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The Surveillance of Racing Cyclists in Training: A Bourdieusian Perspective

Research into the complexities of social identity construction and maintenance within racing cycling cultures has been neglected in sport sociology and studies of cycling group interactions are lacking. In this paper, preliminary findings from an on-going ethnographic research study on understanding the social world of a group (n= 73) of male racing cyclists aged between 17 and 56 years in the north east of England are discussed primarily through the application of theoretical concepts from the twentieth century sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, including: habitus, field, capital, and symbolic violence. Extracts from field notes and photographs from group training rides are used to reveal how social order is governed via various forms of lateral social surveillance. Social order occurs through a commitment to the shared values of the training group under study, and through acceptance of initiatory rituals where newcomers are tested through acts of what Bourdieu terms symbolic violence. These preliminary findings suggest that whilst the exclusiveness of this sub-cultural field provides much of the attraction to established group members, it may also represent a barrier to participation for newcomers and a better understanding may inform debates related to building broader, more inclusive cycling cultures.