This isn’t the stuff of the old days and old ways. The Giro di Padania was run in 2012 and 2013 with political backing to promote the separatist agenda of the Northern League and bolster the idea of “Padania”, or a northern Italy but folded after it was dogged by protests. Italian identity works the other way too and in 2011 the Giro’s route was specifically designed as a “Giro that celebrates 150 years since Italian unification, underlining all the specific things that are important for our country, not just sporting but also cultural, social, political, geographical, artistic, agricultural and gastronomicsaid race organiser Angelo Zomegnan.

Basque identity but not a politician in sight

There are too many races to list that have had nationalist purposes. Spain has three stages in the World Tour, the Vuelta a España of course but also the Volta Catalunya and Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. What do Catalunya and the Basque Country have in common? A strong identity and independence movements and this might explain the prominence of these events. But it’s not so simple, these are also among Spain’s wealthiest regions and cycling is particularly popular in the Pais Vasco. Causation and correlation overlap here, these races exist for a lot more than regional pride and nationalist sentiment.

Meanwhile the Tour of Flanders continues to cultivate the Flemish regional identity, celebrates the Flandrien and sees political parties with regional separatist agendas handing out those yellow and black lion flags. This doesn’t make De Ronde a political event, it’s got more to do with sport – and beer – than separatism, but it is a vehicle for those with a political agenda too.

France’s most powerful man in July, and François Hollande

So cycling has a rich history of races which exploit national identity. If nationalism and nativism are on the rise will this be reflected again in the sport? As frenetic as the politics might get these days cycling seems largely untouched and will probably stay this way. A politician, whether mainstream or maverick, needing a stunt or gimmick today doesn’t need a bike race when they can propagate a meme on social media for free. In fact this time it does seem very different because politics and cycling are often distant, see how few politicians show up at the Giro d’Italia these days and even the 100th edition won’t visit the capital in Rome.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Alps France’s National Front sees the Tour de France as a threat rather than an opportunity, denouncing the race’s foreign forays in a press release issued last October after the route presentation:

Year after year the Tour de France finds itself denatured… …while it ought to value the beauty of our nature and the history of our country… France must became France again, and no longer a simple part of the indigestible substrate of Brussels”

The irony is that Desgranges delighted in taking the race abroad, a means of imposing France itself on a foreign landscape. Taking the Tour to Düsseldorf is hardly an act of defiance but it’s still an export of French culture and a valuable export.

Maybe 50 years ago a Soviet trick would have been to rustle up a bike race in Crimea but today there’s nothing of the sort. Even the Presidential Tour of Turkey makes a nod to President Erdogan but it sticks largely to a tour of beach resorts rather than a defiant procession through Kurdish regions to the east.

Instead the political ambitions seem much smaller. A shake-up of local government in France has seen regions merge and races can help in the re-branding, for example the Four Days of Dunkerque stage race in northern France is also branded as the GP des Hauts-de-France, named after the new name for the merged Nord and Picardie regions. But these regional mergers could also endanger races, now that the Poitou-Charentes and Limousin regions of France have been folded into a larger region labelled Nouvelle Aquitaine where will the regional funding for each race come from? Who knows but see how we’ve gone from exploring whether the rise of nationalism will bring more bike races to querying whether regional government subsidies will help keep a few races afloat.

The Giro turned Belfast pink for a day

Perhaps the answer is that bike racing doesn’t matter like it once did. People are not following the race as an expression of their nationality and nor is a race a means to explore and exert national borders. Riders are not marketed as rugged individuals who toil away, sporting Stakhanovites to embody pre-set propaganda values. They’re just athletes now, no bad thing. Besides, stage a race in one country and chances are a foreigner will win given the peloton is so cosmopolitain. Similarly races are not sold as meaningful events of national significance, instead the promotional talking point is live heart rate data. Besides the peloton is so international these days that if one country wanted to turn its own race into a patriotic affair there’s a very high probability it’s won by a foreigner.

Conclusion
Right from the start bike races have exploited a nationalist streak; or nationalists have exploited races. It’s not from a bygone era either, contemporary races can still be used by politicians as we saw with the Giro di Padania a few years ago but it’s rare. Now with nationalist tides lapping across Europe and beyond it makes you wonder if this will lead to a revival of races? Probably not, it’s more likely to bring a rise in racism rather than more racing. The sport no longer seems to be the popular vehicle that it once was, instead business and athleticism come first and any national promotion is of the softest kind, a tourism promo rather than a claims of national superiority. As such it’s a relief that cycling remains a sport without much a political agenda. Yet the fact that politicians don’t see cycling as useful to their ends maybe says something about sport’s diminished role too.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+
Alex222 February 9, 2017 at 1:19 pm

I remember that Albert Bettannier painting from my studies of French history at school.
Excellent and informative piece as usual.

The Inner Ring February 9, 2017 at 6:30 pm

A good school to teach something like that and good memory too to pick it out on a cycling blog.

Nick February 9, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Is there also something relevant in the fact that the Tour of Flanders was allowed to continue under Nazi occupation, as part of the German plan to split the Flemish and Walloons?

And is the 1946 Giro visit to Trieste perhaps significant because the city was disputed between Slovenes and Italians, as much as Communists v Fascists? Would fit your nationalism theme, as would the ongoing presence of Wilier?

Eskerrik Asko February 10, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Yes, the Germans had a “Flamenpolitik”, it didn’t help the Walloons that they had a fascist party, too, the Germans chose to favour Flanders and the Flemish in all areas of life. It served as a conquer and divide policy as well, but basically the Nazis had their fuzzy notion of “pan-Aryanism” and they also figured that the Flemish who had perhaps felt downtrodden in Belgium and had separatist ideas of their own would be more positive about the occupation. But in the end both Flanders and Wallonia would have been incorporated into Greater Germany.

J Evans February 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

We are dominated by capitalism.
The majority of us exist only to provide ever more money for the super-rich.
Each new technology that is invented which could give us more freedom is used to make us produce more.
Work needlessly fills our days – its aim almost solely, profit.
People believe what the powerful tell us – that this system is inevitable, ‘human nature and ‘the only system that works; even though it can never continue without governmental financing and is destroying our planet (and no other non-totalitarian system has been allowed to be tried).
In desperation, the people swing towards something utterly false – nationalism. These ‘differences’ are totally artificial, thus your idea that this is ‘a reassertion of national identity’ is a fallacy.
Nothing to do with cycling, but neither are your first two paragraphs, and you can’t write those and then expect people to ‘put your take on this aside’.
As Socrates said, uneducated democracy leads to demagoguery. Nationalism should never be tolerated in silence: it is a bigotry used to divide us and a deliberate distraction to keep us from seeing the real issues.

Ronin February 9, 2017 at 5:39 pm

We still do not have an adequate way on the internet to express what a subtle smirk and a rolling of the eyes can convey instantly IRL.

Anonymous February 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Ronin: “There’s a reason history is in the past. It’s the past. We’re smarter than that today, because of the internet.”
http://inrng.com/2016/04/rain-for-roubaix/

Nick February 10, 2017 at 2:56 am

xkcd: “The past is another country. With an outdated military and huge oil reserves.”

Nina February 9, 2017 at 5:47 pm

I totally agree with all you say, mabye for the very first time!

It is very sad to see that people are so easily fooled and played and give so easily into their worst instincts. They should rail against their politicians, against the rich people (not all rich people), who suck them dry, against the bosses of the big companies. They all are part of the reason, why we are in a bad situation, yet exactly these people fool them once again and lead them towards easy, powerless scapegoats, who then duly fulfill their roles as villains. And so both sides are victims.

channel_zero February 11, 2017 at 9:34 pm

against the rich people (not all rich people), who suck them dry

They not-rich give it over freely by not participating in their Democracy. (the broadest definition of Democracy)

PhilProf February 9, 2017 at 5:51 pm

Regarding your comments on nationalism being artificial, aren’t all identity categories socially constructed and, thus, artificial? This is what both the natural and social sciences tell us about race and gender today. A reassertion of national identity is not a fallacy but a description of current social dynamics where this construct is being given priority. That said, I share your broader concerns.

PS Plato (not Socrates) criticizes ALL democracy as naturally devolving into demagoguery. This is not the result of a specifically uneducated public but what will always result from the rule by the many.

J Evans February 9, 2017 at 8:42 pm
Nick February 10, 2017 at 2:54 am

re identity categories, it probably depends on whether you categorise languages as artificial. If yes, then identity categories based on them are too. If no, then there’s arguably a natural distinction between the identity category of “people who I can understand and who can understand me” and “people who make no sense at all”.

gastro george February 10, 2017 at 6:09 pm

But then it also depends on what you classify as a language. Language itself if pretty dynamic, and is greatly affected by geography. Isn’t Papua-New Guinea the home of the largest number of discrete languages in the world? Largely because of the inaccessibility of neighbouring valleys. But Europe is home to a large number of dialects which may be close to each other or not. IIRC “Italian” was only unified in recent history, and Italy still has a large number of dialects. The same with French and Spanish. From a different angle, Norwegians, Swedes and Danes can understand each other. So language and nationalism are intertwined, but not identical.

chava February 10, 2017 at 11:36 am

I very much doubt that the natural sciences (biology) will say that gender identity has no root in an essential biology. Not to say the social (language) does not have influence, but radical social construction is an extreme position. Some would say that gender is the primary “categorizer” even.

Tommy B February 9, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Great post.

haps February 9, 2017 at 9:58 pm

Agree to Kaputalism!
So IMO on of the most interesting alternative projects is partly “national”
Cooperativa integral catalana(Catalan integral cooperative) –
Based in the Catalunya and basically offering, all who subscribes to some basic ideas of sustainability and self-organizing practices, to form part of the co-op. But it still embraces the idea of a Catalan identity.
if Mr. Evans and others are interested I shall gladly try to find English links.

I think cyclist to some extent moves beyond what is no on say European football, which tend to be much more tribal – and to some extent it might an inner-flaw to why the lack of a geographical identity or maybe even better a certain value-set linked to each team, which then, we can choose to relate to.

thirteen thirteen February 10, 2017 at 2:07 am

capitalism ? lmao… bailouts and mark to fantasy forever.
you don’t seem to know what that word means, as you later assert that “it can never continue without governmental financing…” you also don’t know the meaning of the word freedom.
we are dominated by governments, central banks and corporations. It is a corporatocracy.
Where do you spend your money ? Do you know where it goes ?

Who does your work for you or are you now wealthy enough you don’t need to work ?
“Work needlessly fills our days… ” Who produces what you purchase ? Are you saying almost all work could stop? Who or what will produce just the necessities of life ? Robots ?

J Evans February 10, 2017 at 10:09 am
J Evans February 10, 2017 at 11:24 am

“it can never continue without governmental financing…” = bailouts.

freedom – one example: computers mean we can produce much more. We could use computers to produce the same amount and work much less (thus having more freedom as to how we spend our time) or we can work the same amount and produce much more (of stuff we don’t need), meaning much more profit. (Or anywhere in between.) As a society, we chose the latter.

‘we are dominated by governments, central banks and corporations. It is a corporatocracy.’ – pretty much what I intimated.

You don’t seem to have understood what I said. (I kept it brief as I thought it was obvious and no-one wants pages of lecturing.)

CA February 10, 2017 at 3:11 pm

haha yeah thirteen thirteen pretty much reiterated what J Evans said word for word.

Both said our decisions are based on capitalism but we’re increasingly dependant on government bailouts…. sounds exactly like what you said J Evans!

Look, I need a bailout so I can not work as much so I can get out for a ride during daylight hours! Ok, thanks

J Evans February 9, 2017 at 1:53 pm

As for the cycling, the less nationalism is involved in the sport, the better. There has been an unwelcome rise in teams having a ‘national identity’ and people of those countries supporting those teams. Nothing to do with cycling, everything to do with the meaningless division of people.

Ecky Thump February 9, 2017 at 8:03 pm

I agree with your thoughts on capitalism.
But to deny nationalism in Europe is to forego almost it’s entire bloody history.
It is only since 1945 that the concept of ‘Europe’ as an entity was borne, and that as a bulwark against the Communist Block.
Was it not inevitable, at some point, that nationalism would rise again?
An observation only.

J Evans February 9, 2017 at 8:46 pm

I didn’t deny nationalism, I said it was meaningless, based as it is on arbitrary borders (mostly decided by ‘Who kills people best’).

antoine February 9, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Henri Desgrange created the Tour …
What’s wrong beeing nationalist when your country is at war ?
What’s wrong beeing proud of your country and your culture ?
Of course teams have a national identity if their sponsor is national.
Do you want the french lottery to sponsor a chilean team who will not race in France ? Or Bora a chinese team racing in China where Bora kitchens are not sold ?
“A shake-up of local government in France has seen regions merge” it’s not a shake-up , just a new organisation , basically to symplify and to save money.
“nationalist tides lapping across Europe” I see rather muslim terrorists, eastern-european burglars , illegal immigrants , …
The UCI is killing smaller european races by creating or promoting races in countries with no cycling culture and future.
But maybe you like better watching races in flat desert.

Ronin February 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm

Yes. The Tour of Qatar was a good race, far more interesting at this time of the year than some regional race in a grey, gloomy France that I could not watch on TV, even if wanted to.

Nina February 9, 2017 at 5:32 pm

I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with liking your country and traditions – if it ends there. Sadly it almost never does. I will never understand, why people can’t love something without hating another thing.

I also think in non-muslimic countries, it is statistically more likely to be killed by a flowerpot falling on your head or a car crushing your body, than to be hurt or die by a muslimic terrorist. Strangely enough people aren’t on the rise against flowerpots or cars. I wonder why???

That being said, of course I condemn terrorism and violence, but also racism and hate. It is also terrorism, when police officers kill people or hurt and rape people. Because the victims of these attacks clearly are always certain targets. It wasn’t a rich white man (or a white man), whose butt a french police officer rammed his baton into. These attacks by police officers and other people have a clear target and with that it is terrorism to me. Thinking about it, it is probably way more statistically likely to be a victim of that terrorism instead of muslimic terrorism, if you not live in muslimic countries.

Yesterday, while harmlessly on my way to the city, I was thinking, what kind of a person you must be, when you – against the will of that person – can take an object and stick it into the anus of another person, while this person is held down by others, screams and pleads with you to stop. I don’t even know how to write about such things, but people do it and so we have to talk and write about it. I then tried to imagine the fear of the victim, how he will be able to live the rest of his life? And I got so sick to my stomach, imagining the feelings of these two people, that I had to throw up. We read such things, think it is terrible – and then we think away. To confront ourselves with what actually happened and what it really means, would maybe help some to stop the next time. I am crying right now, while writing that. Not only because of those people, because there is more than one victim in this case. No, because of all the hate and lies and violence and racism and prejudices we experience in the last 2 years. It is like people have gone mad.

Sorry, for being off the cycling topic. It is also ok, if you delete this post, because I know it won’t be very popular and it maybe is too much for a cycling blog. I’d understand that.

Bill February 9, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Beautifully put, Nina. Nationalism is a false god that will never stop demanding sacrifices from its disciples.
Sport is one way I try to take my mind off the terrible day-to-day news.

J Evans February 9, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Very well said.
The worst response to extremism is to favour other extremists who claim to be the opposition .

Larry T February 9, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Interesting stuff as always, thanks. I’m pretty much with J Evans on this one though the last two sentences by antoine are dead-on.

J Evans February 9, 2017 at 4:09 pm

+1.
When new races evolve slowly, with a concurrent interest in cycling in that country, it’s a positive thing. Where they spring up purely at the whim of a regime (and/or solely for the purposes of profit) with no public interest and inferior parcours, it will prove damaging for the sport in the long-term, I believe. It’ll be hard to bring those small races back; it’ll be very easy for the backers of the new races to pull out.

Anonymous February 9, 2017 at 5:27 pm

+1

Tommy B February 9, 2017 at 9:08 pm

+1

Peter February 9, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Thank you for a meaningful piece here! Well considered, and topical.

Part of what I like here is that while many of the current movement conversations start with a desired conclusion and find (or make) the facts to support it, you have started with a question for which there really is no single answer. This itself is a way of showing the space between polemica and sport.

Thank you for your writing and thinking.

The Inner Ring February 9, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Thanks, the reason behind a lot of blog posts here is to help think through an issue, whether it’s today’s subject or previewing a race so I know what and who to look for, rather than to make a clickable page.

Ecky Thump February 9, 2017 at 8:15 pm

A couple of thoughts; right wing governments are broadly aligned to a reduction of the state. Cycling relies strongly on municipal funding – would this suffer, would the riders’ safety suffer if it did?

And the possible financial fall-out were the EU to suffer, with countries like Spain and Italy particularly vulnerable?
Great read Inner Ring, thanks as ever.

Ecky Thump February 9, 2017 at 9:07 pm

It’s also true that left wing politics can have a nationalist viewpoint as well, protection of native workers for example.
Which suggests that uncontrolled mass immigration across / into Europe is a strong reason for the rise in nationalism.

Anonymous February 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Sure, because there is such a thing as “uncontrolled” “mass” immigration and because people never moved across this planet since the dawn of our race and because things are so simplistic, especially in a society with different interests, that only one reason brings it all down and because – I could go on with 9 more “becauses”, but I stop here, I think I made my point clear.

Sorry, for being not very constructive, usually I refrain from saying anything in response to your posts, because I don’t think it is important enough and I don’t want to annoy our host with starting a non cycling discussion, but “uncontrolled mass immigration”…

gastro george February 10, 2017 at 6:13 pm

@Anonymous
+1

You could more easily say that nationalism is on the rise because of the failure of recent economic policies. And we have seen the results of that before.

Bill February 10, 2017 at 7:36 pm

The everlasting attraction of finding someone else to blame for your problems guarantees that politics will always be vulnerable to nationalists and demagogues who will exploit it. The past was never as idyllic as they profess it to have been and the future can’t possibly live up to their promises. Yet their vision is so attractive to some that they will brush off the horrible consequences of giving these people power in order to avoid dealing with reality.

Simon February 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm

“so I know what and who to look for, rather than to make a clickable page”

We are all extremely grateful for this, it’s what makes your articles some of the (very few) truly informative and fascinating sources of information. That we get to read them absolutely free – today, still available tomorrow and 24 hours every day for as long as it is online – is quite amazing.

Dave February 9, 2017 at 5:12 pm

interesting piece (as usual). Thanks for the recommendation for Pedalare; when I read William Fotheringham’s Coppi biography I found the interwoven story of Italy as interesting as that of the racers involved so good to have some more reading.

Last time we watched Ronde and waved the lion flags that were being handed out, the Belgians stood next to us explained that there was a right-wing political agenda to the guys handing them out. And a quick google shows you explained the significance of the colour of the claws which they also highlighted

http://inrng.com/2013/03/flemish-flags/

with the distributed flags having black.

Kit February 9, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Very interesting piece, thank you!
To me the most interesting part of all was the change in who riders are and are presented as: no longer Stakhanovites, but athletes. Athlete is such a bland, featureless identity; but cyclists are frequently anything but (and that’s partly why I like the sport so much). It seems that cyclists have been depoliticised as much as races have – not so much that they’re less outspoken but they’re less used as symbols or expressions of politics.
I was discussing a similar thing recently with an Italian friend – the idea of the Catholic ethic in cycling. Much of the history of cycling is in Catholic countries, and the evidence is frequently obvious. But his take was that discussion of pain and suffering in cycling he connected with the UK and US’s closer involvement in the sport – a sort of Protestant ethic. To him it made no sense that a virtue is made of pain or suffering on the bike – it’s part of it, but an inconvenient part, not a virtue.
Anyway, perhaps I’m just rambling!

Othersteve February 9, 2017 at 6:33 pm

Kit, I have never put the Catholic suffering and cycling together!
Although, growing up I did skip mass to go for bike rides with the club!

Inrng, how might the latest Russian ban on athletic participation fuel the fire of
nationalism for the world’s?

StevhanTI February 10, 2017 at 4:03 pm

You got that wrong there. The focus on suffering is the Protestant (and newer) aspect. The Catholic aspect is represented by the cheating, the buying and selling of races, collusion with local politicians and capitalists, the stabbing in the back of your team-mates, and so on. Most of all that this is seen as an integral part of bicycle racing and not something to be ashamed of. That’s the catholic heritage of cycling.

Eskerrik Asko February 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

I do not know much about Catholic faith – and what I know tends to be mostly Protestant badmouthing, exaggeration and misunderstanding. But aren’t there some strange rites of suffering and penance connected with Easter especially?
That chap Calvin gave Protestantism a bad name. For Luther, it was a more joyous thing. Granted, you work in a your life, you work hard and you do your work properly because it is also your way of serving God and your fellow men, but you don’t have to overdo it and you should have a beer or two afterwards.
That’s why northern Germans, Scandinavians and Finns make such trustworthy domestiques!

gabriele February 10, 2017 at 9:25 pm

“The Catholic aspect is represented by the cheating, the buying and selling of races, collusion with local politicians and capitalists, the stabbing in the back of your team-mates, and so on”.

Wow, those Borgias TV movies sure had an impact on homemade cultural anthropology! ^__^

I always wondered whether, say, Armstrong, Verbruggen, Geert Leinders, Vinokourov et al. were Protestant or Catholic, you never know with those strange mixed up or atheistoid countries… now I feel pretty much sure that they’re a bunch of Papists.

I’m eager to read some insights on the Japanese way of cycling – I guess the keirin is all about “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – and, more urgent than ever, some tip on Islamic cycling.
Thrilling expectations.

J Evans February 11, 2017 at 8:53 am

Wonderful response. I thought of responding, but couldn’t see a way of doing so without descending to the same level.

StevhanTI February 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm

Don’t know exactly what your Borgia reference is about but what I said is not really a personal opinion, it’s an opinion that’s been voiced more than once in the Flemish press. It’s seems quite prevalent among Flemish cycling-affiliates so to say.

Frank February 13, 2017 at 1:24 pm

This idea of the Protestant work ethic and the corruption of Catholicism has old roots but its currency today is due more to Max Weber and other nineteenth century academics. It had some credence then because it seemed to explain the ascendancy of Germanic and Anglo-Saxon countries at that time. In reality it is just as groundless as trying to explain the later rise of Japan or China as resulting from Bushido or Confucianism.
There are more than enough examples of industrious and stagnant regions in North America and Europe today to falsify any claims that success, virtue and religious branch are somehow connected. But prejudice is hard to kill.

gabriele February 13, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Sure, I agree, but I’d also dare to say that Max Weber’s version was just that little bit more clear-headed than the beer-soaked Flemish press prattling which StevhanTI was admittedly taking as a reference.

(on that subject… let’s stick to Flanders: I haven’t any idea about the religious inclinations of, say, Bruyneel, Landuyt, Willy Voet, Pollentier, van den Driessche, Museeuw, Vandenbroucke, and so on – I guess the fellow Flemish know better about the Curch those guy attended to. And, wait wiat wait, was it called “pot Belge” or “pope Belge”? The Catholic side of Belgium stroke again).

Ferdi February 9, 2017 at 7:23 pm

To me, the 6 countries that carved the empire of professional road cycling are one nation. Not 6. This new federal state should be called Merckxia.

Larry T February 10, 2017 at 3:26 pm

+1

gabriele February 10, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Mercoppia would be fairer.

Ferdi February 10, 2017 at 10:56 pm

Actually, Europe would be the best name. 🙂

Andrew February 9, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Perhaps the rise of nationalism and populism will lead to new events? One could easily imagine one where all British cyclists frantically try to get back from the Continent? Or where Americans try to figure out where other countries are?

Alan Whicker February 9, 2017 at 8:44 pm

These days, bike races are created not so much as vehicles for politics or nationalism or the selling of newspapers as for the promotion of tourism.

Moving ahead.

Dave Blaze February 9, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Hello Mr. INRNG

Just want to thank you for the article. I have to say that you are one of the most perceptive writers around covering professional cycling. I consider the above article and the “Fog of War” from the 2014 Giro some of the best coverage in recent years.

As for my nationalistic tendencies, I am from the CUTTERS region of the United States. We crush steep hills and the CINZANOS.

Chava February 9, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Yeah. God bless Dave Stoller!

TourDeUtah February 14, 2017 at 3:55 am

Steep hills in Indiana ?

David February 10, 2017 at 6:50 am

Excellent piece again inrng. Nationalism is never a good thing, it generally leads to conflict.

STS February 12, 2017 at 2:12 am

Can’t agree more. One of what seems to be only a few really simple truths in life.

Cascarinho February 10, 2017 at 9:30 am

The funny thing is that the Giro di Padania was dominated by Sicilians, if I remember well. On the two editions, Nibali won one and Visconti the other.

Larry T February 10, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Believe it or not there’s a “Lega Nord” group active in Sicily. Makes as much sense to me as poor people voting for Donald Trump, but what do I know?

TourDeUtah February 14, 2017 at 3:56 am

+1

Eskerrik Asko February 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm

The Peace Race – I digress, again, but you did mention it – ventured outside those three Eastern Bloc countries on a few occasions in the 1980’s. That is to say the course extended into the Soviet Union. In 1985, Moscow was a stage city and in 1986, Kiev. That was about a week after Chernobyl and Kiev is less than 100 km downwind of Pripyat…
There was, of course, too much prestige involved for the big bosses in Moscow to cancel the race. Besides, according to the Soviet authorities there was nothing to worry about healthwise. Nevertheless, a number of teams chose to DNS and there were only two Western teams left, France and Finland.
(I don’t know about France but the reason not to withdraw from the race had as much to do with the fact that the team represented the left-wing sports union as it had with what was know – usually in a slightly exaggerated version – as finlandization.)

gabriele February 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Perhaps the French were just trying to persuade the Finnish that nuclear is safe.

Eskerrik Asko February 11, 2017 at 7:04 am

For the fortunately ignorant (but curious), key words: Areva, Olkiluoto-3, European Pressurized Reactor. In a nut shell:
the project has long ago descended into farce as it is currently expected to open nine years late and several billions of euros over budget.
In better times Areva sponsored a couple of local running, cross-country skiing and road cycling races. I wonder if there ever were nuclear power companies that were involved as sponsors of either pro races or teams?

gabriele February 11, 2017 at 5:20 pm

The Volta a Catalunya’s course included Ascó on several occasions during recent years: the image of the nuclear plant on the background while the peloton passed by became someway iconic. The sponsorship became most apparent in 2012, when the stage included in its own name the claim “La vostra energia” (Catalan for “your energy”).
Here’s the news by the corporation which manages the plants of Ascó and Vandellós (some might remember the infamous Vandellós I – same property, the only difference is that in Vandellós I the French EDF was in the business, too, now they’re no more):
http://anav.es/es/noticia/la-volta-ciclista-a-catalunya-tendra-parada-en-asco-gracias-a-la-colaboracion-entre-anav-y-el-ayuntamiento-del-municipio/

Frank February 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Gabriele, I’m afraid ‘La vostra energia’ is Italian. Catalan would be ‘la seva energia’.

gabriele February 13, 2017 at 3:32 pm

@Frank
It’s the same in Italian, indeed.
But I’m afraid that ‘La seva energia’ would mean “His/her/their energy”, not “Your energy”. I’m pretty familiar with Catalan.

And if you don’t trust me, have a look here:
https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volta_a_Catalunya_de_2008
A lot of Italians in Barcelona, sure, and Endesa is Italian-owned, too (or it used to be), but I’d be quite much surprised if the Volta was *naming a stage* with an Italian slogan ^__^

Frank February 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Well, one strike against machine translation 😉
Assuming you aren’t a Turing-test beating program – I trust?

gabriele February 11, 2017 at 5:22 pm
Rooto February 11, 2017 at 10:56 am

IIRC, at that time the French government was busy trying to persuade its population that clouds containing radioactive rain miraculously stopped at the Franco-Italian border, and that there was nothing to worry about. Pulling out wouldn’t have looked good.

BC February 10, 2017 at 9:25 pm

There has always been pride in a countries athletic achievements. It is one of the reasons the French are so desperately awaiting a French TdF winner. Why Indurain was so popular in Spain, Wiggins in Great Britain, Coppi in Italy, Hinault in France and Zoetomelk in the Netherlands as other examples .

The continuing lose of long established races in cycling’s European heartland is to be much regretted. In my view there are two significant forces at play. Economics and the UCI and its WT. Europe has been losing established professional races at an alarming rate for several years. This decline accelerated after the financial collapse, when local authorities found helping support races was no longer viable on reduced budgets. On top of this, and running in parallel, the UCI in its infinite wisdom and mainly for their own selfish interests, started awarding WT races to countries with little or no cycling history or support. A recipe for chaos and long term decline of the sport. If you lose events, you lose their heart. Organizers, committees, sponsors and race supporters.

The result is plain for all to see. The financial collapse will take time for a recovery – if we don’t face another first, but the destructive policies of the UCI continue unabated.

Dee Peters February 11, 2017 at 1:20 am

Nationalism, patriotism and populism are too often used interchangeably. Here’s George Orwell on nationalism and patriotism:
“Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”
https://www.theorwellprize.co.uk/the-orwell-prize/orwell/essays-and-other-works/notes-on-nationalism/

Bern February 11, 2017 at 4:38 am

Fine pieca writin’ ya done there – “racism rather than more racing” – chapeau…

Re the capitalismo: I got a buncha old race bikes…pretty sure the builders dinna work for free…tho how much they might have been subsidized by gov’t tax breaks, bailouts and legal other-way lookism is beyond the scope of my research…

Re the nacionalismo: “nice country you got there; would be a shame if something were to happen to it” tends to get a serious rise outta lotsa folks…as does the pronouncement “nice country you got there; I’m sure you won’t mind if I and my family and my chauffeur and his family and our congregation and their distant relatives and a few scroungy folks down the glen come on over and set up shop”…irrespective of the truth of the message…
How strong the reaction (I use that term advisedly) is owes much to the skill of the rousers, and perhaps equally to the gullibility of the rabble. There’s a rich history of rabble being cheerfully/fearfully roused, almost as if their lives only achieve meaning due to the rousing…that is one powerful force to tap into, and it is wise to despair but folly to ignore…

Cd February 11, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Tour de Trump was just a thinly veiled effort to make America great again.

Frank February 13, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Now making America grate again.

plurien February 14, 2017 at 12:43 am

yeah, apparently the French are not sending any more brie or camembert. It’s only going to be emmenthal and gruyere from now on. …seems they want to make America grate again…..

plurien February 14, 2017 at 12:42 am

I want to know exactly how the Tour de Yorkshire fits in to this framework. Is it to unite Yorkshire against itself (there’s a bit of controversy in this former county over whether/how it can achieve a degree of autonomy)? Just to promote tourism to the Dales? To express regional pride as hubris? To stick one on the country’s national governing body (British Cycling swiftly put up a rival bid for the Grand Depart 2014 when it looked like ASO was thinking of GB)? To give ASO a toehold in GB? Or does it just capitalise on Gallic assumptions about ‘les Regions’ to get a race?
Great article which deals tenderly with the political reflexes that seem to go along with nationalism.

Kjetil February 14, 2017 at 8:46 am

Thanks for a superb entry, inrng, and an interesting debate by all.

And for this: “France’s most powerful man in July, and François Hollande”. Cracked me up.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: