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A question of genetics?

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

A question of genetics?

Old 12-02-04, 08:17 PM
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Patriot
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A question of genetics?

I was considering putting this in the political forum, but I really want to keep this a more scientific discussion regardless of what some may percieve it to be. But, this is sort of a question into what the future of cycling may hold, not just in popularity, but in who competes as well.

I was reading about Kenyans in another forum, and how they have so heavily dominated marathon running for many years now. Also, how most pro cyclists have a tendency to be Europeans. I can't help but wonder, due to the excellent cardio-vascular capabilites of specific Kenyan athletes from eastern Africa, whether or not they may eventually dominate the Pro cycling sports as well. Just like those of West African heritage have so heavily dominated professional football and basketball here in the States.

I know this is kind of a sensitive topic for many, and some may consider it racial. But the fact is, it is racial (genetic), but in a scientific way, not an emotional one.

Just wondering what the thoughts of others on this forum are, concerning the possibility of Pro cycling seeing a shift when other third world countries slowly emerge into the modern world.
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Old 12-02-04, 08:22 PM
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I would imagine kenyans could indeed. I think of it sort of like. Americans love football, Im sure the Chinese couldnt care less about it but they probably could be good at it. I guess running is just something that in general, the kenyans like its just one of those things.
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Old 12-02-04, 08:55 PM
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kenyans/ethiopians really dominate every track event from the 3000 steeplechase on up. They always seem to do exceptionally well in the marathon type distances. With their typical body type I would guess they could climb on a bike with the best in world but may struggle with time trial type events. This is assuming they grew up riding their bike everywhere instead of running everywhere!
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Old 12-02-04, 09:02 PM
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Its not just genetics. It is also a matter of culture-- what sports a culture values and cultivates.
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Old 12-02-04, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
Canadians are really good at hockey and dominate the NHL. Must be hockey genes. And, Australians must have rugby genes. The majority of pro tennis players come from wealthy families with country club memberships. Must be the country club genes. The tiny Dominican Republic has about thirty players in major league baseball. The Dominicans must have baseball genes.

The fantasy that certain groups of people have "genes" for certain sports has been around for a long time. But, the best "body type" for a given sport can be found all around the world. Tiny Serbia, with a population less than Texas, has about ten guys playing in the NBA. Turns out Serbian high schools play a VERY serious brand of basketball.

And, for years, the lack of Black quarterbacks in the NFL was blamed on "genetics". Turned out it was related to the number of racist morons who own NFL teams.

There is a body type that is ideal for a given position, in a given sport. Any young person with that body type has a chance of being successful in that sport, if they are willing to make the commitment. Many young Olympic athletes have been training twenty to forty hours per week since they were six or seven years old - they have devoted ten or fifteen years of their life to getting to the Olympics.

Maybe that kind of single minded obsession with being the best at a given sport is "genetic". But, it is that obsession and drive that takes a Michael Jordan from being a second string basketball player in 10th grade to the basketball Hall of Fame.

The fact that the great majority of adults of every race and ethnic group tend to be over-weight and out of shape is proof that genetics can't protect us against over eating and physical laziness. The key to physical fitness is hard work, regardless of who are parents were.

What you have said makes a lot of sense. However, certain people are simply born to be athletes in general. For example, you and me probably will not be as good as Lance Armstrong on a bike no matter how much we train.

Most olympic grade athletes have VO2 max in the 70s, and the majority of the population will never get that sort of capacity regardless of the training.

However, which sport the person will participate in will most likely deteremined by the culture as you have suggested. A person with good genes (high VO2 max) and right body type can probably learn the skills required to play the sport very well.

However, I cannot imagine Kensian being as good foodtball players because in general they dont have the body mass to take a large hit
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Old 12-02-04, 09:56 PM
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I do agree that hard work is obviously what drives us to level of fitness and capability we present. However, I remember reading an article in a magazine here at the hospital where I work, which talked about a specific study on muscle tissue from differant ethnic backgrounds.
It mentioned that the Western African tissiues exhibited a cellular strand which would physically move faster with a given amount of electrical impulse, but was not always stronger than others.
Eastern Africans generally exhibited a form of longevity before breaking down, but was not as capable of brute strength.
Cauacasians generally showed a natural capability to have faster mental reaction, but not necessarily muscle reaction. This may explain why caucasians generally still dominate very fast action winter sports which require extremely fast mental reaction and an enormous amount of balance. Although, someone tell that to the Jamaican bobsled team.

I agree that our capabilities are generally a result of our environment, diet, and level of dedication to a specific sport.

But, when if at all, does the long-term effect of being subjected to a specific envirnoment, produce a genetic inheritence, thus allowing a more natural superiority in a specific sport?
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Old 12-02-04, 10:23 PM
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I used to think that genetics was only a small part of the equation until my best friend Jeff had his first son. Jeff is by far the most gifted non-proffesional athlete I've ever seen. He is a scratch golfer, at one time he was ranked in the top 100 in CA in tennis and 2 in the nation in singles raquet ball and 1st in the nation in doubles raquet ball....all at the same time. He would go out on our training rides and spank the cat1 guys on any climb or any sprint. Jeffs wife is also very athletic and very very good cyclist.

The first son Daulton is now 10. He isn't the tallest kid around but he can touch the rim allready. He plays DB against kids who out weigh him and are taller and usally gets the best of them. He can throw a baseball like a kid 5 years his senior. The next son Luke is even more talented than Daulton. These kids didn't just learn to play sports well they inherited it from their parents.
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Old 12-02-04, 10:30 PM
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Above is a good example of how I think that although a specific envirnoment moulds our bodies to operate under certain conditions, hundreds or even thousands of years for a given exposure may create genetic traits that will be passed on to our posterity, even if they were born and raised in an environment that was not nurturing to their given abilities. I am wondering however, how much of a factor it really is? In the above example, it appears to have been fairly significant.
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Old 12-02-04, 10:33 PM
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i think the idea of a particular race having genes enabling them to dominate sports is very possible. i mean all ehtnic groups have genes that make them a different color, have different facial structures, skeletal structures. why is it so hard to beleieve that some ethnic groups would have genetic make ups making them superior in some areas and inferior in others. it is fairly obvious that not all groups are equal...physically that is. we all deserve the same equal rights as human beings though, but that has nothing to do with physical abuilities
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Old 12-02-04, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
If a person thinks that any group of people is superior or inferior to another race, that belief alone proves that person lacks "mental activity", let alone "faster mental reaction".
We're not saying any group is superior or vice-versa. You cannot deny certain race is much better at a certain sports though.

Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
The Nazi Party spent enormous amounts of money on "science" to prove that Germans were a "superior race". The American army, including African-Americans, Hispanic-American, and Asian-Americans put the Nazi empire, and its racist nonsense, in the dustbin of history. Current efforts to spread neo-nazi propaganda in the guise of "scientific discussion" does not remove the stench.
I'm sure most people are glad that the Nazi nonsense is put to the end. However, it is not the topic of dicussion of this thread. I dont believe any poster so far have said any racist comments.


Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
If those who see humans only as a member of "a group" or "a race" would take off their blinders, they would notice that the human race consists of individuals. Each human being is unique. Some are tall. Some are short. Some are heavy, some are thin. Some can sing like a bird. Some are tone-deaf. Some are capable of learning. Others are filled with hate and prejudice, and are incapable of being educated.
Very well said! You forgot to mention some people are utter ignorant though


Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
To assume ANYTHING about what any one human being can achieve, based on where they were born, or who their parents are is utter stupidity. But, it is a dangerous form of stupidity, because seeing humans as "group members" insead of as "individuals" is the cause of most of the violence and strife that has plagued humans throughout our history.
No one is making an assumption that ANYTHING can be 100% predicated about a person because of his parents, or race. However, from a statstical point of view, different genes do contribute to different abilities. A good athelete requires good genes combined with excellent up-bringing towards a certain sport will make the athelete more likely to succeed.
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Old 12-02-04, 10:53 PM
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This is strange, just the other day I was wondering why don't Asian folks dominate in cycling? Cycling is such a large part of their culture. Not only for transportation but heck it seems like they're the one's making the majority of the cycling stuff we're all addicted to.
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Old 12-02-04, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by macwako
This is strange, just the other day I was wondering why don't Asian folks dominate in cycling? Cycling is such a large part of their culture. Not only for transportation but heck it seems like they're the one's making the majority of the cycling stuff we're all addicted to.
Asians are usually shorter than Caucasians. To be good at biking, I think you're better off to be somewhat tall, with very little mass.

Also, when I left China (1996), it was still a 3rd world country. Most people were struggling to make a living. There was so such luxury as spending $1000 on a bicycle.
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Old 12-02-04, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
The American army, including African-Americans, Hispanic-American, and Asian-Americans put the Nazi empire, and its racist nonsense, in the dustbin of history.
I don't think you're in much of a position to discuss someone else's myopia when you come out with offensive crap like this. I lost two grandfathers to WW2 before you lot even decided to join in. I think Montgomery, Churchill, the entire Soviet Red Army, and all the Dominions of the British Empire at the time may have a point or two to debate with you about this sweeping statement of yours. And no, I don't give a F if you think I've over-reacted. You *do* know that what comes out of Hollywood isn't history. Right?
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Old 12-02-04, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by MacMan
I don't think you're in much of a position to discuss someone else's myopia when you come out with offensive crap like this. I lost two grandfathers to WW2 before you lot even decided to join in. I think Montgomery, Churchill, the entire Soviet Red Army, and all the Dominions of the British Empire at the time may have a point or two to debate with you about this sweeping statement of yours. And no, I don't give a F if you think I've over-reacted. You *do* know that what comes out of Hollywood isn't history. Right?
You forgot the Canadians. We joined in WW2 before the States as well. It is a shame that they joined so late, but remember, the war might not have been won by the Allies without the Americans.

This is still a good topic with lots of intelligent conversation. Can we please leave the arguments out for now please???

If you must vent, please use private messaging...
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Old 12-02-04, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by sparks_219
You forgot the Canadians.
Covered under British Dominions.
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Old 12-02-04, 11:50 PM
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Genetics is all about survival. If somewhere there was area of the world where to get food you had to be able to ride a bike up a mountain and be better then half the people, then you know what in like a 1000 years they would be schooling the whole world at climbing. That is why Kenyans and such are pretty good runners cause it was required in life for them. Thanks Charles
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Old 12-03-04, 01:12 AM
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Kenyans excel at running not only due to genetics but due to economic and environmental factors. They are built long and lean, to be sure, but Kenya also has a high altitude that they benefit from when training. Kenya is a very poor country as well, and as soon as a few pioneering Kenyans started winning races and getting relatively rich, running quickly became one of the few ways average Kenyans could escape grueling poverty, and has since become a definite cultural signpost, much like basketball in the inner-city US.
Genetics tends to be a field, like religion, that people dwell on as THE ONE defining factor in a culture's success or failure, ignoring every other facet of human existence.Like religion, it's easy to twist around to support an insane, unscientific ideology, so draw your conclusions very carefully in regards to how much "smarter" you think it actually makes a given race. Here's a clue, though, IQ differences in individuals AND groups of people only average out to be a few points, so the differences are negligible. A person would be on much firmer scientific footing to say our differences are largely physical to deal with different types of climate. For white people this translates into light skin to maximize vitamin e production, larger noses to warm air before it reaches sensitive lung tissue, light colored eyes to deal with extend periods of darkness and shorter legs to maintain core temperature in the cold. When you start taliking about differences in mental capacity you've entered dangerous territory, and some conclusions are easily hijacked by those with bad idealogies. Genetics counts for a lot, but so do natural resources, population density and everything else. BEWARE OVERSIMPLIFICATION.
P.S. Kenyans WON'T take over cycling because the only bikes they can afford are single speeds made with plumber's pipe, whereas running is comparitively cheap.
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Old 12-03-04, 01:35 AM
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I don't think that genetics are the determining factor in sports. Any sport is 90% about the mental game. My math teacher told our class a story in which he had known a baseball pitcher by the name of Bob. Bob was not what most of us would consider an athlete. He was overweight and clumsy with thick glasses. Everyone thought of him as a laughing stock until he got onto the field. He was the most fiercely competitive person my teacher had ever seen. He set a new record for most strikeouts in a season and was named athlete of the year. He wasn't physically gifted, but he had the drive and determination to succeed. I believe that many great athletes have been "Bobs". Graeme Obree was a "Bob" as were many other sports heroes.
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Old 12-03-04, 02:03 AM
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Zenbiker......mate....it has EVERYTHING to do with genetics. "If I just train real hard and remain mentally tough and focussed then there's nothin' I can't do!" is something parents tell their kids to stop them smoking pot and dropping out of school.

Also, if a guy succeeds at becoming a high class athlete, isn't it a bit of a contradiction saying 'He was not a gifted athlete'? If he wasn't 'gifted', he wouldn't be a high class athlete. Defies logic there Junior.

Errr, also, if a person has 'competitive nature' or 'plays the mental game well', isn't that genetic, or did the guy you mention magically develop this mental attitute through hard work?

Anyway, I'm sorry. Had a bit of a Dr.Cox from 'Scrubs' moment there.

Where were we? Oh yeah. Well, yes, it's all genetic. Whether a particular race has evolved to be better at a certain sport is irrelevant, simply because there's not much difference between the races. We're all human. No race is in any better or worse position to become a world class cyclist - the numbers don't lie. If you're of a certain body type, have the right sort of musculature, have a certain VO2 capacity, Power-to-weight ratio, you'll kick a55. END OF STORY.

What really defines how well any group will do in a given sport is actually economics. It doesn't matter how many kids in the ghetto play basketball, if there isn't a multi million dollar system in place to grow and promote the sport, there will BE no basketball, if you catch my drift. You can be as gifted and determined as you like, but if you have to scrounge for food, chances are you're not going to be the next Eddie Merckx.
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Old 12-03-04, 02:17 AM
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Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
Today, communist China is doing something similar..........it is time for intelligent people to treat each other as individuals, and not as the representative of a "group".
Curious that you specifically singled out China as 'Communist' but not East Germany.
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Old 12-03-04, 02:21 AM
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Millions of Kenyans would get winded, walking to a bus stop.
What a load of ironic bull , alanbikehousten. Having worked 2 years for UNICEF in Kenya, I can assure you that there is very limited public transport, and the distances between bus stops is often very long, - thus walking a considerable distance and waiting for a bus, is what you in most likelyhood will do, if you are Kenyan.

Back to the discussion. Running is the only sport I have ever seen where the participant/s needs nothing. I ran a marathon in Kenya, where to my suprise more than half the people running with me, did so bare foot! Some were only wearing shorts...
As long as you need nothing to compete with, running will always remain popular amongst the poorest of the poor.
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Old 12-03-04, 02:40 AM
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Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
If a person thinks that any group of people is superior or inferior to another group of people, that belief alone indicates that person lacks "mental activity", let alone "faster mental reaction".
What are you talking about?
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Old 12-03-04, 03:56 AM
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Can't we all agree that very probably it's a combination of both environment and genetics. I think in scientific circles this argument is called "Nature vs. Nurture". It's been going on for centuries. Fact is that every race on this planet right now has survived through the millenia by adapting to their environments. The pasty, blond white guy is more suited to survive in northern environments than the tall skinny, emaciated looking black man from Kenya, and vice a versa. Before going off on me, also remember that we have evolved without the advent of air conditioning and central heat and all these nice luxuries that we have today. Those are very new to the world. The human body is an amazing animal, as is every other creature on this planet. Take dogs, some breeds are smarter than others, some are bigger, some have a better sense of smell, etc. They've adapted to their environment. Now I'm not talking about grandma's poodle. But the difference between a timber wolf, a coyote, a dingo, and a hyena are considerable, when you think about it. But you'd better not play the race card with a dog. You'll have PETA all over you in a heartbeat stating that all dogs are equal. So, yes certain races are better adapted to certain environments and certain "strains" on the body. "Strains" defined as what good ole Mother Nature throws at us.

I love it when a particular group (we'll call them group A) will jump on a statement like "group A has a quicker mental reaction time than group B" but will get offended when a statement like "group B has a greater physical prowess than group A". These are simplified obviously, but the point remains.

Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond, Bernard Hinault, Eddie Merckx, etc, are phenominal athletes. They trained hard, beat their bodies into the ground, and succeeded. It didn't come easy to them. But, look at them, none of them had football player musculoskeletal type frames. They inherited their body types from their parents, just like their eye color, hair color, etc. A Kenyan marathoner is exactly the same. They don't possess the type of frame needed to play football, but then again Jerome Bettis doesn't possess the frame to be a world class marathoner. Kenyans choose to run and make it an extreme priority in their society, and that's why they dominate the running world. Europeans choose to cycle, Americans choose football, Dominicans choose baseball, Canadians choose hockey, and the list goes on. We succeed at what we're motivated to succeed at as a society.

It's my opinion that everybody can succeed at something (lacking any physical/mental handicaps), if they possess the drive to succeed in that something. There will always be somebody better though. Lance Armstrong is the best we know of right now. Who's to say there's not somebody toodling down a dirt road in Cambodia that couldn't destroy Lance if given the same tools and training.
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Old 12-03-04, 04:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Patriot
Just wondering what the thoughts of others on this forum are, concerning the possibility of Pro cycling seeing a shift when other third world countries slowly emerge into the modern world.
Many countries are starting to make their mark through the valiant efforts of individuals. It is throught the efforts of one that the impetus is born for many to follow.

As a lad in Australia I would listen to radio report of the progress of the likes of Phil Anderson or Stephen Hodge. They were virtually on their own but they laid a very important foundation, one which even they would not have dreamt of back then.

Nowadays the Aussies are starting to dominate world cycling with riders claiming TDF jerseys, world titles, olympic medals, making brash statements, even attacking their countrymen for a bit of sport! Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable. Twenty-odd years ago it wasn't even dreamt of. Except in the minds of the few who dared to do it on their own.

Good luck to the individuals from countries that do not yet embrace the world of cycling. They are pioneers whose efforts may not be rewarded for another generation.

Last edited by rockmuncher; 12-03-04 at 04:19 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 12-03-04, 04:46 AM
  #25  
Rowan
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Originally Posted by rockmuncher
Nowadays the Aussies are starting to dominate world cycling with riders claiming TDF jerseys, world titles, olympic medals, making brash statements, even attacking their countrymen for a bit of sport! Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable. Twenty-odd years ago it wasn't even dreamt of. Except in the minds of the few who dared to do it on their own.
One legend does live on from before even 20 years ago. If you get a chance, read up the exploits of one man Opperman. Sir Hubert is an Australian many forget to mention as one of the world's great cyclists.
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