Souplesse. Only the French would have such a word; one you can sink your teeth into, chew on. It begs to be spoken over a plate of assorted cheeses and a bottle of vin rouge. Its exact definition is unimportant; such things conjure up an image in our minds that is cheapened by words. Souplesse is the ideal, sought by all and obtained only by The Few.
Souplesse is the perfect storm of Looking Pro; harmony between grace and power, casual and deliberate. It speaks of the entire organism, the perfectly manicured machine together with the perfectly refined position and technique of its rider. It is the combination of Magnificent Stroke, gentle sway of the shoulders and head, the rhythmic breath, and of knees, elbows, and chest converging on the V-Locus.
Jacques Anquetil is man of whom we have spoken surprisingly little in these archives. Perhaps it is because he is a man who inspires us in death as little as he did his fans in life. A calculating man, he pursued Cycling not for the love and passion of it, but for the business of it; for him, the bicycle provided a path from peasantry to aristocracy. That was all.
Be that as it may, he was a gifted cyclist whose fluidity on the bike exemplified Souplesse:
- A Magnificent Stroke is more than pushing or pulling on the pedals. The stroke flows from the core and hips, driving the pedals round and belying the effort to do so.
- Feet sweep the pedals around in perfect revolutions, one leg cannot be distinguished from the other – they work as one to counter and balance the forces to drive the machine ever faster forward.
- The legs can not do their work without the arms, the lungs, the chest, the heart, the mind. Each unit functions independently to do its work, yet feeds seamlessly into the other. In a phrase: Fluidly Harmonic Articulation.
- Move to the V-Locus; the body is folded such that legs, arms, and chest overlap but do not intersect. Knees tucked in, shoulders hunched, wrists rolled inwards, elbows angled such that the knees only just slip inside them with each revolution of the cranks.
- Face calm, eyes cooly focussed up the road; a grimace is energy that is better spent on turning the pedals.