As Graham and I agree unreservedly in the latest episode, the 100th edition of Le Tour de France was a bloody good one. In terms of the winner, in terms of the performances and in terms of the parcours, 2013 was a wholly absorbing one. Gone (largely) were the stage finishes somewhere downhill from the summits where they should really have finished, gone was the crushing dominance of a single team (although it still won GC) and gone (we think) were the unbelievable performances. Well, so far at least.
Of course, not everyone shares this view and the usual stuff was spouted at length on social media by the usual suspects. Most, if not all of it, was along the now tiresome theme that Team Sky are bent and that Chris Froome is on the juice. We discuss the questioning by journalists in the latest Pod and I’m very much a traditionalist in the view that they remain the most important cog in the media wheel. I don’t believe any journalist is in any team’s pocket, nor that blind eyes are turned.
What struck me during this Tour, tho’ (and indeed over much of the last season), is the way in which social media now appears to play a major part in shaping the agenda. I guess this isn’t new in cycling, noting particularly Bradley Wiggins’ infamous “internet w*nkers” outburst last year, but the last year or so has seen the rise of the credence given to (largely) anonymous – for want of a better work – cranks. Don’t get me wrong, there are anonymised sources of news and opinion on Twitter that are clearly well-qualified, well-balanced and well-informed – Inner Ring, for example, is an obvious starter here – but it has been alarming to see how much of a voice the likes of the particularly odious Digger Forum, the recently-unmasked UCI Overlord and the candidate for Bexhill Central - Festina Girl - have been granted, not only by cycling fans but by those inside the sport.
Of course, there is always a silent majority somewhere and it has been refreshing to see many push back against the constant “snark” and celebrate the joy and the spectacle of cycling without having our heads buried in the sand. But while many of us were still simultaneously laughing and despairing at Festina Girl being touted as an “internet mover” by the Change Cycling Now agenda, we were subsequently horrified to discover her billed as a “cycling writer” and sharing a platform on BBC Radio 5Live’s Tour preview show alongside te likes of Lionel Birnie and Richard Moore. The phrase “tears of blood” springs immediately to mind.
The reasonably-minded fan no doubt wonders how these people gained credibility, given the agendas they pursue and the sheer nastiness with which they do so. The simple answer is that we all gave them credibility by engaging. Every re-Tweeted *chuckle*, every time a DS appeared friendly with them, every time their narrative fitted with that of that “hard-hitting” journalist (who now seems to have descended to the same level), every time we refute the poison they spout and every time we continued to follow gave them affirmation. All of this validated their innuendo and invective and ultimately gave some of them seats at fairly large tables. Not in my name, and all that.
Normality has returned to the Champs Elysees, and our TV schedules but please continue enjoy and celebrate our sport. But do ask questions (we’re all entitled to, after all) and do have an open mind. Thankfully, Twitter doesn’t actually speak for all cycling fans and let’s keep it that way. Don’t feed the trolls.
Tags: Find a sport you like, Trolls, Twitter