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Thursday, 14 April 2016

THE CYCLING CONJECTURE

Cycling is passion, history, grit, determination, but also innovation and... conjecture.
Although rivalries have always been part of the sport, social media have now given dualism of opinions a loud platform.
In the past we saw discord between the two major groupset companies (Campagnolo vs Shimano), or between riders, (Coppi vs Bartali). Books have been written about it, and plenty of banter has been dished out over the years.
The immediacy and exponential reach of social media has escalated the debates surrounding certain topics, as more people are inclined to share their own views based on personal experiences.
It can be about the effectiveness of helmets, the use of cycle lanes, the introduction of disc brakes in the peloton or the veracity of doping suspicions and yes, Team Sky!

It's a melee of convictions, affected by belief, half truths, conspiracies, likes and dislikes. Partisan tunnel vision is not new, it's just that now we're armed with spreadsheets, pseudo data, dubious sources and a myriad of deductions.
Insufficient evidence, lack of proof or dissonant research often leaves chasms in interpretation.
Conjecture is seldom solved not necessarily because of the lack of information, but often by the sheer amount of data available. The approach most people use is heuristic, basically an educated guess, rather than coldly looking at facts, which often are unreliable.
There are also social factors involved (and a fair amount of mob mentality). We tend to follow the opinion of people we respect or like (consciously or unconsciously). Conclusions are drawn by a sense of belonging (more or less what happens with football fans towards referees' decisions... but a bit more behaved... just). An attachment to a point of view can originate from logical truths or from a combination of truths.
That involves two types of judgements, analytic or synthetic. With the analytic we tend to see the facts at face value, based on available knowledge/logic; while the synthetic judgements are reached with knowledge about the topic and something related to the topic.
Analytic: Nibali is a Tour de France winner.
Synthetic: Nibali won the Tour de France because he doped.
Both sentences ring true (to some), only the first one, the analytic one is reliable because the fact is based on undisputed events, while the synthetic one is based on added knowledge (true or false depends on the source).
There is something rewarding from conjectures. They stimulate debate, they help spreading knowledge, and they generate banter, which is a healthy form of support.
But they also trigger hatred, insults and the creation of phoney experts in an already saturated field.
Moderation and respect are paramount in keeping this the most beautiful sport.

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