sábado, 11 de febrero de 2012

The Ugly Side of Recreational Cycling in Spain

I have been here in Spain for about 10 years now, for most of which I rode alone or with a few other people who later seemed to lose interest, after which I decided to join a cycling club in order to ride with a group and meet some more people. The idea was sound in principle but things did not work out well in the end because I quickly found that foreigners were treated differently, at least in the club that I joined. I began to notice quickly that if a foreigner fell off the back of the group or had some kind of a problem it was very unlikely that anyone would stop to help them or slow down and wait for them. On the occasion that I  decided to stop riding with the club, we were descending a mountain and I was towards the front of the group when I had a mechanical problem which forced me to stop and even though I was wearing the club jersey, everyone passed me without a word, including the club assistance vehicle. Luckily, I carry everything with me and I was able to fix the problem and start riding towards home only to catch up to the group after about 15 or 20 kilometers because one of the Spanish riders had had a flat and everyone had stopped to wait for him.

Now, in 2012, it also appears that discrimatory policies have been put into effect in some of the federations in the autonomous communities in Spain, as there are different registration requirements for Spanish people and for foreigners. In Madrid and Andalucia, for example, Spanish cyclists are able to register online while foreign cyclists must register in person and provide all their identity documentation. I do not have a problem with providing the documentation, however, in the past I was always able to email or fax the necessary documents and I tried the registration here in madrid using my wife’s name and identification number and at no time during the process was there any need to present documentation. Foreigners must present their registration and documentation in person and then provide the same documentation when they can return and pick up their licence from the offices of the federation. This requirement is discriminatory. In my case, my licence would be a renewal, the federation already has all the required documentation but to get a licence I would have to provide it again. The federation in Galicia also states on its website that foreigners cannot renew their licences, they must apply for a new licence every year. Because of these changes in the licencing system for foreigners I will not be getting a licence this year and therefore will be unable to participate in any of the events here in Spain. What’s next, events that only Spanish citizens can participate in?

Cycling is about pedaling, the challenge of climbing the hill or mountain in front of you, the exhilarating speeds descending the mountain, balance, skills, being outdoors, etc. It is not about race, or color, or nationality, or language. Cycling should be above all these things, sport should be about sport not the promotion of someone’s xenophobic ideas. I don’t know if these changes were put into effect in only certain communities or if they are the regulations of the Spanish national federation, but they are very bad for cycling in Spain.

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