At the recent U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame induction ceremony, shrine Trustee President Anthony Costello eloquently vented his organization’s frustration with road-racing’s doping scandal.
He explained that the induction of Erin Hartwell, Susan DeMattei, Tom Ritchey and Rob Parson was a “celebration of all that’s right” with the cycling world.
Costello told me a week earlier that, regardless of Lance Armstrong’s contributions to society through his Livestrong Foundation, there would never be any room at the inn for cheaters in cycling.
Costello’s melancholy tone on Nov. 3 was understandable. The rich history of cycling in the United States was betrayed. The U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame — a focal point of the sport’s energy — had had its pinnings cut from beneath it.
In my mind, Davis is the Bicycle Capital of the United States. We’ve visited the many reasons for the title here countless times before.
But as a model for bicycling as a way of life, Davis has a further responsibility. Through events like the Double Century, the Fourth of July Criterium and (gulp) the Livestrong Challenge, we have a responsibility to resurrect the image of cycling — something Costello touched on in his address.
Further, the Hall of Fame must step up its efforts to educate everyone about the rich history of the bicycle: how the contraption was first embraced as a novelty, then used as a liberating vehicle for women at the turn of the 20th century. The heyday of professional cycling before and after World War I is as fascinating as any era in sports.
Celebrating those who have made a difference within the cycling community is but a part of the Hall of Fame’s stated charge. Executive Director Joe Herget told me two years ago that public education was an important element of the emergence of the hall.
Like any good racer seeing an uphill climb, maybe it’s time for our national shrine to shift gears and get out of the seat.
Push forward the promised regional campaign in schools. Work with police departments in the region to preach bicycle safety (while making it fun). Get busy with the Davis Bike Club to broaden outreach, introducing cycling far and wide — piquing kids’ interests in the fascinating history of the bicycle.
Imagine how big those young eyes will get when someone visits a classroom in full competition garb, carrying their Peugeot B1K racing bike — or bringing one of the Pierce Miller Collection antique pieces to share.
The Hall of Fame might want to put “museum” somewhere in its taglines and hit hard with displays that show how weird and wonderful the early cycles could be.
Costello and Herget know all this. The hall board understands this. The key is going to be restoring faith among the contributors and sponsors of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. By Costello’s own measurements, membership and sponsors have waned since Armstrong and his smug pals made a mockery of a sport that represents minutia in the wide spectrum of cycling.
Unfortunately, the disaster in cycling came from its most recognizable element — the professional road race. Yeah, the Tour de France and Tour of California gang.
By the time you’ve read this, I will have walked over to Third and B streets with my membership check. You should follow quickly behind. Outreach and upgrade will take money. Sponsors who have bailed should rethink their decisions.
My hat is off to Costello for his candid portrayal of a sport that is but a dot on the storied map of cycling. And I applaud anything the hall does to foster a new era.
Start with the kids?
While I Have You Here: Lance Armstrong has severed all ties with Livestrong. It’s a shame, but it’s the right thing to do. “His” cancer-fighting foundation has raised millions for cancer patients and research.
I asked City Public Relations Manager Bob Bowen what Armstrong and his pals’ bans mean to the likelihood of the Livestrong Challenge returning to Davis for a third year.
The news is good.
“We fully expect to host another in 2013,” Bowen told me, adding that the announcement could come as early at Dec. 3.
Does losing the Armstrong element lessen the event, which includes a Central Park village with food, music and cycling products?
“We have always operated under the assumption that Lance Armstrong wouldn’t show up. His appearance in 2011 for the team and sponsor thank-you dinner — and the bicycle ride on Sunday — was something we did not count on,” Bowen explained.
Early on, Bowen asked Livestrong organizers what would happen to the Challenge if Armstrong wasn’t involved:
“The organization had a firewall between Lance and their fundraising activities, cancer research and cancer service operations. The global work of the foundation … fighting cancer, is much more important than one person.”
One problem: Armstrong was a big check-writer to the foundation. With his cash flow cut, that one big donation is expected to evaporate. That’s all the more reason for new-found support.
It will be interesting to see what comes of the big cycling event, which has been conducted in three cities nationwide over the years.
“From the city’s standpoint, we are hoping for business as usual,” Bowen adds. “The event draws participants from all over the country.”
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.