THe shadow foretells the ending.

Shadow Boxing

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In the 1989 Tour de France, Laurent Fignon was on the rivet. Close to collapse. But his Directeur Sportif noticed that Greg LeMond’s shoulders were rocking; he knew from the time he spent coaching Greg that this was the telltale sign of his imminent collapse. He ordered Fignon to attack, and he took the Yellow Jersey. He could read the signs that no one else saw and took advantage. I would be willing to bet that LeMond himself was not even as attuned to his condition at that moment because it is so very hard to gauge your own sensations when you’re Fucked with a capital Fucked.

I ride with my shadow more than anyone else, with the possible exception of my reflection who comes out any time my shadow retreats to the clouds and the rain falls down to provide the Flemish Mirror. (Which is arguably more often than not, given my residence in the Pacific Northwest.)

Through this, I have come to learn that my shadow whispers to me; it lays bare all the secrets I have not yet discovered about myself and allows me to see what is internally unseeable.

A Velominatus must learn to read their shadow; to the untrained eye it hobbles about in distorted patterns that reveal nothing but awkward manipulations. We can, however, learn to extract from that amorphic blackness the telltale signs of everything from our level of fitness, our weight, or even whether we are about to bonk.

I watch my shadow for signs of how I am pedaling. Is the rhythm I feel in my legs mirrored by the inflection of myself on the road beneath me? Do I feel smooth but the stroke in my shadow ragged, or do I feel ragged but still my shadow is smooth? One is a manifestation of reality, the other is a manifestation of perception. When I feel as bad as the shadow looks, I know the Man with the Hammer lurks nearby.

I can gauge my condition based on how my shadow looks. Are my shoulders thin and sharp in my shadow, or are they a bit rounded? The first sign that I am putting on weight is when the shadow reveals a roundness that the mirror and the scale does not reflect.

Today, there was an ease to my shadow that coaxed me on to drive harder; it was almost half-wheeling me, teasing me into putting another dose of V into the pedals. Today, the shadow came up wanting. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow, the shadow will reveal new secrets.

// La Vie Velominatus // The Hardmen

  1. @frank my shadow always freaks me out, damn thing is constantly faster than me and doesn’t do hill pickups, just rides off into distance and waits at top of climbs. Rude !

  2. Nice words, Frank.

  3. I dropped my shadow last night – just saying

  4. @The Engine

    I dropped my shadow last night – just saying

    Try that next time when it is not dark outside…

  5. Just noted: Joop Zoetemelk (Dutch rider, won TdF in 1980) is selling one of his Yellow Jerseys on an auction site. Not a joke. It’s that I respect the jersey and wool gives me a rash, otherwise…

    Original Yellow TdF Jersey, 1978 or 1979 from Joop Zoetemelk

  6. @The Engine

    Surely it would have been a Flemish Shadow up there and just flowed back down the hill?

  7. A very prescient article. On the rare occasion the sun comes out I watch my shadow intensely.

    If the sun is to one side I watch my legs and the circles my pedals are making, trying to fine tune my stroke or read signs of fatigue that I can’t yet feel. If the sun is behind me I watch my shoulders, trying to assess whether they are hunched or relaxed, of my body position is poised or slumped…

    To be honest it never tells me a lot. I always think I look like crap from my shadow, when actually at the moment I seem to going along quite nicely. I caught my reflection in the rear windscreen of a car on my last long ride, and to my eyes I looked pro, awesome, and with my shades covering my eyes, pretty fucking scary.

  8. Watched Pantani, The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist on Netflix last night. Moved to tears.

    Here’s my Flemish Mirror shot on the Nine Bike

  9. De Cauwer likes to tell the story of a similar situation during that race, when he put his car in front of Guimard’s, pretending not to understand why the Frenchman wanted to get to his rider. On that occasion, Fignon did not attack, and maybe that made all the difference.

  10. ‘it is so very hard to gauge your own sensations when you’re Fucked with a capital Fucked.’

    That is a very true statement :-)

    Love it when sun is closer to setting or just risen so I can get a proper profile.

    Still learning to read the signs in the shadow.

    I always feel more pro than I look in the shadow which is disappointing.

  11. @KogaLover

    but you could only frame it (at least according to something I’ve read somewhere, some kind of rule); he should add from which edition this one dates–maybe some time before 1980?

  12. @Ruud

    I see that the link here says 1978 or 1979, but Joop’s ad doesn’t give that information? The add does give his phone number in France–did you call him to find out?

  13. Talking to the velomiyoof Angus this morning about his TT last night, he told me that he’s not so sure he can go as fast next time if I’m not riding behind him giving (a modest amount) of encouragement.

    I told him to visualise last night’s ride, how he road each section of it, to the point that he knows when to push on, when to spin a bit, where the landscape will give him some respite from the wind and where he has to be low in the drops.

    He agreed that it was a good idea but being a product of the Playstation generation, he told me he would also visualise a shadow in front of him, a virtual Angus riding last night’s pace that he will always have to chase.

  14. Was just thinking about this the other day.

    The shadow is just so useful and we really have no other external feedback

    Unless you’re a pro with a ds sitting on your wheel you have no idea how magnificent (or not) the stroke looks

    Even in the garage on the turbo the shadow provides information a plenty

  15. As I mostly ride solo, my shadow is usually my only company. It’s ok, it never complains about the pace or needs to stop or guzzles my food and water, it just comes along for the ride. Biggest drawback is that it never takes its turn at the front.

    Cyrille Guimard? Man, I need to write a piece on him. Craftier than a whole den of foxes who have graduated from crafty school. Speaking of tells that a rider is hurting, Coppi apparently had a vein that showed up when he was struggling and riders knew to look for it.

  16. My shadow is a nice guy. When the sun is behind me, he makes it look like I have Fantastic Guns, even though I know they’re more like Skinny Pins. Something about a trick of the light, but I’ll take it.

  17. @Ruud

    I got the info from a Dutch respectable newspaper, who did indeed call the number, and asked Joop. He confirmed it was a Yellow Jersey from either the 1978 or 1979 TdF; he had a couple of those jerseys. The fact that he’s selling it could have something to do with a wider campaign as the first stage of the 2015 TdF starts in Utrecht.

  18. @wiscot

    there will likely be a 4th of July Holy Hill ride, and if there is, I’ll be on it; hope to see you!

  19. @KogaLover

    How cool is that? You can just call a former Tour de France winner and world champion (and, and, and) for a legitimate reason. Not really surprised, actually, as some friends of mine ran into him earlier this year on their bikes. He was just out for a ride by himself because he had an open day between two events, and he was very approachable.

  20. From this morning’s ride.

    When the angle of the sun is ride I like to use my shadow to check if my back is straight.

  21. OK, I now can’t get Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” out of my head. Thank you very much, Frank. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awGgULTK2v0

  22. @Ruud

    Damn! I’ll be in sunny Scotland for the 4th. I could show you some new roads I found that are way better than dealing with all the Holy Hill traffic. They’re out by Theresa, Lomira, Campbellsport and Kewaskum. in a half hour you might see 6 cars. Did an 80kms loop last night and it was perfect – warm, not much wind, dry and light on traffic for the most part. Roads surfaces varied but were generally great to tolerable.

    Hope all’s well in Holland!

  23. @VeloJello

    There is a lot to like in that photo.

  24. @DeKerr

    Thanks. I love wet weather riding!

  25. @wiscot

    @Ruud

    Damn! I’ll be in sunny Scotland for the 4th. I could show you some new roads I found that are way better than dealing with all the Holy Hill traffic. They’re out by Theresa, Lomira, Campbellsport and Kewaskum. in a half hour you might see 6 cars. Did an 80kms loop last night and it was perfect – warm, not much wind, dry and light on traffic for the most part. Roads surfaces varied but were generally great to tolerable.

    Hope all’s well in Holland!

    @wiscot one of these days we’ll meet in person. Do you have some GPS tracks for recommended rides on your favorite roads?

  26. I distinctly remember proposing shadow boxing for the lexicon a couple of years ago after a training ride with a long climb and a low sun on my back. Summarily ignored, of course, but maybe it planted a small seed in Frank’s massive brain… In any case I most certainly did not make my case for its inclusion quite so eloquently.

  27. @ten B

    I distinctly remember proposing shadow boxing for the lexicon a couple of years ago after a training ride with a long climb and a low sun on my back. Summarily ignored, of course, but maybe it planted a small seed in Frank’s massive brain… In any case I most certainly did not make my case for its inclusion quite so eloquently.

    Lets go find that post and make the addition!

  28. @VeloJello

    @DeKerr

    Thanks. I love wet weather riding!

    Attaboy

  29. @frank

    @ten B

    I distinctly remember proposing shadow boxing for the lexicon a couple of years ago after a training ride with a long climb and a low sun on my back. Summarily ignored, of course, but maybe it planted a small seed in Frank’s massive brain… In any case I most certainly did not make my case for its inclusion quite so eloquently.

    Lets go find that post and make the addition!

    8 Aug 2012 in the Lexicon thread. Great minds think alike (…and fools seldom differ)!

  30. @wiscot

    @Ruud

    Damn! I’ll be in sunny Scotland for the 4th. I could show you some new roads I found that are way better than dealing with all the Holy Hill traffic. They’re out by Theresa, Lomira, Campbellsport and Kewaskum. in a half hour you might see 6 cars. Did an 80kms loop last night and it was perfect – warm, not much wind, dry and light on traffic for the most part. Roads surfaces varied but were generally great to tolerable.

    Hope all’s well in Holland!

    Hey @wiscot are you here with or without a bike and exactly where will you be and do you have time in your schedule for a hastily arranged Cogal?

  31. When the sun is to your back, checking out your shadow is a little like riding by shop windows and checking your reflection “to assess your position on the bike” without having to explain yourself to others when caught doing so.

  32. @The Engine

    @wiscot

    @Ruud

    Damn! I’ll be in sunny Scotland for the 4th. I could show you some new roads I found that are way better than dealing with all the Holy Hill traffic. They’re out by Theresa, Lomira, Campbellsport and Kewaskum. in a half hour you might see 6 cars. Did an 80kms loop last night and it was perfect – warm, not much wind, dry and light on traffic for the most part. Roads surfaces varied but were generally great to tolerable.

    Hope all’s well in Holland!

    Hey @wiscot are you here with or without a bike and exactly where will you be and do you have time in your schedule for a hastily arranged Cogal?

    Hey Engine,

    Thanks for asking. I’ll be in Helensburgh but sans velo. I also have a pretty packed schedule considering I’m in country for only two weeks and the reason for going in a very big birthday for my mother. It’s the first summer trip back in four years.

  33. @Ccos

    When the sun is to your back, checking out your shadow is a little like riding by shop windows and checking your reflection “to assess your position on the bike” without having to explain yourself to others when caught doing so.

    Anyone who would question why you’re looking at yourself in shop windows doesn’t deserve an explanation.

  34. @Nate

    From this morning’s ride.

    When the angle of the sun is ride I like to use my shadow to check if my back is straight.

    That better not be an EPMS lurking under your ass.

  35. @Owen

    My shadow is a nice guy. When the sun is behind me, he makes it look like I have Fantastic Guns, even though I know they’re more like Skinny Pins. Something about a trick of the light, but I’ll take it.

    When the sun is at just the right angle, I see a strong resemblance to Fabian. Talk about an optical illusion!

    @wiscot

    As I mostly ride solo, my shadow is usually my only company. It’s ok, it never complains about the pace or needs to stop or guzzles my food and water, it just comes along for the ride. Biggest drawback is that it never takes its turn at the front.

    This.

    Cyrille Guimard? Man, I need to write a piece on him. Craftier than a whole den of foxes who have graduated from crafty school.

    Indeed.

    Speaking of tells that a rider is hurting, Coppi apparently had a vein that showed up when he was struggling and riders knew to look for it.

    ..which happened exactly how often?

  36. @The Engine

    I dropped my shadow last night – just saying

    He sets it up…

    @1860

    @The Engine

    I dropped my shadow last night – just saying

    Try that next time when it is not dark outside…

    …and he knocks it down!

    Nicely played.

  37. @Ruud

    De Cauwer likes to tell the story of a similar situation during that race, when he put his car in front of Guimard’s, pretending not to understand why the Frenchman wanted to get to his rider. On that occasion, Fignon did not attack, and maybe that made all the difference.

    I’ve heard that too. Great reminder! When the race comes down to 8 seconds, any one of them could have made the difference. How many different places could Figgles have picked up a measly 8 seconds?

  38. @frank

    @Nate

    From this morning’s ride.

    When the angle of the sun is ride I like to use my shadow to check if my back is straight.

    That better not be an EPMS lurking under your ass.

    I don’t even own an EPMS, sir. The only thing you will ever find under my saddle is a spare tub.

  39. Awesome work, Frank!

    I noticed my shadow last night during a 2 hour post-work spin (is there anything better in the world than a quiet road loop after too much work and not enough riding? Yes, when you conclude the ride with a Recovery Ale + a bit of tequila) and it reminded me of a shot of Pantani climbing in one of the tribute videos.

    As a Velominatus, I don’t need a shadow or a scale to tell me how the fitness is doing. When I bend over while sweeping or vacuuming the house (two dogs + summer on the horizon = tons o’ fur) if I can feel my waistline protest, I need to ride more and eat less. If I don’t hear any hollerin’, I’m all set.

  40. @frank

    @wiscot

    Speaking of tells that a rider is hurting, Coppi apparently had a vein that showed up when he was struggling and riders knew to look for it.

    ..which happened exactly how often?

    If they were close enough to see one of Coppi’s veins, he was struggling and they knew it. Maybe that’s how it worked.

  41. Had my shadow urging me on on a commute home during the week but today was nowhere to be seen,obviously lost in the murk and spray on this mornings dank club ride;sure he was there though pushing me on up that last ramp,,,

  42. I don’t normally take to looking at myself in mirrors, its always basically ok…. but I really get a kick when I see my reflection while on a bike, thats something I look closely at in that millisecond while I fly past…

    I can totally understand this piece, although I am usually so fast that my shadow is behind me (!?)…

  43. @fenlander

    Had my shadow urging me on on a commute home during the week but today was nowhere to be seen,obviously lost in the murk and spray on this mornings dank club ride;sure he was there though pushing me on up that last ramp,,,

    I think my shadow needs a bit of Rule #5 and #9. Darned thing seems to desert me on those days. I’m sure it creeps back into bed while I’m getting ready.

  44. @1860

    I don’t normally take to looking at myself in mirrors, its always basically ok…. but I really get a kick when I see my reflection while on a bike, thats something I look closely at in that millisecond while I fly past…

    I can totally understand this piece, although I am usually so fast that my shadow is behind me (!?)…

    If you aren’t looking at your reflection in shop windows, you’re lying.

  45. I do the majority of my riding by myself before work, which means during the summer months this guy is generally the only company I keep.

    He seems to have a split personality, he’s either an awesome dude who reinforces just how well I’m travelling, or an absolute arsehole who never listens to just how bad I’m feeling and just keeps on going that little bit ahead of me…

  46. @frank – ” window shopping ” I do it without even thinking these days !

    @Mikael Liddy problem is, what if one’s shadow then goes on a solo break and leaves you sitting with the bunch of one. Welcome to my Nettle Hill nightmare.

  47. Who knows what Anti-V lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!

    The weed of Anti-V bears bitter fruit. The Shadow knows!

    With apologies to The Shadow.

  48. I had to abandon my shadow and ride hard off the front. Then felt I was digging against the shadow of a rider coming up. Too bad we both made the wrong turn on the route.

  49. @Barracuda

    @frank – ” window shopping ” I do it without even thinking these days !

    Without thinking? I make a fucking point of it! You don’t look this Fantastic and waste it on others, you’ve got to enjoy it yourself!

  50. Heh. I have a whole album of shadow selfies.

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