After three years following cyclists and watching road races, I finally managed to spectate a track championship in my city. When I saw the facebook posts announcing this state level race, I thought: “Wow, this is a great opportunity for me to meet a lot of athletes and see how they fight for the pride of wearing our state colors on next national championship!”
But things never are as you expect. For the three-day championship, there were only approximately 25 athletes showing up. At first, I didn’t understand why. I talked with some of the boys and girls at the track and I learned a valuable lesson about how cycling works in Brazil. I’ll write more about my lesson later. But before I talk about this, I want to share my deepest support for everyone who raced this competition. Considering the conditions (of the equipment, the track and the training) they did an incredible job, and the events were very exciting to see, like Madison, Points and Scratch.
The love for track racing was evident in everyone’s racing. With two generations of athletes racing (the older generation included the actual Brazilian Keirin Champion), things got interesting, because we saw a lot of provocation (the good type) and a lot of admiration and will to learn from the experienced. One of the greatest moments of entire championship was the happiness of a young boy receiving a hug and congratulations from the most important athlete racing that day.
We had great moments but also other not so great moments. Some events were won by W.O due the lack of competitors. This was explained with two situations. Firstly, Brazil has a total area of 8.515.767 km² and for all this territory there is only 7 velodromes, all made of cement and some of them in very bad shape (in comparison to Japan who has a territorial area of 377.944 km² with almost 80 velodromes).
Our finest velodrome, built for the Pan-American games, was demolished because it didn’t fit UCI regulations for Olympics and with a chaotic administration of Brazilian Cycling federation, plus other things, meant the end of the biggest track cycling team in brazil. So we suffer from the examples and lack training places for the new generation. Cycling still a “mystery business” here (and this also explains the public on the three days, almost restrict to a few athletes family members, and tourist passing by on the park aside of velodrome).
And secondly, is about the situation for the athletes. Almost everyone’s racing in Brazil is dependant on Governmental funding. This transforms the pride of racing into a sense of surviving, where some athletes races for other states and cities with more funding from the sports programs. Another reason for athletes not showing, was a second competition taking place a few days after. The “Open Games” is a competition for athletes from all the country with better visibility and money. A good place in that race almost guarantee better governmental sponsorship for the athletes in their future.
We have a lot to learn. We need to change a lot of things that demands years of hard work, of course we grow, with athletes training on UCI Center on Switzerland and winning some international races, but it’s a small number if you compare the size of Brazil to the number of the potential cyclists we have here. I don’t know how things work in other countries. The organization of these events look so amateur, and on certain points, very obsolete.
But I have learned in these three days that maybe we don’t have the best athletes, but we do have a lot of passionate people pursuing their dreams, and they are on a good path to reach their goals.