So it’s official: I have returned to the welcoming bosom of the London Dynamo committee, this time to take up the new post of communications manager. My last stint was as part of the founding committee; in those early days my job was to write an amusing and reasonably informative newsletter called DYNAMITE!, which this blog originally served as an archive for the weekly publication’s entire five-year run (you can have a gander at it by clicking the “DYNAMITE! Filed” link on the left). I doubt anything I do this time around will be half as popular as that freewheeling weekly email. So why am I going back?
I came up with the idea of a communications manager after the club had to deal with two contrasting incidents during the past 12 months: the death of Akis Kollaros, who was killed under the wheels of a lorry a year ago this week, and poor old Rory Palmer leaving the club because he got busted for riding his bike downhill at 40mph in Richmond Park. At the Hillingdon Winter Series, our riders led two neutralised laps in honour of Akis, and road.cc ran an interview with our chairman Paul Harknett about the issue of speeding in the park. The small upside of both unfortunate incidents is that they provided rare occasions for Dynamo to communicate beyond its membership, and in each case it did so in an admirable way.
But as I asked during my short speech at our AGM on Saturday, why should the club communicate to the wider cycling world only when things go wrong? Dynamo does a lot of good projects – our growing junior section Sparks, our efforts to make sure Richmond Park’s poor resurfacing was sorted out, putting on two sell-out time trials in the park every year as well as a superbly well-organised road race – and I would like to tell more people about them using the club’s social media channels and through news outlets. So that’s what I will try to do.
What I am not going to do is try to change the opinion of the small but noisy band who will never like Dynamo. We are more conspicuous than other cycling clubs for many reasons – for a start, our cornerstone club ride takes us past the most popular cycling destination in the world at its busiest time – so we are always going to take a greater level of flak than most when, like all clubs, our standards slip from time to time. Fighting skirmishes is self-defeating; the bigger prize is to win over those who are impartial and encourage existing supporters to spread the word.
There was one exchange of views at the end of last year that made me realise once and for all that it is pointless to try to win over the most deeply entrenched critics. As you undoubtedly already know, 18-year-old Catford CC rider Gabriel Evans was caught taking EPO and rejoined Dynamo without telling us that he was being investigated. After Dynamo expelled him in December, the club tweeted its zero tolerance stance on doping. It was the sort of obvious but necessary statement you would expect a responsible organisation to make, especially one which is obliged to deal with the welfare of teenagers.
Luke Scheybeler, who founded Rapha and as far as I am aware remains a major shareholder, didn’t see it that way. “Genuine lol”, he tweeted, later stating that the club’s stance showed “unbelieveable pomposity”. (There is, of course, the wonderful irony of being called pompous by the man who gave us Rapha.) And Mr ScheybeLOL, in what is a first for Dynamo, believes the club has a “‘let’s pretend we’re pros’ attitude that’s led to kids taking dangerous drugs”.
So every time a bunch of thirty- or forty-something blokes race up a hill on their bicycles or shave their legs, we are somehow meant to believe they are encouraging teens to take PEDs. Depending on how you look at it, this notion is either a conspiracy theory or a moral panic of the kind you would expect to be wheeled out by a clapped-out politician. And it’s not the greatest idea to slag off some of your customers, which is probably why Rapha quickly and wisely distanced itself from its co-founder’s opinions.
It may seem unusual, but Luke’s curious Scheybelogic is part of the natural process of enmity: sneer for long enough and you will eventually have to come up with new reasons to maintain the intensity of your dislike, even if those reasons are wholly imagined. Which is why on my watch Dynamo is never going to engage with the sort of cyclist whose sport is not cycling but blustering.