A lot has been made lately of the fact that riders today are lacking a little bit of The V. It’s not so much a criticism of how they conduct themselves during a race (although that has also been called into question lately), but in their general demeanor towards their life as a cyclist.
It doesn’t surprise me much; historically, riders chose a life on the bike as an escape from their other occupational choice which typically involved hard manual labor in a dark pit or on a cold field whereas today’s riders generally come from more privileged backgrounds and find their way into this world from a life of relative luxury.
A life of hardship went beyond their working-class roots, it applied to their life on the bike as well. They scaled the same passes we do today, except they did it over dirt roads aboard heavy, flexy bikes with relaxed geometries, wearing what amounted to little more than leather loafers. Hardness wasn’t something to aspire to; it was simply the way it was.
This is one of my favorite photos of a cyclist, and the bicycle is nowhere to be seen. From the look on his face, Coppi just ate himself a Schlecklette and, based on the gesture he’s making, is preparing to drop trou and shit ‘im right back out.
To put Cipollini’s sentiments above into Coppi’s words:
Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.
To todays generation of riders, I offer this advice: take no prisoners, fucktards.