Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kissena regular Gabby Allong in the Daily News

The NY Daily News has a nice piece on Kissena regular Gabriella Allong, which Kissena Track Racing also posted. And it includes an extremely bad-ass picture.

Gabby's a great racer to watch - she attacks viciously, tearing apart the race field with strong solo efforts. When she enters races where she's the only woman in the field, she does exactly the same thing - makes daring attacks early in the race to break it up and be competitive in a field full of big, powerful men, many of whom are more than twice her age.

The article mentions racism in cycling - or, at the very least, white-dominance, calling Gabby "
an anomaly in the sport of cycling: an African-American girl, competing in a sport that's marked by a prevalence of white participants." The upper levels of cycling might be dominated by white people, but to call the grassroots level white-dominated is to ignore a lot of people and perpetuate the very problem that the Daily News takes pains to point out. Reality is created by what we acknowledge and discuss.

Two interesting things to consider about cycling being white dominated: one, an essay by Malcolm Gladwell on expertise:
Sport, too, is supposed to be just such a pure meritocracy. But is it? Take ice hockey in Canada: look at any team and you will find that a disproportionate number of players will have been born in the first three months of the year. This, it turns out, is because the cut-off date for children eligible for the nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old league and so on is January 1. Boys who are oldest and biggest at the beginning of the hockey season are inevitably the best. And so they get the most coaching and practice, and they get chosen for the all-star team, and so their advantage increases - on into the professional game. A similar pattern applies to other sports. What we think of as talent is actually a complicated combination of ability, opportunity and utterly arbitrary advantage.

And, two: an organization called The African Cyclist, training Kenyan athletes with the goal of making one of them the first black man to compete in international professional road racing. It's turned out impressive results, with two cyclists - who have been riding for less than a year - clocking times of 46 minutes up the Tour de France's legendary Alpe D'Huez. A week after their first attempt, one of them raced again and finished with a time of 42 minutes (video here, which would have placed him 11th in the 2004 Alpe D'Huez time trial in the Tour de France.

My point is that not only is cycling far less white-dominated than the Daily News might have assumed, but that it also has the capacity to be much less monoracial at the upper echelons of the sport.

It's not like I expect excellent racial politics from the Daily News, but come on, this is New York City. Cycling is only dominated by white people when all the forty year old men drive in from Long Island and New Jersey for Sunday morning Prospect Park races.

And getting back to what started this post - Congratulations to Gabby. Having an article about you in the newspaper is such an awesome thing. Best of luck in the 2009 season!

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