Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wiggins wigs us out

A short interview with Bradley Wiggins regarding the US track team has the US cycling community up in arms. It is of course not the first time that the Brit or his companions have taken swipes at US cycling. Jonathan Vaughters recently ridiculed Armstrong's 2009 Tour de France performance. But the latter went largely unnoticed due to the outrage Americans felt at Contador's behavior. Hence the joy many felt when Contador was caught doping. It only reinforced what they already knew: that Contador was a bad apple who stole Lance's eight Tour. 

USA cycling representatives quickly pointed out their world record performances in women's cycling, and took offense at the notion of Taylor Phinney being labeled "pretty good." Never mind that "pretty good" in British English is roughly equivalent to "awesomely spectacular" in American English. For once, even those who know better choose to ignore their cultural awareness and take "pretty good" at face (that is American) value. Over here "pretty good" means "awfully bad."

In any case, let me just play the devil's advocate and be very blunt. Wiggins is not the only one who thinks American cycling is only so-so. It is an opinion that most European cycling fans share, but won't admit too. To say Europeans treat Americans in a circumspect way is an understatement. Ever since WWII, people in Western Europe do not want to say bad things about America or Americans.

Even when Europeans question the sanity of America, as they did with Reagan and his missiles, the charade known as the Monica Lewinsky affair, and the bible-toting, tough talking Bush Jr. and his Iraq debacle, Europeans are loath to criticize the new world.

It is perhaps fair to say that Europeans and the Brits still feel a certain kinship with their former expatriate and colonial brethren. In any case those left behind feel it more apparently than those who left the continent, or whose forefathers left the continent. They can't seem to ever get enough of showing old Europe how smart their decision to leave really was.

Another factor one should not underestimate is financial incentives. Europeans would love it if American cycling became successful. Not only would it greatly expand size of the market for cycling related items, it would add a rich market composed of big spenders. One thing Europeans particularly like about Americans is that Americans have money - and unlike some other rich countries- Americans love spending. That is why everyone is European cycling is prepared to give America a lot of leeway.

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