May 10 2013
(not verbatim, contains typos, and sometimes I go off-book)
Yes, the Rancast is back this week, with more-or-less proper intro music—more on that later. But I’m going to surprise most you today by NOT ranting about BeINSport’s Giro coverage—or at least few miserable dribbles of it (dribbels of the not-on-nosebleed-cable or dish package variety) that my eyeballs—and most other eyeballs across this great nation—have access to. No I’m saving that for next week, and giving BeIN seven more days to get their act together. AS my fellow Dartmouth alumnus Steven Colbert would say, BeIn Sport, you’re on notice.
Today, I’m actually going to focus on a topic that is actually of more global concern to cycling—mondialization. (see what I did there).
Yes, the barbarized phrase of Pat McQuaid, the rented horse of the UCI, their all-too-ready and all-too-unconvincing riposte any time someone brings up doping or corruption or some combination of the two—mondialization—the expansion of this decidedly European sport beyond Europe. And it’s a great idea—just not, as you probably have come to expect by now—the way the UCI is carrying it out.
First, let’s start with the word itself: when spelled with an “O”, it’s technically not even an English word. It should be Mundialization, with a “u”, but you know, what, that’s fine. If you’re an anglophone and you’re not OK with loan words and your keyboard doesn’t contain the characters ð, ƿ, and þ, you are a hypocrite.
No, my linguistic beef stems from the fact that the word “globalization” isn’t used. Now I know that for some of you, this term conjures up big ugly corporations, rich heartless dudes in suits, and This American Life listeners flagellating themselves to Mike Daisey in an attempt to atone for loving their affordable, stylish, inhumanely-produced iPad.
But it should also conjure up images of a modern, largely self-organizing practice that—for example—let Japanese parts manufacturers prove to a product-starved world market in the 1970s that their cycling bits were as good or better than any established European brand, and that let a certain American company demonstrate the awesomeness of both TIG-welding and mountain bikes at scale, almost overnight around a decade later.
But “mondialization”—to me, this does not inspire visions of the same interconnected processes. I realize this may be my non-European, anglophone bias once again, ascribing some level of haughtiness to any phrase rooted deeply in French, but I can’t hear “mondialization” without thinking of Mustapha Mond, the benevolent totalitarian overlord in Brave World. Or le beuax monde, the most pretentious way to refer to fashionable society. Or various mustachioed landed aristocrats piloting Jules Verne-era contraptions around the globe, saving native populations from themselves because it is obviously, we know better than they do.
And I get that the UCI is, like a not-insignifcant minority of the rest of the world, French-speaking and that these associations may not be entirely intentional (though I can’t help but feel that if anyone from the UCI listens to this, he or she—who am I kidding…he—might be sitting there, scratching their head like “why is zees a bad zing?”) but just because it’s an honest linguistic coincidence doesn't mean it’s not a branding problem.
But far more deleterious than any quibble over wording is the disingenuous, self-serving way in which the UCI has carried out this “mondialization”. Regardless, and I think in spite of the UCIs efforts, the sport has been getting more and more international all by its little old lonesome by going on 20 years now. I mean I’m not even talking about the US, where the Coors classic was bringing deep international fields to the Rockies long before the UCI brought the rainbow jersey to colorado springs, and the Tour de Trump hung on on the East Coast for most of the 90s.
No, I’m talking about events like the Tour de Langkawi, which dates back to 1996, and came about largely because the Malaysian prime minister thought would be a cool idea. Or the Tour Down Under, which, while the UCI may have played a role in ensuring its prominence, wasn’t the product of some special world-sport objective. In wonderfully insightful move, the ASO has been putting Tour of Qatar—host of the 2022 World Cup—for over a decade, while the Japan Cup dates all the way back to 1992 with occasional interruption.
Then there’s the Tour d’Azerbaijan, which you’ve probably seen ads for on Eurosport. It wrapped up earlier this week, and while it still doesn’t quite attract the top names, the field still contains a number of ProTour squads, and the race has been relentless in its self promotion. Bloggers were offered 100-200 Euro to write stories on it—and, while that’s not how we roll here at Cyclocosm, a seedy internet protip is that they were probably ready to offer more.
The race organization was even looking to fly people to the event, all expenses paid, but I do have a day job and don’t have a valid passport, so…someone from Pez ending up going, and the content is, frankly, what you’d expect—including the lack of any useful landing page to give you an index of all the entries (c’mon, Richard, you’re on WordPress now. Do you know how easy that is?)
Anyway, the point is that all of these events, while they may have benefitted in some way from the UCI’s presence, is that they weren’t part of a sweeping scheme of “mondialization”—someone, somewhere wanted a bike race, and organized the money and production crews and promotion and offered to pay bloggers all to make it happen. Kind of like how Mike Sinyard did with the Stumpjumper, which is why globalization is really the better term. What didn’t happen is that a fully owned subsidiary of the UCI didn’t look for the biggest market it could find, roll out a red carpet for the locals, and attempt to put on an event which it could own, and more importantly, sell, as the UCI did with the Tour of Beijing.
I mean, in and of itself, that’s not a bad thing—who am I to accuse the UCI of wanting to make money?—it’s gussying it up as some sort of grand benevolent objective—this “mondialization”—when its an obvious play for increased income, that’s distasteful. And that the UCI’s race organizing arm is working perhaps a bit harder than it should to find new races to make money off—oh, right, and that Tour of Beijing “helps Beijing position itself as a city that cannot be overlooked when it comes to…” wait for it “…protection of the environment and promotion of a healthy lifestyle,” when nothing could be further from the truth.
So right—internationalizing cycling, more people racing bikes in more places—is awesome. But for the UCI to act like its just recently begun instigating something that’s been going on of it’s own volition for three decades is totally idiotic, an idiocy made all the worse by the organizations pretentious notion that this might somehow offset any damage caused by its inability to properly address, oh I dunno, doping. As Pat McQuaid found when he “mondialized” cyclocross over to Lousiville, no matter where the UCI takes the sport, its reputation will always precede it.
Hey, the fresh beats are back—I’ve appropriated two of my favorite themes, see if you can guess them, but more importnatly this means we now have a proper outro. My name is Cosmo Catalano, an oxygen-carbon exchange unit currently located in the City of Hartford Connecticut. You’re listening to a Rantcast, one of about a zillion projects I do on my cycling blog, cyclocosm.com that’s h-t-t-p colono-slash-slash c-y-c-l-o-c-o-s-m dot c-o-m. I also produce a race recap video podcast called How the Race Was Won, which you can google, and I’m on the Twitters, username at-Cyclocosm.
If there’s a topic you’d like to hear me grumble about in a future rantcast, I’m taking requests for 20-second, mini-rants at cyclocosm.com/pfb, as part of a fundraiser for PeopleForBikes.org—all you have to do is contribute a $20 donation. But be quick about it, it’s only open for eight more days.