La Vie Velominatus: Romanticization

La Vie Velominatus: Romanticization

by / / 95 posts

I’m often told I romanticize Cycling’s past, that the days gone by weren’t quite as rosy as I make them out to be. There is some truth to this, certainly, but the assertion isn’t entirely accurate in the sense that I romanticize everything about Cycling.

Because events are seasoned by our thoughts and individual experience, we necessarily cannot see them for what they truly were. The thoughts that pass through our mind when looking at an old or new photograph, a race, or when we go for a ride influences the way it is remembered and the significance it holds.

Our minds are very good at forgetting pain and remembering pleasure; it isn’t very long after an experience that negative associations begin to fade and positive ones to amplify. This psychological mechanism is the gateway to romanticization. Certainly, I remember that climbing Haleakala last January was a horrible experience, but I’ve managed to forget what that means precisely. On the other hand, the memory of accomplishing a task that turned out to be much harder than I had anticipated lingers strongly; I find myself drawn back to the mountain for the chance to experience once more the purity that touches us briefly when we persevere despite total exhaustion.

Romanticizing encourages us to study the past, to appreciate how things were, and provides the opportunity to learn from the mistakes others have made. It reminds us that things were not always as they are today and that those things we wish were different may be so tomorrow. It helps us forget that many long hours of suffering are balanced only by brief moments of exhilaration. It helps us to dream, to imagine what could be.

Do the great races of the past seem more glorious than they were? Perhaps. Does the sunlight’s glint off a chromed chainstay blind me to the weight of the bicycle and the extra burden it places on its rider? Certainly. Does the memory of reaching down to flick a downtube shifter eclipse the inconvenience of sitting down to shift, and removing a hand from the bars? Absolutely. But they also form the fabric of what keeps me returning to the bicycle.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// La Vie Velominatus

  1. @scaler911
    But you return to do the Crits even though you don’t particularly like them. I wouldn’t call that weak minded, rather, facing up to those uncomfortable thoughts, even with an hour of butterflies beforehand.
    BTW, I won’t be turning Pro anytime soon myself either unless they start a Pro cycling Masters circuit. Even then I’d be paying my own way…..

  2. @scaler911
    I’m not sure getting butterflies before a race is such a bad thing…keeps you honest. I think it was Jimmy Page who said that he still gets nervous any time he has to perform. So you’re in good company.

    @Rob
    Now, THAT’s a good use of the term epic!

    @scaler911

    And in breaking news: Fucking Universal Sports is off the air. I’m going to nip off and kill myself now. Cycling (of course), rugby, skiing, occasional climbing. Shit!! (sorry for the language, just WTF??).

    Argh! Noticed that this weekend. No more watching the classics or Giro live on TV. No more watching badass Lindsey Vonn rip it up. Best channel on TV. Gone.

  3. @Souleur

    Desgrange tried his dead level best to kill the peloton, its well documented. That is historical fact, so part of this is not over romanticizing our first love. The peloton in the infancy of the Tour rode freaking 300k like it was nothing, and some stages were longer, and lasted greater than 10 hrs regularly. Granted, the Tour was not 20 days like today, but longer nonetheless. On the bikes they had then and all.

    You’re bringing up a great point here, that @Steampunk was alluding to. Cycling didn’t have video cameras until the 50’s. Before that, race reports were all just made-up based on second, third, fourth hand information. The races were writ into legend by journalists who waxed poetic about the rides to up readership, and for all we know, it was all made up. Except the stats that you point out. Amazing just on that fact alone. Incredible.

    Now, with cameras, we still don’t know it all, but we’re getting closer. And cut the cord on the radios.

  4. @frank, @Steampunk
    Track down and read Dino Buzzati’s Giro d’Italia. Out of print but I reckon you can find used copies on Amazon, especially if you don’t try to buy it during the month of May. It’s thick with romance about the sport and what the Coppi/Bartali duel meant to Italy right after WWII. Also a revealing picture of how print journalism formed the narrative in the days before video as each chapter is on of Buzzati’s daily dispatches to the newspaper that sent him to cover the race as a veteran journalist. Great stuff.

  5. When I watch a race with Gilbert in it, and know there are hills into the finish, I really anticipate the time when he will go with a group early or wait like a snake in the grass ready to strike. I think he is a tactical marvel. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him attack near the finish and seeing others try to grab his wheel and fail. His ability to go a bloc / sur la plaque on an uphill finish is like no one I remember seeing live. I am sure others have had it in the past- so maybe this is the a bit of the “this is the best/greatest _______ of all time” syndrome that society seems to shower on every achievement without recalling/studying or romanticizing history.

    If Gilbert can keep near this pace up for the next few years, he will write himself deeply into history. For me his skills are much different than the sprinters such as Cavendish. Yes they both win it near the end, but for me what /how Gilbert does on the parcourses he does is exceptional- even if race radio plays a part in it.

  6. @Souleur
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with both your points about romanticization of past races.

    The kit available to the Pros today is close to being 100% in terms of our perception of what it should do. We look back look back on past kit at rate it against this baseline and it doesn’t measure up so we marvel at their hardness for putting up with it but for those guys it was the norm to have to take a wheel of and flip it over or reach behind them to change gear. As the period of development lengthens, the gains become less and less in the same way that over the last 40 years certain aspects of commercial passenger air travel have changed but in the 747-8 we’re still flying around in essential the same plane as the first 747 whereas 40 years before that, 1930, a plane that carried 400 – 500 passengers was unthinkable.

    As for romanticization of pain and suffering our own rides, as good as they may be the sunny, painfree group rides don’t figure as we know we’ve done nothing to further our own abilities or fitness. It6’s only when we move outside our comfort zone that we improve.

  7. This seems like the right article to post this link in…its an audio interview / slideshow with tommy godwin from the 1948 olympics.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/audioslideshow/2012/jan/02/1948-london-olympics-cycling-audio-slideshow
    The best line in interview is the fact that they didn’t yet know what adrenline was in those days. Its worth taking a few minutes to give it a look. Lovely old Team GB kit also…

  8. @All just wondering what the Pro peloton and the bosses thinks of radios – for or against?

  9. @Rob They tend to be in favour of it from what I can see. Vaughters in particular and Bruyneel too IIRC led a campaign to keep them and there was talk of boycotts on the UCI race in Beijing and even breakaway organisations.

    The riders also seem to be largely in favour though opinion is divided. Off the top of my head from various twitter feeds and comments I would guess around two-thirds in favour of radios and one third against.

    Jens is one of the most outspoken pro-radio riders, so it’s surprising anyone is against them really.

  10. @frank
    Actually, I’m merely suggesting that it’s a little early to say what’s going to be “legendary” in 20 years. Facts are funny things, they turn into legends for reasons we may or may not comprehend. Lots of folks thought Pharmy’s 7 TdF’s would be legendary just a few years ago. Given what we know now, I somehow doubt that we will be talking about a “legend” in 15 years. As for Faboo, Grimplette, PhilGil et al time will tell whether their rides become “legendary”.

    Like the man once said, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”

  11. @ Rob: i think most are in favor

    for the PRO, we must admit, its like an umbilical cord
    Bruyneel et al love it
    riders love it, are nourished info via it

    and will cry when you take it away

    yet it may be the best thing to do, cut it!

  12. @Souleur

    @ Rob: i think most are in favor
    for the PRO, we must admit, its like an umbilical cordBruyneel et al love itriders love it, are nourished info via it
    and will cry when you take it away
    yet it may be the best thing to do, cut it!

    Yeah, I agree with you on their take.

    Although I was pleasantly surprised to hear, I think it was Christian Vande Velde, say that all riders had become brain dead robots and just did whatever their ear bud told them to do.

    A lot of respect for him for actually saying that, esp when their management and most pros are totally in favor of radios.

  13. @Rob, @ChrisO, @Souleur, @Buck Rogers
    It doesn’t surprise me, either. Imagine being Jensie, who has to pull in the break by sitting on the front for 50km, riding á bloc for more than an hour. Does he want to stretch that out to an hour and a half by going off feel alone, when he has the convenience of having a car full or radios, computers, and cellphone connections to sports doctors at his disposal to tell him the precise moment he can start the chase and still catch them? Of course not. It makes his job much, much easier.

    But the fact is, that it takes the brains of the race out of the riders (and even the DS who has to drive up to the break and give advice) and into the hands of sophisticated tools that take all the thinking out of it.

    Cut the cord, as they say. A parent who sends their clingy kid off to college has to do it, too – and in both cases, its better in the end.

    @Buck Rogers
    He may have repeated it, but he said that during the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2001 on the video “Road to Paris” – the team radios failed, and the team was totally and completely lost. That episode alone should be argument enough for banning radios.

  14. @frank

    @Rob, @ChrisO, @Souleur, @Buck Rogers
    Cut the cord…

    I’d agree entirely, the 2011 Worlds showed how well a team can control a race without radios.

  15. @frank
    That may be where I am remembering the quote from, but I think that someone said it last year as well.

    Maybe an Aussie? Cannot place it.

  16. Oh yeah, make no mistake, I am all for no radios.

    Or, at the worst, a one-way radio from the commissaire to let everyone know about crashes or road hazards up ahead.

  17. It is hard to imagine going back on any technology, so I do not see it happening until Velominati becomes the movement that dictates world cycling taste (of course that is exactly what our fearless leader envisions – if that was a question in any of our tiny brains, i.e. we are just leetle cogs in the overall Dutch inspired world cycling domination scheme). So, although we all feel that the races would regain a certain “je ne sais quoi” with no radios, can it go back?

    An odd (to me) inverse of this radio/no radio is bike frame design/weight restrictions by the UCI. We now have a 100 year old design slowly morphing but if the restrictions had not been imposed I would be riding a mono single blade 7 lb space ship that I feel pretty sure would be affordable by now as opposed to fitting the technology to the old design parameters at huge cost.

    Forget that I still ride steel, in an odd way I love technology and if I was competing I would have to be on the newest carbone but for just getting me out on the tuesday night group ride my old horse still keeps up fine. If the bike of my imagination was being made now I would have traded up but so far to me its still just the same bike with a few better bells and whistles.

  18. @Rob
    Carbon fiber is still pretty darn expensive, even just as raw material before processing. I don’t know quite where I stand on the regulations, but I really do like seeing some of the TT, track, and such bikes from the 90s. TT evolution is very interesting to me. It would be cool to see people still zipping around on Lotus 110s

  19. @frank, rob, chriso, buck, chris

    I have seen the radio’s as a good thing for a bit, until lately, like the past few years.

    Its nice to know if there is danger ahead, like trains not closed down on the Paris-Roubaix, so all things considered, it would be a nice thing to know…you know?

    But…here is my beef, and I know it happens. Race after race, buddy and I watch with disbelief that the breakaway gets caught in the last floggin K….and after seeing this 100 times repeated, there is no randomness to it.

    They must….(handfist) MUST, sit back in the car, hit ‘www.figure-out-time-gap-breakaway.com’ and go to it and hit in the distances, gaps and KNOW with surety the effort necessary to catch the breakaway, and then know EXACTLY when to go. That is artificial as Pamela Andersons beautiful set of knockers, but artificial none the less.

    Take the radio, bring back a bit of the randomness, give the breakaway the benefits they deserve. They may still yell out the window, honk the horn…but, everyone is fair game to know…and that is only a ‘maybe’

  20. back to the Romanticizing from our vantage point. What would we say if some poor bastard walked his bike, like this one? What would we do today? We would laugh, and say ‘PRO??’..really. Yet, because this was 1910, we wax poetic about it.

    and no matter, this dude descending Tourmalet has balls
    nothing under romanticizing this, its flat cool

  21. @Souleur
    I defer to Le Blaireau:
    “I am against them (race radios). It is just a ‘Game Boy’ that has a gigolo attached at the end telling the racer when to take a piss.”

    Nipple. Fucking. Lube. No matter where you stand on the issue.

  22. @sgt
    This is about as close ‘race-radio’ should get – EVER!

    Thanks BIG RING RIDING!

  23. @sthilzy
    Saw that today. Just f’king amazing! The look in the Lone Rangers eyes is chilling. Just f’king perfect!

  24. @sthilzy

    @sgt
    This is about as close ‘race-radio’ should get – EVER!

    Thanks BIG RING RIDING!

    You just took the fucking A+1 badge for the week. Fucking fantastic. Not to mention we love us some BRR.

  25. @sgt

    @Souleur
    I defer to Le Blaireau:
    “I am against them (race radios). It is just a ‘Game Boy’ that has a gigolo attached at the end telling the racer when to take a piss.”
    Nipple. Fucking. Lube. No matter where you stand on the issue.

    Full stop. Done. A+1.

  26. @Souleur
    You just nailed it on both of your most recent posts. There is a case for radios in terms of safety, and even other sensible information. But the racing that makes us suggest things such as this:

    They must….(handfist) MUST, sit back in the car, hit ‘www.figure-out-time-gap-breakaway.com’ and go to it and hit in the distances, gaps and KNOW with surety the effort necessary to catch the breakaway, and then know EXACTLY when to go. That is artificial as Pamela Andersons beautiful set of knockers, but artificial none the less.

    is precisely why I liken the radios as they are used today to doping.

    And I can’t believe Pamela Anderson was mentioned on this site.

  27. @Souleur
    About the trains, didn’t the breakaway somehow not know? Shouldn’t radios have let them know?

  28. @frank
    The Keepers must never be tempted to add a “breakaway catch” calculator to the calculators already posted on this site.

  29. @Nate
    breakaway catch calculator = (pedal harder) x (now)

    while looking at the V meter, of course.

  30. @itburns

    @Nate
    breakaway catch calculator = (pedal harder) x (now)
    while looking at The V meter, of course.

    Should it not be be V+1 whilst looking at the V-Mantra on your right thigh?

  31. @frank
    Thanks Frank!

  32. @sthilzy

    @sgt This is about as close ‘race-radio’ should get – EVER!

    Thanks BIG RING RIDING!

    wow…that is freakin wild

    how can you NOT romanticize about what the conversation is
    what is he feeding him?? Granola? Bolongna??
    what is he saying?? admonishment? encouragement? ridicule?

    I simply choose Granola and encouragement
    because the poor bastard is taking it all so well

  33. @frank

    @SouleurYou just nailed it on both of your most recent posts. There is a case for radios in terms of safety, and even other sensible information. But the racing that makes us suggest things such as this:

    They must….(handfist) MUST, sit back in the car, hit ‘www.figure-out-time-gap-breakaway.com’ and go to it and hit in the distances, gaps and KNOW with surety the effort necessary to catch the breakaway, and then know EXACTLY when to go. That is artificial as Pamela Andersons beautiful set of knockers, but artificial none the less.

    is precisely why I liken the radios as they are used today to doping.
    And I can’t believe Pamela Anderson was mentioned on this site.

    @frank:

    did you catch something by my mere mention of her name?
    sorry bro, blame it on me. I will never mention such ever again.

  34. ohhhh Pamela Anderson. I raced against her on the PCH. She was in a white 911 Turbo so in the end she won. Actually I don’t think she knew we were racing…still it was jolly exciting for about two sets of traffic lights.

  35. @Souleur

    @sthilzy

    @sgt This is about as close ‘race-radio’ should get – EVER!

    Thanks BIG RING RIDING!

    wow…that is freakin wild
    how can you NOT romanticize about what the conversation is
    what is he feeding him?? Granola? Bolongna??
    what is he saying?? admonishment? encouragement? ridicule?
    I simply choose Granola and encouragement
    because the poor bastard is taking it all so well

    “Dai, bastardo, è scalare questa montagna, anche se devo tirare tue labbro”

    BTW @frank, that is what you call a gilet!

  36. @Chris

    @itburns

    @Nate
    breakaway catch calculator = (pedal harder) x (now)
    while looking at The V meter, of course.

    Should it not be be V+1 whilst looking at The V-Mantra on your right thigh?

    No, no, no!

    It’s

    do
    {
        V++;
    } while (true);

  37. for (effort=start; effort < finish && effort < V; effort++)
    {
        if (effort == manWithHammer) {break;}
    }

  38. @frank, @itburns
    My comment was not meant to be an invitation!

  39. @itburns, @Nate, @frank

    Oh dear god, what have I done? Not only am I going to spend the weekend in a foreign country with a bunch of men that I met on the internet but they’re also going to want to talk about programming.

  40. @Chris
    I think your non-quantitative approach is in the proper spirit.

  41. @Nate
    Writing code to work out how hard one should be riding, whether for the purposes of catching breaks or otherwise, doesn’t really seem to be in the spirit of Rule #74. Disappointing coming from a Keeper.

  42. @DerHoggz
    Yes to those 110’s and if the bike industry had not been held back what else??

  43. @DerHoggz
    HA, like a fine double barreled over under (and I do not like guns), that engraving is the shiznet but my dream goes toward single chain stay, one fork blade and mono everything in stealth black at 4 kilos…

  44. @Rob
    I think you missed the point, scroll down on the link.

  45. @Chris

    @Nate
    Writing code to work out how hard one should be riding, whether for the purposes of catching breaks or otherwise, doesn’t really seem to be in the spirit of Rule #74. Disappointing coming from a Keeper.

    It just means “go more harderified”. This is Theoretical stuff prior to the ride – obviously no such calculations would be going on. This is just to help you figure out what your plan will be prior to the ride.

    Just wait ’til April when I explain to you in detail how I solved the “backspace to exit fullscreen” problem on the new photo album plugin I deployed here today. Elegant, beautiful. I’ll casually explain it to you as we reach the top of the Kapelmuur.

  46. @DerHoggz
    What an old fart fail – thanks for some sweet bike porn! I do not know if we would have better bikes if those designs were the foundation of what we have now instead of UCI dictated diamond geometry holdbacks… but it would have been fun to find out.

  47. @frank

    @Chris

    @Nate
    Writing code to work out how hard one should be riding, whether for the purposes of catching breaks or otherwise, doesn’t really seem to be in the spirit of Rule #74. Disappointing coming from a Keeper.

    It just means “go more harderified”. This is Theoretical stuff prior to the ride – obviously no such calculations would be going on. This is just to help you figure out what your plan will be prior to the ride.
    Just wait ’til April when I explain to you in detail how I solved the “backspace to exit fullscreen” problem on the new photo album plugin I deployed here today. Elegant, beautiful. I’ll casually explain it to you as we reach the top of the Kapelmuur.

    I will live for that moment but I’m worried that life will be empty after it.

  48. Fignon images (posted). His character and merit is capturing me now. A rider that is revered among cyclist — there can be no exaggeration on their work. These images are great to see.

    The V !!

    The best photo !!

  49. French cyclist Roger Pingeon, Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx and French cyclist Raymond Poulidor, pictured with a tribute book MERCKXISSIMO. Who has this book ??

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