Domestic commotion and adulterous behavior by soccer, cricket, or lately even golf players... the dramas which tabloids love to report on hardly ever make it front page in cycling.
Considering the extent and the accessibility of the professional racing scene, these stories go rather unnoticed and that is mostly due to the lack of flaunted glamour in cycling!
Ok, there are cyclists who are a tad loose on the whole morality thing. Certain riders behave like soccer players - excuse me, pop-stars. This unavoidably leads to a swarm of keen groupies, a budding following of «babes» collecting bedtime experiences and short term relationships with riders as if they were «prizes».
The traditional cycling WAG engages, as she did decades ago, in a supportive and nurturing role in the life of the athlete. In general, Cycling WAGs endow their man with confidence, a balanced private life and serene surroundings in which the rider can thrive physically and mentally.
There are of course the exceptions to prove the rule but allow me to take a broad view here as experience tells me most WAGs share the same traits: they are relentlessly supportive, caring and typically strong personalities.
Repeated remark I get from non-cycling WAGs: «I don't know how you cope with being separated so frequently». Well, it isn't something you can get used to easily. I for one never have.
In tumultuous times on the home front, for instance when children get sick, it can be demanding to manage the household alone. I reasoned I was not to complain, that there are countless women in a much more challenging situation. That thought strangled the need to highlight my personal loneliness.
Its definitely handy to be a strong woman to maintain a serious relationship with a cyclist.
Whether one lives in a luxurious flat in Monaco, on the slopes of the mountains in Spain or in cycling mad Flanders the daily routine of a professional cyclist is taxing and monotonous. The training and racing responsibilities are at the centre of the rider's family universe and all social, fun activities are scheduled to fit in with his program.
Once Scott's racing season had started the kids and I were virtually «on our own». Our social life was put on the back burner for 9 months of the year. Besides the occasional movie and dinner date, the cycling season wasnt exactly flooded with many exciting social events. Its only half the fun having to go to parties and weddings alone.
Cruising bars and night clubs was done in stealth during the racing season. That seems to have changed slightly I have noticed; a good thing for those WAGs addicted to the clubbing scene.
To get away from European winter Scott trained at home in Australia. It was great to spend the Australian summer together and 3 months of lazing on the Gold Coast beaches; that was just fabulous. Social interaction is more vibrant during the off-season and it really puzzled me how some riders were able to party hard, exceedingly hard after «living like a monk» (no pun intended) for the rest of the year.
Rarely seen au fait with by team management is that a WAG has a very direct influence on the career of a cyclist, because of obvious reasons, in a good sense or as a detrimental factor at play - most recently, Marc Cavendish's decision to enhance his podium smile made him suffer on the race performance side of things.
At Team CSC, 2005, Bjarne Riis invited all partners to a team building session. I was part of this unique initiative. It was applauded by all on the squad. Set in a relaxed atmosphere Bjarnes clever gesture lead to an immediate boost of team spirit. It was exceptional and I havent experienced anything like it before or since.
(The rest of the article follows underneath the picture)
The majority of WAGs are what psychologists might refer to as slightly «erotic personalities» - I see some eyebrows being raised in anticipation.
I mean Erotic(!) in the sense that they love to be in a supportive role and feel good about being needed and loved. They enjoy conviviality, create a warm environment for themselves and their family, rather than use it to stimulate their own career networking. And no, of course not all WAG's are that accommodating. A «high maintenance» partner unknowingly can draw the precious energy straight out of the athlete and the effects of such a relationship show pretty quickly.
It is fair to say Cycling WAGs enjoy the success their partner reaps. Sure, the majority of WAGs do love some attention – just like a woman does. Some girls are definitely model material and would outshine many soccer WAG in a Sports Illustrated body paint feature, but somehow only very few have been enticed to do so.
Fact is that most WAGs I have met are charming and wonderful Women; classy, thoughtful, generous. Some WAGs are undeniably aloof, spiteful and distant. Some are sweet, committed, highly educated, others are just absolutely gorgeous but they are all bonded by the same intrinsic factor: they are in love with a man who loves cycling!
End of part 2
(next blogs will feature one-on-one interviews with Cycling WAGs)