I have to admit, until BigRingRiding bestowed upon us the honor of gracing their site with our humble image, I had never heard the term “Inhaling a Wasp” being used as a climbing tactic. My Great Aunt once swallowed a wasp; she was rather portly and since I think the wasp might have been in her cocktail I’m reasonably certain she wasn’t riding a bike at the time – to say nothing of climbing. I believe my Great Uncle poured a pint of motor oil down her throat to treat the situation and I’m assuming that he did this as an erstwhile remedy and not out of vindictiveness. I can’t imagine it was “pleasant” in the traditional sense of the term, although the family story doesn’t detail how it all worked out for her, the oil, or my Great Uncle.
But back to cycling. I think what all of us here at the Velominati like most is The V being dished out using a Big Gulp or bigger container. At the end of the day, there is little less interesting than watching a herd of robots pedal their bikes up a steep hill without the least bit of emotion or effort showing on their faces, but with loads of speed in their legs. Common competitive wisdom is to never let your rivals know you’re suffering, but bollocks to that. Whether I’m on the bike or watching a race, nothing beats seeing it all left on the road, with the pain of each magnificent stroke showing on the faces of those doing the dishing.
Inhaling a Wasp is the look a rider has on their face when they’ve dropped their jaw down like the shovel on a front-loader, scooping up mouthfuls of air in an effort not to quench, but to fuel the fire burning hot in their lungs and legs. Jan Ullrich was the master of this look, and any time I’m engaging in a long climb, steeled against the suffering I know is to come farther up the road, I channel my best Ullrich look and take solace in the notion that despite the squares I’m pedaling, perhaps I might at least look a the slightest bit like Der Kaiser.