>I used to be a keen cyclist – I still love and follow the sport. There have been some great road races in the past few years. The doping scandals have hurt, but the racing has survived (just).
But now the blazers and the money seem to be determined to risk killing the sport. The traditional major European season-opener, the Paris-Nice is threatened by a dispute between the UCI and the organisers who have a stranglehold on the major races. If this carries on the European professional road scene could collapse. All this in the year that The Tour de France starts in London and has a road stage in the South East.
In the last 30 years budgets have gone up and the corporate stakes have risen. The sport (apart from its predominately amateur British contingent) used to revel in its anarchic commercialism. But big business disliked this volatility. Small operators have been driven out or marginalised, organisations have merged and now there are a few, very powerful groups tearing the sport to shreds.
So who gives a toss? I do. Pro cycling has always been a dirty, money-driven sport. It’s been feudal. It’s been cruel. It’s drawn most of its talent from farms and factories rather than public schools and universities. Its literature is thin (with occasional exceptions) but its stories are great.
I’ve always wanted to write about the sport, but could never work out how to capture it on stage (perhaps the clue to the problem is in that word ‘capture’). Now I’ve got the chance to tangle with it in this radio play, a much more fluid medium, and the sport looks like it’s trying to flush itself down the pan. Bum.
I suppose, even if the money f*x it all up, there will still be a bike and a road and a day to fill.
You might have gathered that I’m supposed to be writing the play rather than writing this.