Yeah, who to cheer for when one guy is an unrepentant doper, one is under investigation for connections to a dodgy doctor, when one rode on whilst under threat of suspension and the other is copying him?
If you love the sport, recognise the UCI (under current rules) is unable to temporarily stop you racing, know that race organisers are cowards and your team management are without ethics and any understanding why this has to stop, please stop taking advantage of all this weakness and stop crapping on the fans.
Take a stand and sit it out til all is resolved.
We’ve suffered Contador, Valverde and others, now Van Avermaet, who’s even missing a hearing date with the Belgian authorities to ride Tirreno-Adriatico.
Click on the image below to head to PEZ – and kudos for them for publishing this, I know many other mainstream sites that definitely would not.
I know, I have the best headlines huh! That’s one you won’t find on CyclingSnooze…
This week’s Lee’s Lowdown on PezCycling News looks at the opening classics of the season, this weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
It also features a former pro’s tale of getting pissed on by Il Campionissimo!
Click the image below to head to PEZ to read the article, thanks!
This article originally appeared on PEZ
I’ve been sat here mulling over potential topics for this week’s Lowdown with my bike in the back yard looking at me like a jilted lover. She’s practically bleating at me like an orphaned lamb. Those hang dog eyes. She must have been a Labrador in a previous life.
“Sorry Eleanor, but I gotta get this thing in for PEZ. Forgive me baby!”
She’s having none of it. Says she’s gonna kick my ass later.
And she will. She’s awesome like that.
You’re reading this, I guess, most of you, at work or in the traffic jam on your way to work. Or sat in a toilet cubicle, trying to avoid work. If you’re not there you’re maybe at home, or sat waiting for the kids to get off the freaking swings at the playground. Or waiting for the judge to return from lunch. Wherever you are, whatever you should be doing, you’re definitely nor riding.
Hurts, don’t it? Most of us would rather be out there getting our butts kicked by our very own selves than doing much else. This is who we are. For a million and one reasons we need this. We need the comfort brought about by being uncomfortable. The solace of pain. The warmth that comes immediately once the suffering stops.
Whenever I interview professional cyclists, I always ask them the same question at the end. I rarely put the answer in the published interview, because I ask them out of my own curiosity, to see what they’ll say.
“Why do you ride?”
Simple enough right? I’ve had some decent answers, I’ve had some dull ones, but the best I ever received was from Andy Schleck (I know!).
Me: “Andy, last question: Why do you ride?”
AS: “Well, my uncle rode, my father rode too, and then my brother started, so I… [here he paused for a good ten seconds before starting again]. You know… I ride because if I don’t get out there and hurt myself for two or three days, I miss it.”
Booyakasha, baby. There it was, he nailed it – as least for me.
Not everyone will have that slightly unhinged motivation for getting out there and thrashing up the hills and through the valleys, with rednecks aiming their three-ton killing machines towards your back wheel, but for many of us it is a hugely compelling force, that need to hurt.
I used to ask myself, quite seriously, why I need this. I quickly realised that there was something deep inside my psyche that responded to the suffering, that actually embraced it, that found release through it. I never wanted to go sit on a mountain in the Lotus position to find peace. Too boring. Too pointless.
No, give me a bike. Let me sweat, let me swear, let me hate all of them for thinking they can beat me and let me ride myself into the road and then let me get off that bike beaten, cleansed and – whisper it – content.
The bike offers you the opportunity to become noble, no matter how fleetingly. This, after all, is how it all began, bike racing at least. The first races were gatherings of farm hands and coal miners from northern France and Belgium, young men who dreamed of escape much like too many African Americans and other disenfranchised folk do still today, seeking a way out of an impoverished life through sport.
Those guys became kings on those roads. Released. The new nobility.
This is essentially the bicycle as a means of expression, of making the universe sit up and hear the noise coming from that little tiny dot that is you.
The road the canvas, the wheels the brush, the will the ink.
Write that story. Write your story.
Is it still a madness, though, the need to hurt?
Heck yeah. Here’s the definition of insanity by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as:
1: a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia)
2: such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility
3a : extreme folly or unreasonableness
3b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable
Unfortunately we are all too aware of the tragic stories of some riders that have experienced #1. It happens all over in our society for sure, but in sport, and cycling I would say in particular, the environment is so skewed as to accelerate this kind of illness.
For #2, I have just two words: ‘Lance’ and ‘Armstrong’. Say no more.
For 3.a and 3.b, well, we do this every day. Most ‘normal people’ would not head out to do ten hill repeats, or a 5 hour ride on a perfectly good and otherwise pleasant Sunday.
Of course it’s not just the madness that drives us, it’s what comes with it – the transcendence. Now bear with me here, I’m going to quote Ian Curtis of Joy Division to get where I want to go with this:
But if you could just see the beauty,
These things I could never describe,
These pleasures a wayward distraction,
This is my one lucky prize. Isolation, Joy Division
That’s the bike. When people ask me ‘So why do you do it?’ with that scoffing tone – you know the kind, it forces an involuntary clenching of the fist, that kind.
Ian knew the score. There’s the answer. If you aren’t out with me on that five hour ride up those nasty hills, if you’re never going to be perched on three inches of leather for a long 80km/hr descent, if you’re never gonna find anything – be it cycling, running, fire juggling, whatever – that demands sacrifice and an unflinching embrace of your inner nuttiness, you’re not going to get it.
I’ll leave you with this from Oliver Sacks. He probably wasn’t talking specifically about the bike, but then again, maybe he was…
“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology, or in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings.
“We may seek, too, a relaxing of inhibitions that makes it easier to bond with each other, or transports that make our consciousness of time and mortality easier to bear. We seek a holiday from our inner and outer restrictions, a more intense sense of the here and now, the beauty and value of the world we live in.”
Right, I’m gonna go ride, and so should you…
Gaining inspiration from that bunch of cool old bike posters I found last month and posted about, this week’s Lee’s Lowdown (the second of my weekly columns) on PezCycling News takes a de eper and more focused look specifically at the early days of bicycles and the advertising that promoted it.
Check out some great Art Noveau posters, learn about Victor Bicycles and Columbia and their spoons, about how the bike was central to the liberation of women at the turn of the last century and send a message to the owner at PEZ to tell him how much you loved the article!
Ha! Click the image below to access the article, many thanks.
After writing for the esteemed PezCycling News for a good four years now, on and off, covering the Classics and the Grand Tours as part of my column, ‘Lee’s Lowdown’, I’ve now landed a weekly column which will run every Wednesday.
The first edition of the Lowdown, entitled A Glamorous Life looks at the reality of life as a pro, and is currently online. You can head over to PEZ by clicking on the image below.
Read about contractual wranglings, riders not getting paid, the mad cycling groupies we have to fight off and me autographing a baby.
Yes you read that correctly.
Also read about the rather fantastic and heartening clause in John Ebsen’s new contract, great stuff!
last year i was fortunate to be invited along with Peter and Lisa Easton on their Velo Classic Tours week (thanks to PEZ Cycling) which featured a ride over the Paris-Roubaix and Flanders courses, as well as front row seats at both those races and the Scheldeprijs mid-week race. the trip featured amazing rides, incredible food and some very cool bike-mad folk, as well as – most surprisingly – brilliant blue skies all week.
a highly recommended adventure.
first up is a great little video by a bunch of guys who went to the race last year and also rode the route. as bucketlist items go, this has to be top three on every discerning roadie’s list.
the Tour of Flanders history up next.
Boonen gets spanked by Fabian. (We rode the Muur on the Velo Classic Tours trip).
“He’s [Boonen] just got to keep him in sight over the top, he’ll catch him if he can.”
Ah Phil, too Liggett to quit!
and finally, not exactly connected to the Classics but it is set in Belgium. incredibly, though Belgium is essentially the home of cycling, in its capital Brussels only 4% of traffic is person-powered.