I had to stop: small stones and grit can transform a morning run into an anticipation of purgatory.

Take off the shoe, shake it, turn it and the stone cum sand rolls down re-joining the mother earth. And then I think; how many services are freely provided by Gravity? How hard and embarrassing to live in absence of gravity, expecting things to fall down and watching them flying around in your capsule.

We take gravity for granted and we use it constantly for positive actions: pouring water into a glass, parking the bike on stand, lying on the grass for rest, piling books on the floor…

As all forces, Gravity has a double face.

The cooperative one: turn the shoe and the stone goes out following the force.

“The Force be against you” is the other side of Gravity: get out of balance on two feet or on two wheels and Gravity reclaims its victim on the spot.

End of August is not the right time for the Tour de France but Corona Virus created mayhem in UCI calendar and Le Grand Tour just started. From Nice to Nice a one hundred and fifty kilometres loop up and down le Col du Var with the highest point the Aspremont at 500 meters of altitude: roads of Provence so dear to cyclists, motorcyclists and ramblers.

Roads of Provence with classic panoramas, gorges, forests, villages perched on the cliffs, plenty of “virages en epingle a’ cheveux” or hairpins.

Climate change brought to Provence a very dry summer but, as a gift for the riders, the opening day of the 2020 Tour de France brought rain and wet for the first time.

Good news for the farmers, an hecatomb for the riders: on the words of several of them it was “like riding on ice”.  Professional cyclists were falling down as leaves in Autumn: some restarting with few bruises, some coming on day one to the end of the Tour.

A very sad spectacle with crashes repeated in slow motion for the entertainment of the TV viewers. Gravity was taking an heavy toll and finally some of the most responsible riders moved in front of the pack, raised hands and imposed a sedate pace, a self neutralization of the race followed by an official one.

Proof that Gravity is an equalizing force. Organizers were immediately accused of putting lives at risk, around went calls for strike and boycott among riders, a large set of accusations, recrimination and social media debate.

Watching and thinking: how it happens that most of the riders and most of the best riders did not go down? Did they have a special contract with Gravity? While their skills of staying erect on two slim wheels have not been rewarded instead of bringing  down the skill-bar to minimal level of competence or control?

Because the professional riders are workers, not sporting figures and, as workers they have to follow the money. One cannot deprive Sponsors of the paid exposure: money pushes organizers a to select “entertaining-extreme” itineraries, team managers push rider to be “in front – near the cameras, riders push the limits to gain space and time. When weather or other causes introduce variable, crashes happen.

We, the spectators, like all this although we express politically correct feelings of regret and compassion for the victim. Money brings violence into sport and in all kind of entertainment.

It is an accelerating spiral that borders in the absurd: watch and count the deaths in “007 Dr. No” (October 1962) and compare them with one of the current action movies. A future historian, trying to understand the civilization before the “atomic disaster”, having only films and tv to document the XXI century , will describe our cities as places where guns were common sight, where people were gunned in droves on the streets, where vehicle were crashing and exploding, where police and ambulance arrived always too late, at the end of the show.

Sport, entertainment and hobbies need violence “”the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation

Mostly because we are bored, because normality, or even worst, kindness is boring, does not generate “spectacle”, it does not build great audience, it does not brings money.

And all this would be fine if was not for the example.

Professional cyclist risk life for money and as workers they must be protected with risk-limitations: spectators may take them as examples creating a culture where every activity Must be justified and evaluated by the amount of money it brings. In this way Judo or Badminton are sporting activities less important and less attractive because do not pay as a football or tennis.

And in our sport, motorcycling at professional level, violence is growing at the same rate of “007 movies”: not only on MOTO GP or SBK where crashes turn into potential tragedies. Watch a 1970 motocross race and one of this year and you will see what kind of Monster violence the design of circuits and the power of machine introduced.

Road riding always had an element of competition insight: a good level of “reaching for excellence” in the respect of rules and fairness.

Fortunately, for most of the riders I meet, these two elements are still there to be respected but the feeling of community, of one unifying passion can easily erode and be swamped away if we do not resist the invasion of monetary competitiveness.

Then Gravity will be the only sever teacher.

By Paolo Volpara

"Si sta come d'autunno sugli alberi le foglie"