«When they tell me that there are more bicycles in Holland than in Belgium, I answer that it is true. In Holland they have a culture of cycling, but here we have a culture of cycling».
The words heard on January 6 in Belgium continue to resonate, as well as the roars of the public in the weekend crosses. Those who commented on the images and articles on various social networks wrote that certain scenes can only be seen up there. It’s not true, it happens here too: maybe not in cross, but certainly on the road. The opening photo comes from the 2018 Giro in CataniaDario Belingheri took it and even won an award. We have people, we are losing the culture of cycling. Because?
The culture of cycling
Culture is an important word. Maybe that guy used it at random or with the knowledge of what she was saying.
«Culture – says Treccani – is the set of intellectual knowledge that a person has acquired through study and experiencereworking them moreover with a personal and profound rethinking so as to convert the notions from simple erudition into constitutive element of his moral personality, his spirituality and his aesthetic tasteand, in short, in the awareness of oneself and of one’s world».
If we associate the definition to cycling and consider that in Belgium it is a subject of study in schools, a fixed presence in the media, a daily lifestyle and a consolidated habit in many homes, we understand that perhaps the use of the term has not come out of turn. That being the case, it is also understandable why large companies find interest in investing in this sport.
«We are two large Belgian companies – said Cindy Van Moorleghem Brand & Marketing Director of Quick-Step, speaking of the company she works for and of Soudal – both active on the international market. We have common values, which are called passion, dream and pride».
Children and the future
The same thing happens in France. The great work done by Aso in spreading the Tour and his image, combined with the support of politics and the favor of the media, means that the history of cycling and its present pass through the generations. It follows that even in France some real giants have approached the teams, modeling marketing campaigns on a sport that is considered a great promotional vehicle.
The story told by Consonni on the crowd of audiences in the various rehearsals of the Coupe de France confirm that it is not only the Tour, but cycling itself that is drivingalbeit in a country where football and rugby are the masters.
To understand how deeply rooted cycling is in society, it is often enough to look around. The presence of children at the races is the most reliable discriminator: if they are there, it means that it is a family affair. And then, as Lefevere said at the presentation of his team, it is legitimate to think that today’s children will be tomorrow’s fans.
The Italian exception
What prevents the same thing from happening in Italy too? We are fans, enthusiasts and practitioners. We have a fantastic following, a territory designed for outdoor sports, but the culture of cycling is dying out because there is no network that favors its passage. She remains tied to the memories of the older ones, but hardly reaches the younger ones. If there was still the sensibility of the eighties, a champion like Nibali would have become a driving force even despite his shy nature. Instead we let it pass without realizing that it was more popular in France than in Italy.
By force! Those who organize the races limit themselves, in the majority of cases, to collecting checks, taxing other people’s sponsors, setting up boxes and disappearing a few hours later. National politicians stay away, in case it hurts their image to be seen at the start of a race. The media, the important ones that dictate the line, have knelt in front of footballconsidering it the only theme that appeals to the public. As a result, sponsors stay away. Those capable of combining passion, dream and pride came out years ago and don’t go back. There were also the years where sponsorship was the best way to play bills, but this is another story, however typical of our malpractice. And certainly she had nothing to do with passions, dreams and pride.
The French invasion
Why all this happens remains the decisive key. Covid has favored the rebirth (perhaps) of the culture of the bicycle, but this too must dealing every day with the non-culture of those who use the streets without respect for the weakest users. And it won’t be the distances imposed or the license plates on the bikes that will make the situation better. Maybe really the only solution is for them to invade us. That the shark of the Tour arrives from France and puts a foot forward, perhaps starting with the Giro Donne, and then expands. They will do it mostly for money, but they also know that the game is all the more profitable if it is based on popular culture. We always return to that and here cycling has made history. We have to roll up our sleeves so that everyone knows.