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The typical cyclist

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The typical cyclist

Old 07-27-03, 12:46 AM
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KennethToronto
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The typical cyclist

As a disclaimer: I'm not trying to anger sensitive people. I'm not here to start a flame war. If you don't like this or if you get angry or overly sensitive too easily..then please don't bother posting/reading.

Anyways, this is something that's been on my mind for a while now. If you watch the peloton in something like the Tour de France and you look at the cyclists, you kind of notice that almost every single one of them, without exception, is caucasian.

I know uspostal has one black cyclist on their roster...but after looking through the roster lineups of a lot of the TdF teams, I'm beginning to think there's not a single black or asian cyclist among the group.

This also goes along with my own personal experience - the club I ride with is 97% caucasian, ranging in age from 25 to 'wow I'm old'. Same deal with my previous employment at a high end road bike shop...most customers, whether they were roadies or triathletes were predominantly caucasian.

So... being asian, 19, and just simply curious about this...I'm honestly curious as to why it is like this? Is football truly the only international sport out there? Does genetics (see genetics thread) have anything to do with the racial makeup of the pro peloton? Does this have anything to do with economics and wealth? (I honestly don't think it does) Is it simply popularity? (Only Europeans are interested in cycling?! Huh?!)

Looking forward to your thoughts,

Ken
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Old 07-27-03, 03:14 AM
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It's hard to say why, and I've never totally understood it. I don't see a lot of black cyclists riding around here either, or any asians and we have quite a high asian population here on the Gold Coast. I wouldn't say it's just because the sport seems to be at it's strongest in Europe, just have a look at any of the top football teams over there. I've never really understood why, but then, I've never really understood why, in this country at least, such a small percentage of cyclists seem to be female either.
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Old 07-27-03, 03:48 AM
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Since I used to live on Long Island, I noticed a drastic change in the overall racial makeup when I came down to Atlanta. I do see quite a few roadies and mountain bikers who are African American and Asians but they still make up a lesser percentage. My husband and I ride with black mountain bikers. (all men I must add, I have yet to see female black mountain bikers). Don't know why. I think it must be cultural. Atlanta has the highest concentration of middle class to upper middle class blacks so the economics of having the ability to purchase releaively expensive equiptment may play a role here. Honestly, I think it is just a reflection of the demographics.... biking is still not a major sport for the majority of the population, therefore, minorities that comprise a smaller percentage of the overall population, will not be as visible.
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Old 07-27-03, 03:56 AM
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It's just as you suspect. It's driven by popularity, and yea! cycling is most popular in Europe. If you think about it, how many Americans, of any race, would have one clue about the TdF if not for Lance. ..not many.
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Old 07-27-03, 04:39 AM
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OK, here is my theory:

At recreational level, cycling is 100% endurance sport and virtually has no tactical element in it. Once you know the technics, all you need to do next is to improve your endurance. Moreover, it's a very individual sport because you compete against yourself. At the end of the day, all you can say is: "I ride 50 miles in 3 hours. Last week, it took me 3 hours and 15 minutes." You may feel proud when you say it, but it doesn't make much sense to non-cyclists. They probably think you are crazy In that sense, cycling has no social value. Most westerners don't care, but for Asian, social value is a big deal. And when they do a sport, it better has some social value in it.

Asian are more into sports where they can mingle in one place and compete against each other. Badminton, tennis, and soccer are the kind of sports they do. Endurance is not the primary concern (I never hear a fellow badminton player discussing his heart rate). The primary concern is to beat the other guy or group using all sort of tactics. Though technically it doesn't really matter who win or loose (after all, it's only recreational), it has deep social meaning. If you loose all the time, you loose face, and if you win all the time, you gain some status in the group. So, at the end of the day you can actually gain something social: "I beat that guy." For them, cycling is like playing tennis with a wall.

BTW, I am Asian
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Old 07-27-03, 10:59 AM
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Cycling is definitely more of a white sport, but I see more black people getting into it, and asians as well, but asians have always been more into cycling (in asian countries, track especially).

However, I have noticed that Mederic Clain of Cofidis is definitely of mixed parentage. If you find photos of him, you'll see. I think he or his parents are from the Reunion Islands (a french colony) which is very racially diverse and has many mixed race familes. Mostly white, black, indian, kind of like Trinidad. SO I guess he counts as being sort of black. But yes, he seems to be the only one in the Tour.
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Old 07-27-03, 01:03 PM
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Its just more of a white thing but i'm sure somehow white people are keeping all others out of cycling.Havent you every seen supergo give back money and refuse to sell to the non-white cyclist?Somewhere somebody will pick up on this and put a white only spin on it.
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Old 07-27-03, 03:41 PM
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The typical cyclist

This is a good topic- I just had this discussion recently with another guy a few days ago.

First, I do know of TWO black professional cyclists out there- Erik Saunders, who rides for the Ofoto Lombardi Sports Team. Here is his pro resume and Rahsaan Bahati, who rides for Team Saturn- pro resume

Still, out of all the professional riders out there, two is not a lot- black people are pretty underrepresented.

From the perspective of the underrepresented side, I really think there are many reasons why blacks are so underrepresented. The most obvious reason is that cycling simply is not given a lot of exposure. There are other sports that are more popular and that are more well-received in the black community, such as basketball (for example). Basketball has a much higher media exposure, and therefore attracts the attention of aspiring black athletes.

Add to that- for black people who live in lower to middle income neighborhoods, young kids are told (mistakenly, in my opinion) that the way to make money and become wealthy is through sports- most of the time through playing basketball. If you ever get the chance to watch "Hoop Dreams" (documentary), you'll see how much basketball is overemphasized to these kids- and sometimes, to their detriment.

I also think the black community mostly sees cycling as something done for health and fitness- not as a professional sport. I ride my bike every morning, and I see no other black women riding, and I see the same five black male cyclists- 2 of them I know who are friends of mine, and the other three are just guys I recognize from seeing them every day. From time to time, I see black people on bikes, mostly overdressed and overweight, leisurely riding on the bike path, and certainly not venturing too far from home.

When I do talk to other black people, I tell them about Marshall "Major" Taylor , I usually get blank looks. Up until five years ago, I would have been one of those people giving blank looks also- he is just not emphasized as a major sports hero in the black community as someone like Marion Jones in track, Michael Jordan in basketball, and the Williams sisters in tennis.

There is so little emphasis on cycling in general to begin with- the first time I ever knew cycling was a SPORT was in college- I was the only one of my friends with cable, and a lot of my friends were European, and in the summer, they would come by my apartment asking me to turn on the television so they could see what some bald dude named Pantani was doing for the Tour. The What? I would ask them... I pretty much just sat with them, although I had no idea what I was looking at. Then that year, I also remember seeing a news conference- this skinny white guy was saying he had to retire from cycling because he had cancer- I thought "poor guy" not knowing what the significance of that conference really meant until years later, when I actually sat up and started paying attention to what was going on in the cycling world. The guy on television I remembered from college was making a comeback in the Tour de France, and I watched my first Tour with renewed interest. That's when I first got hooked into cycling.

Unfortunately, the media does not give much media attention to cycling- the sports in the forefront are usually the ones where they glorify the big money people. The only cyclist really glorified by the media here (in the USA) is Lance Armstrong- and they certainly don't portray him as wildly successful or wealthy as other athletes in the more popular sports. People, in general, don't see the rewards given to cyclists, and less attention is given in the black community. This is unfortunate.

Add to the conditions cyclists would be forced to train in- if anyone's ever cycled through Cabrini Green and the other projects, or cycled through Englewood, the streets are filled with potholes or in poor condition. To cycle on those roads successfully is like riding a road bike on an undeveloped mountain bike path- I used to cycle mainly on the southside, but after discovering the smooth paved roads of the north side and north suburbs, and seeing the increased visibility of cyclists on the north side and north suburbs, I've mainly stayed put north of Chicago. It also bothered me that I was the ONLY black cyclist riding out there too- and no matter how many times I would stop (or get stopped) by folks in the community and try to talk them into joining me for a ride, I never had anyone join me. They just couldn't believe that people would ride for any other reasons than to get from point A to point B (when the distance was not that great) or for fitness reasons (again, short distances). Cycling is just not promoted in the black community to be taken seriously, and that's a big problem I have with how the media promotes cycling to the masses and to minorities in general.

Regardless of what anyone says, if the cycling leagues had been more accepting of blacks back when cycling was big in the USA (late 1800s/early 1900s), maybe the story would have been different- see League of American Wheelmen. Unfortunately, the League of Americn Wheelmen, the governing cycling body during that period made sure to bar blacks from cycling, and that may have been the start of why blacks currently are more unaware of cycling than whites. As you can see by the link, this ban was not lifted until 1999, and although they do not govern professional cycling now, and the removal of the ban was largely symbolic, the actions taken during the early part of the last century by the League seemed to put the first nail in the coffin for black people.

Another downside of cycling in the black community seems to be that the cost of a good bike is far more than simply taking up track and getting a good pair of shoes, or getting a basketball and heading for the nearest park for a game of pick up. A good road bike is costly, and for low to middle income minorites, I could see how the parents would steer their children away from sports like cycling, when you've got to make the rent payments, pay for school, pay the bills, etc. Cycling is too costly to participate in. I don't know if there are many shops out there that could help a minority kid out (I know of one big one- Chicagoland Bicycle on 103rd and Kedzie), but there are many many many more shops as you head north into Chicago downtown and then continue further north into the northside and north suburbs.

I don't know a lot about other minorities, sorry.

I do talk to as many youth as possible about cycling in the black community. I still sometimes ride past the schools on the south side, and nothing cracks me up more than to see those teens and kids cheering and screaming as I race by in full cycling gear. I'm hoping that by them seeing me, maybe they'll get more interested in trying it themselves. I also have been pushing my nephews into cycling too- my oldest nephew is 6, and last year, I clocked him sprinting at 11 miles per hour down the streets. Sometimes I take my bike out and visit him and we go for longer rides. Maybe he'll be the next Lance- who knows? I am saving up for my nephews for two reasons- 1) So they can have the best education possible, and 2) So I can get them the best bike on the market as soon as they start to show a bit more interest in the next 5- 10 years. I have high hopes for them.

My thoughts (and recent discussion with another cyclist). Thanks to Kenneth for bringing up the topic and in a thoughtful manner too...

Koffee

As a P.S. I do believe that saying whites keep blacks out of the sport is like saying blacks keep whites out of stepping- if white people had the exposure to stepping that black people did, we'd all be stepping at contests, dance parties, etc. That is not really a valid argument and should be given little credibility or taken seriously.
 
Old 07-27-03, 04:02 PM
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There are pleny of cyclists of mixed decent and of african decent cycling competitively in Southern Africa. The issue there is money and the unwillingness of wealthy white business to sponsor blacks in sport.
Being of Mixed decebt myself i found that to be quite a stumbling block. It does'nt takemuchmony to compete. But it does take a lot to compete at the top.
Training, Sports science, biomechanics, equipment, nutrition, access to facilities, etc

In europe the majority of the population is white or european. Caucassian does not only refer to white people. Certain asiatics fall into that category as well.
adjective 1 of or relating to one of the traditional divisions of humankind, covering a broad group of peoples from Europe, western Asia, and parts of India and North Africa. [ORIGIN: so named because the German physiologist Blumenbach believed that it originated in the Caucasus region of SE Europe.]
Since the majority of the populationis white it stands to reason that the majority of sportsmen and women will be white.

In high school, one of South Africa's best young track cyclists was aguy named Virgo Martin. To improve his cycling and to move out from Apartheid, his family emigrated to Australia. What happened to his cycling from then on i don't know, but the guy had the talent and endutrance to make it to the top.

On the Specilaized website ther is an article wrtto Cipolleni training in South Africa and riding along with some black kids. You won't find a white business making money available to develop the sport in the black community.
In the 9yrs since the new government has come to power only one Black cyclist has been taken under the wing on white business and developed. It was in mountain biking.

Talent exhists amoun all the different peoles of the world, they just have to be exposed. Unfortunately in some place there is a concerted underground effort by whites to exclude blacks from many sports, not just cycling.
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Old 07-27-03, 04:50 PM
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Koffee,
I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this thread. Maybe something should be set up for cycling like Tiger does for the kids and golf. I'm sure drives could be set up to provide kids with good used starter bikes to introduce them to the sport. The opportunities are endless.
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Old 07-27-03, 06:02 PM
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Golf, tennis, swimming ... and cycling. Is there something in common that would explain the lack of racial diversity? Socio-economic origins perhaps? Any thoughts?
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Old 07-27-03, 06:04 PM
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<------- Im Asian. Well half Japanese, half Italian. So I have the passion for cycling (Italian side) and the giant legs (Japanese Side). It was a match made in heaven. To be honest I have no idea why other ethnic groups havent taken on to cycling. Here in Tucson I seem to be the only "exotic" looking cyclist around. ODD!
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Old 07-27-03, 06:33 PM
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Around here there are lots of black cyclests. More than white. This year is the first time I've seen other white cyclests. Also the black drivers are more careful of you. Today a dog owned by a black man came after me. The Black man (ok so he's a friend) came after the dog. They do seem to use bikes more for transportation that sport, but we'll get them there.

Great thoughts good insite KB

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Old 07-27-03, 06:33 PM
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Originally posted by bentrox!
Golf, tennis, swimming ... and cycling. Is there something in common that would explain the lack of racial diversity? Socio-economic origins perhaps? Any thoughts?
Motor sports.
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Old 07-27-03, 06:34 PM
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One more thought I also have trouble recruting blacks for my 4H rifle team.

Joe
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Old 07-27-03, 06:35 PM
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Originally posted by RunYun
Koffee,
I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this thread. Maybe something should be set up for cycling like Tiger does for the kids and golf. I'm sure drives could be set up to provide kids with good used starter bikes to introduce them to the sport. The opportunities are endless.
I've tried but i get the same questions,how much money can you make.
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Old 07-27-03, 06:40 PM
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In case you weren't aware, France's population has give-or-take the same white/black ratio as England and the USA (well, maybe not, but it's certainly not devoid of Afro-Francophiles, probably because of all the French-speaking African nations). I'm not sure about the Asian/Oriental side of things, but it's certainley not due to a lack of interest. As for the physical aspect, if most all the top long distance runners and sprinters are black, surely they'd be capable of climbing Mont Blanc or Alp Duez, or sprinting down the Camps Alyssees. Maybe it's just road racing, I can think of a good number of black and Asian BMX riders (my personal discipline).

I think a big reason there are virtually no non-white cyclists is simply because there are virtually no non-white cyclists. Any amateur black or asian cyclists don't have a Tiger Woods or a Serena Williams to look up to and inspire them.

But it's not just cycling; look at motor racing. OK there are lots of Japanese, but when was the last time you saw a black guy drive an F1 car?
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Old 07-27-03, 07:13 PM
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Originally posted by Jonny B
In case you weren't aware, France's population has give-or-take the same white/black ratio as England and the USA (well, maybe not, but it's certainly not devoid of Afro-Francophiles, probably because of all the French-speaking African nations). I'm not sure about the Asian/Oriental side of things, but it's certainley not due to a lack of interest. As for the physical aspect, if most all the top long distance runners and sprinters are black, surely they'd be capable of climbing Mont Blanc or Alp Duez, or sprinting down the Camps Alyssees. Maybe it's just road racing, I can think of a good number of black and Asian BMX riders (my personal discipline).

I think a big reason there are virtually no non-white cyclists is simply because there are virtually no non-white cyclists. Any amateur black or asian cyclists don't have a Tiger Woods or a Serena Williams to look up to and inspire them.

But it's not just cycling; look at motor racing. OK there are lots of Japanese, but when was the last time you saw a black guy drive an F1 car?
Most of us dont need someone to look up to to ride.Lets not include racing,just bicycling.I see more mexicans on bikes then asian and blacks put together,of course there are on k-mart bikes going and coming to work.
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Old 07-27-03, 07:29 PM
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I see many aboriginal people in the intercity of Winnipeg riding bicycles. I believe they ride bicycles mostly as a form of inexpensive transportation and not for sport.
 
Old 07-27-03, 07:32 PM
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Originally posted by shokhead
Most of us dont need someone to look up to to ride.Lets not include racing,just bicycling.I see more mexicans on bikes then asian and blacks put together,of course there are on k-mart bikes going and coming to work.
Yup. That's me. A Mexican on his way to work. Except that I've just come from a 30 mile road workout on my Trek 5200. (I had to resist the temptation to chop it down and put sissy bars and white sidewall tires on it.)
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Old 07-27-03, 07:59 PM
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Johnny- I believe you are 99% right- there are very few non-white cyclists. I do look up to Saunders and Bahati, two professional cyclists that are out there in the circuit racing. I think that any black cyclist that wants to excel in the sport will look to those two for inspiration. In particular, Bahati receives a good amount of attention, having been named as one of People Magazine's most beautiful people in 2003. This article led to more media exposure to him and the cycling world to other black people, and that helps him increase his popularity. Yes, I know this is in the United States, as opposed to other parts of the world, but I can only speak to what I am most familiar with, and I am, of course, much more intimate with what happens here in the States.

I think a lot of us are aware that there are large black communities in Europe- not only Africans who relocated to Europe, but also black expatriates who moved to Europe from the States, seeking more acceptance than they received while in the United States.

Despite the larger groups of black people, I don't know of any black cyclists that are part of the pro circuit. If there are, I'd be interested to know- I'd add them to my growing list of black cyclists I can give to my nephews to help keep them enthusiastic about cycling, as well as for my own interest in seeing a more multi-cultural cycling world.

It is a shame that so many South Africans with promising careers feel the need to leave South Africa for better opportunities in other countries- while living in Australia, I encountered large groups of South Africans (even larger groups of Kenyans, Zimbabweans, and Nigerians) who left Africa for less hostile surroundings and better opportunities. This was in Perth. I really do think if the South African that had such wonderful abilites and promise moved to Australia with his family, he is probably developing himself more fully there and finding more acceptance and opportunity in Australia than in South Africa.

As for the physical aspect, if most all the top long distance runners and sprinters are black, surely they'd be capable of climbing Mont Blanc or Alp Duez, or sprinting down the Camps Alyssees.
I don't think any person here said that blacks are physically incapable of performing at the elite level as cyclists. No one here is debating whether black people are incapable of performing. Otherwise, we'd be asking the question of IF blacks and non-whites are capable, not WHY they would NOT be participating because they ARE capable of cycling at the elite level.

Of course, I don't know the answers to the questions posed, nor do I know of any solutions that can be offered. It is the way it is... and all we can do is get the word out there to all races and ethnicities that this cycling a great sport that can transcend the race and ethnic barriers. There are definitely some issues that need to be resolved, and the exposure of cycling needs to be raised in minority communities, but I believe that it can happen one day. It will just take time. Look how far we've come in the USA- from passing bans just to bar blacks from competing, to repealing bans, signing black cyclists to professional teams, and even naming a black cyclist as one of People's most beautiful people. I know this is still pretty insignificant- it's only a small handful of successes, and we have a long way to go, but I do believe that over time, exposure will increase and more barriers will be broken, and cycling will become more multiculturally diverse.

Koffee

As another P.S., when I was riding through Italy and Greece, I did notice that there were no minorities on bikes, and very few women riding- and this is just with groups and teams and such doing their daily rides, not just riding around on their bikes in general.
 
Old 07-27-03, 08:07 PM
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I work with and they are my friends,blacks and i've asked about cycling and they all said the same thing.Sh$t,you spent $800 on a bike,your nuts or i'm not getting on a bike.
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Old 07-27-03, 08:22 PM
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I know uspostal has one black cyclist on their roster
One last question, though- I had no idea USPS had a black cyclist on the roster. I do know the team is multicultural. Which one is the black one, though? Just wanting to know so I can add it to my portfolio to show to my nephews...

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Old 07-27-03, 08:41 PM
  #24  
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I spent 6 weeks in China a few years ago, and I'll guarantee you this: There are more Asian bicyclists than there are caucasians.

Bikes were everywhere. In some areas I bet they outnumbered cars by 20:1 or more.

The best image I came home with was a family of FIVE on a standard touring bike. Dad was on the seat, pedaling, Mom was sitting on the rear rack holding a baby, with another small child standing on the rack between mom and dad grabbing his shoulders... with the oldest of the three kids on the handlbars.

... and none of them were wearing helmets, lycra, or Oakleys.

For the life of me I can't believe there isn't someone in China that could compete in the TdF. Western China has some tough mountain passes that would be great training ground if the military weren't there to keep you out.
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Old 07-27-03, 08:42 PM
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One thing for sure, there seem to be more jews in cycling than in most sports. I've seen quite a few cyclists (in europe especially) with jewish last names, especially in france, austria, germany and Luxembourg, just from reading the results of races. I think for example, robert sassone of Cofidis (track) is jewish, or at least half, and there 's another french trackie, REne wolf, and I noticed quite a few on the austrian and german national teams. And alexander Shefer, on Saeco (he wasn't in the tour this year). I also remeber seeing that the first winner of the six days of munich, in 1933, was jewish- his name was Teitz. I guess this is also an economic thing- middle class university students get into cycling through school, lots of jewish kids go to university, even back when university enrollment was much lower.

Incidentally, as for Teitz. I remember reading that Teitz was the name of a huge department store in Berlin. It was a very classy store, sort of like Bloomingdales. The family left germany in 1941 for the US, and the store was destroyed in the war. I don't know if this Teitz was related to them, but he could have been. Kind of an interesting story.

Anways, you see a lot more jews in cycling than, say, basketball or football!
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