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The Dream Job

You’re paid to ride a bike and not just any bike but a top of the range one that’s cleaned and tuned daily by a mechanic. If you’ve had a hard day’s riding, a massage awaits. Roads are closed for you to race on, even the Champs Elysées are reserved, a privilege normally reserved for visiting heads of state. But has the fun gone out of it? Tom Dumoulin thinks so, Thibaut Pinot has said similar things and there are others who haven’t made the headlines who’d agree.

Now pro cycling is just that, a professional activity and work can be tedious. But things are changing and riders who started the sport only a few years ago are noticing the changes and added pressures.

Was it ever fun? Unlike other sports the early days of road cycling were not meant to be fun as cyclists rode in the blazing heat and into the night in order to reach checkpoints of the Tour de France, “Type 3 fun” but often the prize money was a lure, an alternative to working in a mine or toiling in the fields. No, the fun part would come later and long after the sport established and entrenched its culture of being among the hardest and toughest going but that is part of the fun, part of the attraction is racing over giant mountain passes or down cobbled tracks.

Fun versus boredom is binary, simple but it helps frame things: what is a hobby for many is a job for a few and that changes plenty. Travel may broaden the mind but visiting the same out-of-season seaside resort every winter for a training camp feels limiting and repetitive, change teams and you might still end up back in Calpe, just in a different hotel. The mountains look great on Instagram but winching yourself up the same endless climb on Mount Teide or the Sierra Nevada for the umpteenth time isn’t as glamorous. Who else spends three weeks living in the same hotel in Flanders? (Judging by the occupancy rates in March and April, not many).

It can be great to ride past hordes of roaring fans. Just as sports teams get a home advantage, the crowd helps boost many cyclists. But it’s not all one way. Who are these people who lounge beside the road with their baguettes and beer? Do they enjoy a steady job in a factory where the biggest risk is deciding whether to have dessert in the cafeteria, as opposed to hurling themselves down a mountain or rubbing shoulders at 60km/h to get into a corner first? Are they office workers who sit on ergonomic chairs inside air-conditioned buildings all day? While many in the crowd might long to be part of the race, part of the race might also fancy an idle day in folding chair.

There are differences today compared to a previous generation of riders. There’s an all-encompassing aspect, a non-stop 24-7 surveillance side that the public don’t notice. Athletes log there Whereabouts every day for the WADA anti-doping controls, it’s only a few clicks but it’s an added stress and involves sharing data many would feel uncomfortable doing. Sure, every aspiring junior or U23 would like to have a nice problem like this but in time it’ll go from nice-problem-to-have to problem. If it helps, imagine if you had to tell your employer where you’ll be on holiday, who you will spend Christmas with and if you make two clerical errors your career could be in the balance.

The sport has professionalised a lot this century and this is generally a good thing. Contracts are longer, there’s a minimum wage, riders get health insurance, there’s the Extreme Weather Protocol and more. But all this is making it even more like a workplace rather than a sports arena. As team budgets and rider wages have soared, riders are increasingly micro-managed: they’re prize assets and can’t be risked. The flipside of the huge increase in salaries is responsibility and duty and sometimes this trips into pressure and burdens.

Management techniques have come in, it’s Taylorism with everything being measured. Training used to be something done in private, a long ride with some efforts along the way and hopefully you showed up fit for a race. Now riders are monitored daily as every ride is recorded, uploaded to a team server, analysed by coaching staff and can be rated by management. A sensible coach-athlete relationship will know that riders can’t meet every training goal, every day but the rider who could skip the last set of hill reps without anybody knowing and show up fresh to race is now the rider who feels like they still have to finish the tasks even if they’re not feeling it or worried if they don’t finish the job, someone else who can will replace them. There’s an assymetry to the data gathering too as there are many measures of work like watts, heart rate, time, speed, distance and more but attempts to measure fatigue are still primitive and imprecise.

Then there’s diet, in a sport where Watts per Kilo is a defining measure, body weight can be both the denominator and the dominator and this adds to the constant pressure, where as most workers go home in the evening and can eat what they like, an athlete cannot. Only a few years ago it was acceptable to show up overweight for the early season races and the Tour Down Under was part training camp, part shiraz tasting event. Now the early season events are much more intense. Each new generation seems to say this but they’re each right, the direction of travel is one way. Plus the season is longer too.

There are hundreds of pros, so hundreds of individual approaches. Cases like Tom Dumoulin taking a break make the headlines, as did Thibaut Pinot airing his frustrations the other day, but there are many more lower down the ranks who give up. Emilien Viennet, Campbell Flakemore and Marc Fournier quit in recent years for different reasons despite a promising career, they weren’t pushed out. Daan Olivier gave up, but had a come back and then stopped again. Lennard Kämna asked Sunweb for a career break. In part it’s normal, some who become carpenters, pilots or whatever find it’s not for them; and people in any role can suffer from depression. But sports is an interesting angle as what starts as a hobby, becomes a passion then turns into a job with the inevitable responsibilities. But this has long been so, what seems to be changing is the intensity of the sport: the season is longer and riders are tracked and measured like never before. So enjoy your bike ride this weekend, especially if nobody is paying you to go out.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • dave the rave Friday, 19 February 2021, 1:02 pm

    Remember it is all voluntary. If you don’t like it, then quit. Kittel and Dumoulin no doubt have a few million euros tucked away to invest in assets and pay the bills. Good for them.

    The bit that worries me is the weight – really unhealthy to expect endurance athletes to be as thin as possible. I feel this will get worse.

    • dave in los angeles Friday, 19 February 2021, 4:52 pm

      Eating disorders have been an issue in professional cycling for a very long time.

      I’m not sure how much worse it could get. There’s a minimum number of calories these athletes need to function. I don’t think many pros are eating beyond that minimum. Not a lot of fat to cut, so to speak.

    • sam Saturday, 20 February 2021, 3:33 pm

      it’s not voluntary per se. most professional athletes of any kind have spent a life time—since early youth—with the purpose of professionalism. maybe they didn’t develop other marketable skills, maybe the eschewed education for professionalism. it’s not simply changing employers.

      let’s put it this way: would you quit your job in september and begin an entirely new and radically different career? say from marketing and sales to a culinary chef?

      the answer is likely no, so calling it “voluntary” is like calling your career voluntary.

  • Richard S Friday, 19 February 2021, 1:49 pm

    With someone like Dumoulin, a tall GC man, I imagine the main issue is the weight. I can only imagine how dreary their diets are and they probably spend most of their lives hungry. It might not be a coincidence that his decision was shortly after Christmas. Maybe he let go a bit and just couldn’t bring himself to starve himself. That and the minutiae analysis of every aspect of your physical condition and every km you ride must get you down and suck all the fun out of it. I think Dumoulin’s break will be a permanent one.

  • Eskerrik Asko Friday, 19 February 2021, 2:07 pm

    Now that I remember it is all voluntary, what should I think differently? Or how should I look at it?
    For many of us, the job we have is voluntary in the sense that we could leave it if there’s too much we don’t like about it. (Quite possibly the job we would get instead would be less interesting or pay less, but nevertheless…)
    But the things we don’t like are just as real and – just possibly – things that could or should be changed or done something about. Not that I have any idea how the life of an elite cyclist could be made less demanding or stressful.
    PS Skijumping has weight rules: if an athlete’s BMI is below a certain level, he must use shorter skis, i.e. he loses more than he gains. The equivalent in cycling could be a heavier bike 🙂

    • MadBlack Monday, 22 February 2021, 3:16 pm

      That’s brilliant. Why hasn’t anybody thought of this yet for cycling? Below a specific BMI, heavier bike or gear restrictions? Max 23t cassette. They do it to the juniors why not the pros?

  • J Evans Friday, 19 February 2021, 2:15 pm

    For me, it’s a dream job but also a nightmare job. Besides physical ability, I wouldn’t have the courage (either downhill or in sprints) or the mental strength to put myself through what they do.

    I think early retirements being more common nowadays is partly down to the reality of life back then: the riders simply couldn’t afford to stop. Now, some of the retirees have earned enough. Others haven’t, but the alternative jobs are no longer as awful-seeming as they were back in the days when many regular jobs also involved a great deal of manual labour. (A lot of jobs now are mind-numbingly tedious, but they might not seem so bad to a someone who has never had to sit in an office for 8 hours repeating the same task day-in, day-out.)

    And, as you say, others having so much control over your life must also be a factor.

    • RQS Saturday, 20 February 2021, 10:54 am

      Back in the day the choice also involved similar levels of jeopardy. Getting minced in a crash, or getting minced in a thresher machine (sorry the hyperbole is probably a bit extreme) but options these days of a normal nine to five perhaps feel more comfortable.
      There’s probably also a change in the profile of your average bike racer. Sean Kelly and Miguel Indurain came from farming backgrounds, as did many cyclists. Nowadays they the cyclists often have more middle class outlooks. I’m not sure how much any of this factors into the longevity of their cycling careers, but the choice of ploughing a field or working in a factory in a rural backwater might compared to trans-European cycling glory might be an easier choice to make than if your friends are all earning a comfortable living as accountants, bankers and doctors.

  • jc Friday, 19 February 2021, 3:09 pm

    Many of the issues described are common to all elite level athletes especially when they are being paid elite levels salaries. Cycling demands a peculiar dietary regime though all top sports folk will need to keep to specific and strict diets. The same with training, certainly for top level team sports each athlete will be carefully monitored by a team of “experts” and coaches. The lifestyle looks very glamorous from the outside but the reality is rather different. For those who do make it to the top of their sports the rewards can be very substantial but there are are many (most) that dont and for those that dont it can be a very bruising experience. Look at the number of “professional” cyclists who lost their contracts at the end of last season and now suddenly have no income and no real transferable skills.

    One issue for cycling is the very high risk of injury. It would be a very lucky professional cyclist who does not suffer from multiple bone fractures during their career. All sports carry the risk of injuries but cycling must be one of the “riskiest” mainstream sports.

    Looking back at Tom Dumoulin it does appear as if he has been unhappy for some considerable time, he has never seemed to get his “spark” back after the crash at the Giro, perhaps he was not really happy even before that. He has always struck me as an intelligent and articulate individual. Watching him in the recent Dutch TV documentary about last year’s TdF was pretty painful, there was almost a feeling of his career dissolving before our eyes. I am sure he will make a success of whatever he decides to do next.

  • Lukyluk Friday, 19 February 2021, 3:25 pm

    Very good piece, thank you for writing. For an echoing take, Alexandre Roos has written a good take in L’Equipe today, it echoes many of the points above and IMO it’s worth a read as well.

    I never went beyond the amateur stage, my mediocre ability as a junior made the decision easy between trying it out or sticking to a “normal” life. But I’ve seen friends and ex-training partners embrace it, with variable success. When we meet up and I ask them what it feels/felt like to be a pro, they emphasize the passion, the enthusiasm, the fun times with their team. Maybe because they don’t want to be cruel, they know that they made it, and you didn’t.

    But sometimes you hear them open up (after half a glass of wine, because that’s all they allow themselves) and you get a different noise. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone complain about safety – not that I’m implying that it’s not an issue, it very much is. But it’s that time when you wake up and it’s freezing and wet outside and you did 150km the day before, you feel nauseous, tired and sore, and getting on your bike feels like torture. For racing, you find the courage somewhere, but training in those conditions requires a willpower made of solid steel.

    And then it’s the toll it takes on the rest of your life. I had a friend break down in tears once, when we met up after years without seeing each other. She told me the hardest was not the workload you take upon yourself, but the burden that you impose on others. She was afraid of destroying her relationship, for a “job” that pays so little it’s borderline symbolic and can’t guarantee you’ll be employed next year, even if all goes well – no injury, no illness, no breakdown. She told me she would change her mind sometimes several times a day, on whether she should give up. And where most of us can have a good night out to indulge and clear our head, for athletes it’s not even an option.

    The pros at the top level are monitored 24/7, even in racing, in some teams, your DS knows exactly where you are at every second. I imagine myself working with my boss over my shoulder for at least 6 hours a day and I can count the days before I would become mad. I don’t see many people being able to hold that rhythm uninterrupted for 10+ years.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 19 February 2021, 4:55 pm

      Interesting, thanks and on L’Equipe, I’d been thinking about this topic for a while and then had seen that the feature was coming in tomorrow’s magazine so ended up typing up a few thoughts on the subject today rather than imitating what might have already been written in parts. L’Equipe’s features are online now for subscribers and very, very good although they focus on the most destructive cases rather than the daily boredom and background stress that catches more riders and is more what I tried to evoke here.

    • Rooto Friday, 19 February 2021, 11:20 pm

      Great post, Luc, and thanks also to IR. Every one of us knows the mental pressure of maximising your effort up that col when you don’t really feel like it. Very few – not me – can envisage that turned up to 11 with your job, income and future on the line. And then, as you say, that’s just the start. A great subject to read about and think about – thanks again.

      • Ecky Thump Saturday, 20 February 2021, 2:07 am

        One of the major causes of work-related stress (which is what we could be considering here, after all) is those factors that impact you over which you have no control.
        For the cyclist, this could be most obviously the weather.
        Imagine riding the Tour in a 40 degrees heatwave, and then stuck in a basic hotel with no air conditioning?
        For the fans, the weather can be an enjoyable element to how a race plays out.
        But an absolute stressful toil for the rider.
        Your effort and workload increases hugely. Horrible.

  • Jim Friday, 19 February 2021, 3:58 pm

    An additional pressure on professional athletes that you didn’t mention was the presence of news media and the need to address social media; the dual demands to represent sponsors and generate and maintain a personal image.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 19 February 2021, 4:02 pm

      Was thinking of this but cut the paragraph out, there seem to be two parts in that riders have to be careful what they say in case things get taken the wrong way, a confident statement can be read as arrogant, something original can be misunderstood etc. Then social media amplifies this.

      Also cut out another part about fame, being recognised for achievement is nice but some riders want a private life, it’s borderline when a rider is in team kit travelling to a race being asked for a word or a selfie, another when they’re trying to enjoy a coffee or a walk in the park on a day off.

      • RQS Saturday, 20 February 2021, 11:15 am

        I have to admit I’d struggle to spot a cyclist just out and about beyond a select few, though you might clock their emaciated physique, and ponder whether it was worth asking the asinine question “are you someone famous?”

  • NIck Friday, 19 February 2021, 3:58 pm

    It’s like a lot of these sports, and other pastimes that most people do for pleasure. The ‘job’ isn’t necessarily taking part in the event, that can still be fun. The real job is the training and everything that goes with it.

  • DJW Friday, 19 February 2021, 4:38 pm

    People might have boring jobs, but in general those boring jobs are eight hours a day, five days a week, 47 weeks per year…and if the employee turns up more or less respectable and ready to work that’s enough. A pro cyclists life has twenty four hour days and seven day weeks in terms of constraint. Even the November layoff must only be a relative relaxation. All that effort, all that suffering, for a few fleeting moments of joy – and that for the minority who taste success.

    • Nancy Friday, 19 February 2021, 6:08 pm

      sorry, I don’t think we leave in the same world. With computers and smartphone, my lab job is becoming more 24 hours, 7 days of week. lunch meeting without lunch provided are normal now. Now, they are expecting that we are reviewing data home, presentation, etc. And at the end of year, manager or director are very creative at finding something you didn’t do well or you could do better after you achieved your goal. If you don’t want to do something, they can find someone else, so you need to have a really good excuse. Yeah, life is a lot more stressful. And most people said they just hoped to have enough for retirement.

      what it was written about pro life cycling reflects transformation of the society in which vacation is luxury and working 24/7 is more normal.

      honestly, for other sports like football. usually top athletes are really good at training ethics. Often relaxation of their training ethics can lead to poor performance and losing their superstar status to keeping your job. you can see in american pro football or basketball. when they lose a bit of speed or force, their performance is going down.

      • DJW Friday, 19 February 2021, 8:36 pm

        You are right. I was fortunate to have the majority of my career pre BlackBerry though the last fifteen years before retirement was stressful,never disconnected, seeing emails which annoyed on holiday…

  • dave in los angeles Friday, 19 February 2021, 4:55 pm

    I remember reading an interview with I think Bobby Julich who talked about the miseries of pasta for breakfast. The monotony of the diets back then made for a pretty grim existence. That’s one aspect that’s improved with larger budgets.

  • Jonatan Friday, 19 February 2021, 6:03 pm

    Daan Olivier didn’t leave the sport because of motivation, unfortunately he was dealing with an ongoing knee injury. https://www.wielerflits.nl/nieuws/met-knieproblemen-kampende-olivier-zet-punt-achter-carriere/

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 19 February 2021, 7:23 pm

      You’re quite right but he had time out before that and ended up enrolling at university.

  • Ecky Thump Friday, 19 February 2021, 9:07 pm

    This is a fascinating piece and subject.
    One aspect of the professional cyclist’s life that I’d struggle to deal with would be the incessant travel and hotels.
    Imagine getting all your kit ready endless times, car journeys, air ports. It’s fun when you’re on holiday or exploring but for the cyclist it’s merely a tedious means to an end I’d imagine.
    Then the stream of hotels, usually not 5 stars luxury. You may be sharing with a team mate, kit and clothing scattered across the room, subject to someone else’s routine that grates on your own perhaps.
    The noisy air- conditioning unit on the wall outside the room window, the disturbed sleep from a 1001 different things….
    It really could be the stuff of nightmares if you could sleep well enough in the first place.
    I think being able to get home and relax in some comfort with family would help enormously but I can also see that mental well-being could be a real struggle at times for athletes.
    And, as you say, if you don’t do it, someone can come in and quite easily take your place.

    • jc Friday, 19 February 2021, 11:16 pm

      I have spent a lot of time travelling for work and it does become pretty tedious, especially if you are moving every day. The thing I would find really annoying is having to share a room. After a long working day being able to have your own small space is pretty vital. I realise that finding enough rooms for the riders and their teams is not easy, so the room share thing is probably more practical necessity than cost saving (though that must come into it too) but I dont think I would cope. One thing I acquired at a very early stage was the ability to sleep wherever, whenever, I suspect most pro cyclists would have to be the same.

  • Othersteve Saturday, 20 February 2021, 2:24 am

    This does ring true for many young cycling athletes. Although I can imagine that the motivation for many of the continental euro-pros ( France, Belgium, Italy ) is the chance to be immortalized as a champion for the ages. Once reaching that iconic statesman persona, you would have plenty of success broadcasting, commercial and financial opportunities that are commensurate with your countries love of cycling.

    Pardon me for being a bit sympathetic to the non Euro bike racers.
    Canadians, North Americans, Australians They have much fewer options even if they were somewhat successful in the pro ranks. Good forbid a semi successful American world tour racer will have to hear the “oh you must of doped like LA”.

  • Digahole Saturday, 20 February 2021, 9:29 am

    The dynamic of increasing professionalism and decreasing age of the pros at the top of the pile is an interesting one… The 20 somethings have spent the formative years of their life ‘always on’, connected 24-7 and this probably works well with the digital systemization used by the most successful teams.

    I listened to an interesting Stanley Street Social podcast with Chris Harper on life at Jumbo Visma. He loved that his meals were measured to the gram in accordance to his workload so he never had to worry about over or under eating. Not my idea of a good time, but I suppose removing many of these small choices (freedoms?) results in an overall lower level of stress. And that this style of micro-management also would sit better with younger riders.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 20 February 2021, 12:25 pm

      I heard Harper too… and read Kenny Elissonde in L’Equipe who was raising this as well. It can work but also means riders will hide chocolate bars and other snacks in their suitcases for training camps as if its contraband. It sounds funny but it’s happened like this and not really a joke for those involved.

  • Michael Walker Saturday, 20 February 2021, 9:52 am

    I think this is how all major sports are now. Look at George Best back in the day for football; football by day, party’er by night. Now, you’d never catch people living two lives at the top of the premier league.

    Cycling draws in people who like obsession, pushing the limits and challenging themselves mentally so I think however tedious the training can be, and the eating, race day makes it all worth it.

  • RQS Saturday, 20 February 2021, 11:19 am

    Any intentions of digging into Chris Froome’s rejection of disc brakes? I know Rouleur has prepared a piece on this.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 20 February 2021, 12:46 pm

      His video review was refreshing because he was saying things that are not normally said out loud but presumably it was cleared for him to say it out loud… and so part of the marketing effort. This was interesting but there’s not much more to explore in this angle, unless anyone has a question I hadn’t thought of?

      I think the discs vs rim debate a bit sterile by now. Some people seem to get very excited about it – and it’s internet traffic bonanza so you can see why some sites keep pushing stories about it – but there’s not much in it, it’s just two proven braking systems rather than anything new. It’s a bit like tea or coffee, red wine or white wine, rice or pasta where you don’t have to choose one camp forever.

      • RQS Sunday, 21 February 2021, 1:57 am

        Agreed. I guess my thought was with your keen insight what that meant for the industry, how they might view such comments. Why he said it (why he was cleared to do so). Perhaps something on industry led ‘advances’ as an examination of the impact of technological change and their uptake by the public. It is interesting that many of the best cyclists (young and old) are eschewing disc brakes for rim brakes.
        The fact is that this is likely just a cynical money spinner for bike manufacturers.

        • Ferdi Tuesday, 23 February 2021, 12:11 am

          What puzzles me is that all manufacturers seem to have decided to move in the same direction, when economic logic says that at least one manufacturer would have preferred to stick to rim brakes’ still large group of adherents. And still, rim brakes come generally cheaper, so there’s a competitive advantage there. I personally need more explanations about this sudden uniformity. I don’t quite get it. Economically.

          • Tovarishch Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 9:46 am

            Ineos are still on rim brakes.

          • Nick Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 11:15 am

            Presumably when you make the mould for the frames/fork, these are either disc- or rim-brake compatible. So it won’t be that cheap to maintain the capacity to do both, will it?

          • Anonymous Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 1:39 pm

            It’s also the design is different as the braking forces are in different places too so a frame for rim brakes should be designed differently to a disk one, or at least the rear triangle is.

  • Tom J Saturday, 20 February 2021, 11:25 am

    Marc Madiot was talking about some of the same pressures in an interview on Cycling News: in particular picking up on the “always on” nature of the sport.

    As a fan, I am unashamedly in the “romantic” view of the sport and think it would be improved without radios – rewarding spontaneity and cleverness of the riders rather than the managers. But it is interesting also to consider it from a rider’s point of view, and the pressures that the always on culture brings to them.

    https://www.cyclingnews.com/news/madiot-were-turning-riders-into-robots/

    • J Evans Saturday, 20 February 2021, 1:21 pm

      Race radios and live data are solely about teams trying to control their riders, and the riders’ stress levels are another reason to get rid of them.
      Radios and live data may or may not take away the spontaneity of racing – that’s unproven – but they do mean that riders have to think for themselves less. This ‘punishes’ older riders, as they don’t get such large benefits of their experience.
      As many riders have said – Jos van Emden spelled it out particularly well – race radios make racing less safe, not more safe. The teams use the ‘safety’ issue erroneously, in order to protect their use of them.

      van Emden:
      “No more radio connections between the sports directors and the riders. It makes the racing very unsafe because many directors shout that their riders must go forward, even if it’s not actually necessary. The riders could instead just be in contact with the race jury car, which could report problems and or mechanicals.”

  • Joy Saturday, 20 February 2021, 1:57 pm

    The effects of burnout are becoming increasingly prevalent in professional sports, especially this year when many sports seasons have become squeezed due to Covid breaks the previous.
    Talk of player welfare and shorter seasons + less games = more hype + happier, healthier athletes is doing the rounds with regards football and rugby in particular at present. Interesting results may follow if this were to be applied to cycling.
    The challenge posed by this proposition to the attritional ideas associated with cycling by the blazers, fans and even the riders however may prove too much to imposing any significant change. Shorter seasons may also mean less money, that all powerful factor.

  • Steve Potts Saturday, 20 February 2021, 2:46 pm

    Every time I haul my fat arse up another gentle slope I’m glad my livelihood doesn’t depend on beating anyone else to the top!

    The level of motivation, self-discipline and focus required to participate in professional cycling is enormous, and anyone who makes a career of it has my respect. Add to that the demands of sponsors, social media, family, health and finance, as have been mentioned, and it’s not an easy career choice.

    It would be interesting to know what factors, other than consistent physical ability, mean that some riders such as Gilbert, Valverde, Adam Hansen etc are able to sustain such long careers while others choose to quit.

    • Richard S Saturday, 20 February 2021, 6:43 pm

      Yeah I was thinking about that too. I think part of it is they were in the game and successful (at least in Gilbert and Valverde’s case) before all this came along. Valverde was around before helmets.. and I know Gilbert was very late to adopting a power meter. I think if you’re as good as them you’re allowed to tell the coaches what you want to do and are left to get on with it. And in Hansens case he had quite an unusual lifestyle for a pro. He didn’t live in one of the big pro areas (Mallorca/Tuscany/Como/Girona etc) and took ages off in winter, just rode the grand tours. He was able to keep mentally fresh and motivated.

  • BC Saturday, 20 February 2021, 4:55 pm

    Well, life is far too short.

    We should be grateful that riders/people can make whatever choices they feel suits and fulfils them. Being fast on the bike might be important to some, but it is far from everything.

    • Othersteve Saturday, 20 February 2021, 6:22 pm

      Well said BC.
      In the department store of life cycles are in the toy department

      • Blueman Ash Monday, 22 February 2021, 1:49 pm

        Every comment posted has been well written and thought through but I congratulate you Othersteve. Thanks for the belly laugh brother.

  • Greasy Wheel Saturday, 20 February 2021, 11:24 pm

    Excellent article and thoughtful comments are per usual.

    To what extent is there an overlap with some of these issues and the fact that some of the racing, particularly in the TDF, can be sterile and predictable. Know your FTP, ride to it, don’t take risks, follow the plan. Is there a danger we lose some of our more exciting riders, like Pinot? Or am I just letting confirmation bias take over?

  • Paulo Rocha Sunday, 21 February 2021, 12:12 am

    The world became more global and with it, became more competitive, because more people that before did not have any opportunity, now have. Higher rewards await for the high performers and lower rewards await for all the rest, but the stress level has risened in overall for everyone. But that is normal in any career as much as is in cycling, and I do not see any difference from consultancy, auditing, politics, etc.
    Every job has its own agenda problems.

  • Michael B Sunday, 21 February 2021, 12:26 pm

    On Mitch Docker’s Life In The Peloton podcast I heard Heinrich Haussler say that his treat / cheat meal was vegan soya coconut yoghurt. It made me sad.

  • Dave Tricamo Sunday, 21 February 2021, 5:02 pm

    Because I was always a mediocre athlete, and I saw what happened to those with talent and who tried to make athletics a career, I had a moto when I was younger that rings true to me to this day. “If you love riding your bike, then make sure that you make your living in a way that has nothing to do with bicycles.” And here I am at 57, riding 10-12 hours a week, eating and drinking a reasonable amount, and feeling like the luckiest guy on earth. This article reinforces this sentiment, although obviously my youthful moto does not apply to all.

    • Larry T Monday, 22 February 2021, 3:52 pm

      I’ll counter that as someone who raced motos as a pro and made a living running the parts department of a moto dealership before switching to pedal-powered two-wheelers (racing a bit in the lower divisions while turning a wrench in a retail shop) later and have never looked back 🙂
      OTOH anyone who thinks being a pro cyclist is some sort of glamorous lifestyle has never seen it up close – once you’ve seen guys at the end of the Tour de France pull off their jerseys or (worse) seen ’em bare-assed naked lining up to be weighed post-stage in the halls of a hotel atop Alpe d’Huez you know the sport has zero glamor and is probably detrimental to your long-term health vs JRA for fun and exercise.

  • will Monday, 22 February 2021, 2:35 am

    I think that covid must really have added to these stresses. I assume that if the bubbles riders are supposed to be in during races are going to mean anything, they’ll have very limited options, and be stuck with the same few people even more of the time. For people with families and kids, it must made life harder. I know that in cricket – yes, brit reference – they’re being pretty careful to give people breaks.

  • Clyde Monday, 22 February 2021, 2:04 pm

    Thanks for an excellent write up. I truly enjoy visiting this site really more than any other cycling site on the web. Your perspective and opinions are appreciated.

  • Alden Monday, 22 February 2021, 2:16 pm

    I’ve seen similar remarks regarding the NBA from the players profiled in the book, The Victory Machine by Ethan S. Strauss.
    I’m a retired high school teacher. I think my profession changed immeasurably with email and social media. In the 1980’s, my morning started with going to the teacher’s lounge to my mailbox. Whatever was written on that daily message was the beginning and end of communications with admin. Or anybody outside of my classroom. For better or worse, parents couldn’t get to me very easily. I see it now as once having a daily force field to sit in my classroom, work with students, assess, run my math club and baseball practice after school and eventually go home. Now, the morning visit to the lounge is no more. It’s straight to class and my laptop; whatever I use to do, as teacher, has the added work of dealing with issues and people in the virtual space.
    Similar to the pros in the peloton. There really was less job in my job. (Is this a pun?)

  • Ferdi Tuesday, 23 February 2021, 2:30 pm

    This piece seems written from a rider’s angle, so it must be taken with a pinch of salt.
    Well, too much professionalization and too much money around. Not enough playfulness. The excruciating dieting is a big problem. If someone is interested, I can devise races where riders don’t have to be so fleshless. You need to make it possible to create gaps on climbs that are not too steep, by reducing uphill speed and uphill slipstreaming, which you can achieve by increased mileage and de-optimised bicycles.

  • Luke Robbins Tuesday, 23 February 2021, 8:50 pm

    Great post, thank you.

  • Lee Woodhead Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 3:16 pm

    Of all the professional sports cycling has the least appeal; you have to be incredibly good just to get your expenses paid in a national level team. If I had the talent then golf or football is far more appealing & lucrative. However, I love cycling as a hobby, much prefer it to football, running & never bothered with golf.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 25 February 2021, 8:42 am

    As mentioned above, best way to kill your lovely cycling hobby – start earning a (living) from it. Who would want to do that?