Look Pro: Souplesse

Master Jacques, master of souplesse.

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.
I give you Master Jacques.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3uWs5ULAZE[/youtube]

More: Jacques Anquetil Part II & Part III

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236 Replies to “Look Pro: Souplesse”

  1. @Buck Rogers, @scaler911, @RedRanger
    growing p in the states with little or no cycling coverage and almost no mainstream media on Cycling, it’s impossible to separtate that movie from the thrill of seeing a bike on a TV screen instead of just reading about one or seeing a photo. I loved that movie and still do. But that has nothing to do with whether the movies any good, but I think we’ll all agree Kevin has some serious souplesse in the sprint on stage 1!!

  2. @frank

    @Buck Rogers, @scaler911, @RedRanger
    growing p in the states with little or no cycling coverage and almost no mainstream media on Cycling, it’s impossible to separtate that movie from the thrill of seeing a bike on a TV screen instead of just reading about one or seeing a photo. I loved that movie and still do. But that has nothing to do with whether the movies any good, but I think we’ll all agree Kevin has some serious souplesse in the sprint on stage 1!!

    Nipple Lube!

  3. Cav mustn’t be considered a leader at Sky. Black tape.

    And black helmet, black shoes, black bibs. Stylin.

    @minion

    Hairy pudgy littlefucker. Jealous, Moi?

    Why would you be jealous? At least you’re taller than him…

  4. @Buck Rogers

    Listen. You can’t get your panties in a bunch every time Hollywood fucks up something you like. I’m a meteorologist, there are so many things wrong with Twister, The Day After Tomorrow, Category 6, etc. Half of those aren’t even close to realistic.

    But how many people saw Twister and got into storm chasing? Or went to meteorology school? More good came out of those then not, even though some of those are so much pseudo science its almost disgraceful. Those who were inspired by the content eventually went on to learn the reality. I’m sure some kids watched American Flyers, started racing bikes, and figured out how it really is.

  5. @minion

    My guess is that the curse of the rainbow jersey is going to increase the amount of empathy people feel towards Cav, since he’s already had a less than ideal start to the year. (Crashed already this year, sick during the start of Qatar) just have to hope that he doesn’t overdo the celebrations on the wins he is going to get, like Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Bettini

    I actually thought his 70kph bunny hop was pretty cool at the Giro??? Or am I alone in thinking that?

  6. @Bianchi Denti

    @sthilzy

    @scaler911.. damn! Beat me to it! I was going to mention the bar tape!Howz-a-bout, note the orietation of the Cinelli finishing tape!Love the Avocet wire and what Rule #74 is all about! Don’t know about the HRM?

    HRM tells when he’s stressed enough to need another cig.

    Is that really a HRM/ditigal wristwatch thing strapped to his stem? I call bullshit, that photo is less real than one of Anquetil climbing with his bidon in the cage.

  7. @Marcus

    @ChrisO

    Personally as one who winces at the commonplace misuse of words like enormity, I have some sympathy, but I suggest you are pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

    Do you have a few examples of “words like enormity”? Bigness maybe? Or maybe you should have written “…words such as enormity…”.
    Gee, pedantry is fun after all.

    Actually enormity doesn’t have anything to do with size – that’s the mistake. Maybe you should have checked that before trying to be a jackass. Better luck next time you try to have a pop at me, as you undoubtedly will.

    And may I also point out that my pedantry is usually directed at articles and I rarely if ever correct spelling or grammar in posts. That’s just trying to be a twat.

    Still, batting 500 is not bad.

  8. @brett

    Cav mustn’t be considered a leader at Sky. Black tape.
    And black helmet, black shoes, black bibs. Stylin.

    He’s not the leader, Wiggo is … (and also a tit)

  9. @SimonH

    @brett

    Cav mustn’t be considered a leader at Sky. Black tape.
    And black helmet, black shoes, black bibs. Stylin.

    He’s not the leader, Wiggo is … (and also a tit)

    Sorry but can’t agree with your comment about Wiggins.

    Sky have got quite a job on their hands supporting them both in the Tour. It will be fascinating to see how it all goes.

    In the meantime, bring on Milan-San Remo! Can Cav win it in the stripes…..

  10. @scaler911

    Big Pimpin;

    I’m coming around to Cav, a little, but he’s gat a ways to go to be as chill as Mario.

    I’m not sure if Cav will ever manage to be as cool as Super Mario! He is a short arse from the Isle of Man after all!

  11. Found this here.

    A style masterclass, courtesy of…Maitre Jacques Anquetil, circa 1957.

    Toes down, keeping pressure on and pulling back throughout the full pedal stroke past the ‘dead spot’, turning a big gear as steadily as a metronome.

    Torso solid as a rock, with all the power emanating from the titanic strength of a lower back that never so much as sways.

    A horizontal and perfectly aerodynamic back, this despite the fact that the stem is only a 1-2cm lower than the saddle.

    Bent relaxed arms, elbows in. Relaxed hands and wrists pushing ever so slightly against the curve of the bars for more leverage and stability.

    Eyes fixed on the road 10 meters ahead.

    Immense concentration.

    Perfection.

  12. @936adl

    @SimonH

    @brett

    Cav mustn’t be considered a leader at Sky. Black tape.And black helmet, black shoes, black bibs. Stylin.

    He’s not the leader, Wiggo is … (and also a tit)

    Sorry but can’t agree with your comment about Wiggins.
    Sky have got quite a job on their hands supporting them both in the Tour. It will be fascinating to see how it all goes.
    In the meantime, bring on Milan-San Remo! Can Cav win it in the stripes…..

    Good man, glad to see someone else, like myself, is happy to get no points in the VSP TdF this summer, whilst supporting Twiggy

    Actually, I reckon Cav doesn’t need a lead out train, just a couple of guys to stop him getting knocked of his bike, so he should be okay with JAF and Bernie doing that – so far, if he is in the bunch at the end, he has won, correct me if I am wrong

  13. @scaler911

    You’re relaxed, smooth, fast, effortless.I get this cycling and I think it’s a stretch to say any of us, Pro or otherwise, are always “Souplesse”, rather it’s a state that’s achieved when everything is in perfect balance. Some have it more often than others, and some may never think they have it, but do.

    Spot on. I had a fantastic ride yesterday evening, first half 60k of pedalling squares, second half 60k absolutely smashing along, much faster with metronomic smoothness. Whenever I finish a ride like that, my arse and bits of my body not normally thought of as being bike relevant, ache like a sausage dog’s bollocks. They don’t call it the cottage of wattage for nothing.

    On the flipside to all this magnificence, I am fucking useless at work today.

  14. @ChrisO

    @Marcus

    @ChrisO

    Personally as one who winces at the commonplace misuse of words like enormity, I have some sympathy, but I suggest you are pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

    Do you have a few examples of “words like enormity”? Bigness maybe? Or maybe you should have written “…words such as enormity…”.
    Gee, pedantry is fun after all.

    Actually enormity doesn’t have anything to do with size – that’s the mistake. Maybe you should have checked that before trying to be a jackass. Better luck next time you try to have a pop at me, as you undoubtedly will.
    And may I also point out that my pedantry is usually directed at articles and I rarely if ever correct spelling or grammar in posts. That’s just trying to be a twat.
    Still, batting 500 is not bad.

    Pedantry’s that way ====>.

    Boring pedantry’s the next door after that.

  15. @Dr C

    @936adl

    @SimonH

    @brett

    Cav mustn’t be considered a leader at Sky. Black tape.And black helmet, black shoes, black bibs. Stylin.

    He’s not the leader, Wiggo is … (and also a tit)

    Sorry but can’t agree with your comment about Wiggins.
    Sky have got quite a job on their hands supporting them both in the Tour. It will be fascinating to see how it all goes.
    In the meantime, bring on Milan-San Remo! Can Cav win it in the stripes…..

    Good man, glad to see someone else, like myself, is happy to get no points in the VSP TdF this summer, whilst supporting Twiggy
    Actually, I reckon Cav doesn’t need a lead out train, just a couple of guys to stop him getting knocked of his bike, so he should be okay with JAF and Bernie doing that – so far, if he is in the bunch at the end, he has won, correct me if I am wrong

    Absolutely agree about Cav and the train. As long as he’s got Eisel to look after him, he should be fine. He’s shown that he’s got an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time and jump off others.

  16. @Bianchi Denti

    @sthilzy

    @scaler911.. damn! Beat me to it! I was going to mention the bar tape!Howz-a-bout, note the orietation of the Cinelli finishing tape!Love the Avocet wire and what Rule #74 is all about! Don’t know about the HRM?

    HRM tells when he’s stressed enough to need another cig.

    Ran out of cigs and was bumming around the peleton for one, and found some crack…

  17. @Dr C

    @SimonH
    He’s not the leader, Wiggo is … (and also a tit)
    Oi, less of that!!

    Sorry, no probs with MC, just can’t warm to Wiggins, not in the same league as other riders for me. Felt bad for him crashing out of TDF last year and good to see him doing well in Vuelta but there is just a quality about him I don’t like.

    Saying that, I can’t fault his ride in Copenhagen last year, it just seems that after doing good, he comes out with a few dick comments which reaffirms what I feel about him.

  18. @Oli
    Ditto, going to get my souplesse on down the pub in about 45 minutes though. Let the great healer do its work.

  19. @SimonH
    You’re not wrong on any points there, but I hold soft spot for him because he’s such an eccentric, with a posh/common Landan/Belgian accent

    I think I am an eccentrophile??? (might explain why I hang around here all the time?)

  20. The Wiggins talk reminded me of something. Since he rides elliptical chainrings, he’s not capable of riding with souplesse. I hope that fad dies quickly in the peloton. Again.

  21. @Joe

    @scaler911
    You’re relaxed, smooth, fast, effortless.I get this cycling and I think it’s a stretch to say any of us, Pro or otherwise, are always “Souplesse”, rather it’s a state that’s achieved when everything is in perfect balance. Some have it more often than others, and some may never think they have it, but do.
    Spot on. I had a fantastic ride yesterday evening, first half 60k of pedalling squares, second half 60k absolutely smashing along, much faster with metronomic smoothness. Whenever I finish a ride like that, my arse and bits of my body not normally thought of as being bike relevant, ache like a sausage dog’s bollocks. They don’t call it the cottage of wattage for nothing.
    On the flipside to all this magnificence, I am fucking useless at work today.

    I’ve become useless at work since Fränk fixed the servers. If I get fired, I’m blaming him.

  22. @Bianchi Denti

    @ChrisO

    I once had a girlfriend whose souplesse was outweighed only by the enormity of her bottom.

    I was really trying to annoy @ChrisO – the enormity of my mistake has now come back to bite.

    @Nate

    I bet he’s got one of these on the other side of that HRM:

  23. @Nate

    Is that really a HRM/ditigal wristwatch thing strapped to his stem? I call bullshit, that photo is less real than one of Anquetil climbing with his bidon in the cage.

    Strapping your HRM to your bars using a piece of pipe insulator was the shit in the 90’s. Like rollin’ up to your doublewide at the trailer park.

    @Dr C

    @minion

    My guess is that the curse of the rainbow jersey is going to increase the amount of empathy people feel towards Cav, since he’s already had a less than ideal start to the year. (Crashed already this year, sick during the start of Qatar) just have to hope that he doesn’t overdo the celebrations on the wins he is going to get, like Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Bettini

    I actually thought his 70kph bunny hop was pretty cool at the Giro??? Or am I alone in thinking that?

    You’re alone.

  24. @936adl

    @SimonH

    @brett

    Cav mustn’t be considered a leader at Sky. Black tape.
    And black helmet, black shoes, black bibs. Stylin.

    He’s not the leader, Wiggo is … (and also a tit)

    Sorry but can’t agree with your comment about Wiggins.
    Sky have got quite a job on their hands supporting them both in the Tour. It will be fascinating to see how it all goes.
    In the meantime, bring on Milan-San Remo! Can Cav win it in the stripes…..

    Never say never, but we’ve seen this game played before – Wiggo won’t win the Tour (unless by accident) so long as Cav is in the team. Cav will likely continue to win stages and probably take the Green Jersey because he can win without a train if he has to, and competition for the Green Jersey isn’t as demanding so as to require the dedication of an entire team.

  25. @Calmante

    The Wiggins talk reminded me of something. Since he rides elliptical chainrings, he’s not capable of riding with souplesse. I hope that fad dies quickly in the peloton. Again.

    For once I agree with you completely. Hate the principle behind them, and hate the look of ’em. My first real race bike that I bought with my own money had Biopace. The next thing I bought with my own money were round chain rings.

  26. @frank

    @Calmante

    The Wiggins talk reminded me of something. Since he rides elliptical chainrings, he’s not capable of riding with souplesse. I hope that fad dies quickly in the peloton. Again.

    For once I agree with you completely. Hate the principle behind them, and hate the look of ’em. My first real race bike that I bought with my own money had Biopace. The next thing I bought with my own money were round chain rings.

    Yes, same here. Godd ol’ Simano biopace. bought my first real race bike in 1988 or ’89 and that’s what they came with. Changed them out after a year when I had saved enough to move up to a 53/39 set on the front. The biopace were 52/42 or 41 if I remember correctly.

  27. @Cyclops

    Did you guys see this?
    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/02/bus-driver-who-deliberately-hit-cyclist-sent-to-prison/

    Yeah, saw it on the Guardian this morning. If that rider had been killed I’d advocate a charge of murder. I’m sure the driver had some cockamamie story about how he was “forced” to swerve or that it was the cyclists fault, but sometimes the fact that the UK has a shocking high preponderance of CCTV comes in handy in determining the truth. . .

  28. @frank

    @Buck Rogers, @scaler911, @RedRangergrowing p in the states with little or no cycling coverage and almost no mainstream media on Cycling, it’s impossible to separtate that movie from the thrill of seeing a bike on a TV screen instead of just reading about one or seeing a photo. I loved that movie and still do. But that has nothing to do with whether the movies any good, but I think we’ll all agree Kevin has some serious souplesse in the sprint on stage 1!!

    Yeah, I agree that when dying of thirst, almost any liquid will do but between Breaking Away and American Flyers, both movies of my youth and cycling, I just cannot bear to watch American flyers, it is just sooooo awful. Obviously Breaking Away wins every time and I would watch that ten times in a row before ever watching American Flyers again.

  29. @sthilzy

    Found this here.
    A style masterclass, courtesy of…Maitre Jacques Anquetil, circa 1957.

    Toes down, keeping pressure on and pulling back throughout the full pedal stroke past the ‘dead spot’, turning a big gear as steadily as a metronome.
    Torso solid as a rock, with all the power emanating from the titanic strength of a lower back that never so much as sways.
    A horizontal and perfectly aerodynamic back, this despite the fact that the stem is only a 1-2cm lower than the saddle.
    Bent relaxed arms, elbows in. Relaxed hands and wrists pushing ever so slightly against the curve of the bars for more leverage and stability.
    Eyes fixed on the road 10 meters ahead.
    Immense concentration.
    Perfection.

    THAT is a great picture! God, that form is impeccable.

  30. @frank
    You need souplesse to ride elliptical ‘rings! That’s the fucking point, and why your bogus reimagining of a perfectly good adjective doesn’t work!!

  31. When Shimano developed Biopace, they placed the longest radius of the chainring in line with the crankarm. Their theory was to speed up the power stroke and slow down the bottom and top of the stroke, and they had their supporting evidence for why that was better.

    When Rotor developed their version, they placed their shortest radius in line with the crankarm, claiming that you should have your largest effective radius in the middle of your power stroke, instead.

    Due different systems with the exact opposite results. I’ve got an idea, how about round chain rings? I’ll get the best of both worlds!

  32. @ChrisO
    You missed the point of my pedantry.. Twas your use of “like” instead of “such as”. The former is used when talking of similar words, the latter when using the subject word as an example – which you were.

  33. @LA Dave

    I always felt these two were good examples of it….

    Check out those pedals! I had a pair. I can’t think of a single example of worse pedal clearance, ever!

  34. Forgot to mention the excellent form in that picture by both Hampsten and Roche. I remember reading somewhere that Hampsten’s drop was about two and a half inches. Very reasonable.

  35. @Calmante

    @LA Dave

    I always felt these two were good examples of it….

    Check out those pedals! I had a pair. I can’t think of a single example of worse pedal clearance, ever!

    Agreed! I had them as well and remember having to change my set up because my foot sat much higher over the pedal. I also remember that on my first ride in them I came to a stop at a busy intersection and tried to reach down to loosen the toe straps that were no longer there. Before I knew it I was on my side in front of a honking car full of laughing girls. Ahh the good old days…..

  36. @Calmante

    When Shimano developed Biopace, they placed the longest radius of the chainring in line with the crankarm. Their theory was to speed up the power stroke and slow down the bottom and top of the stroke, and they had their supporting evidence for why that was better.
    When Rotor developed their version, they placed their shortest radius in line with the crankarm, claiming that you should have your largest effective radius in the middle of your power stroke, instead.
    Due different systems with the exact opposite results. I’ve got an idea, how about round chain rings? I’ll get the best of both worlds!

    I didn’t know that about those two designs, that’s ingesting. I did notice that Rotor has relatively sharp angles in their rings and it seems you can fine-tune where the lump in your stoke will end up being.

    I’ll stick with round, thankyouverymuch.

  37. @LA Dave, @Calmante

    I always felt these two were good examples of it….

    My goodness my Guinness to both of those things. Both riders, massive class. Especially Hoampsten. His brother builds frames near where I live. I keep hoping to spot him out some day.

    I had those pedals too and they are the primary reason why I switched to Time as soon as I could! The clearance, the height over the axel, the CREAKING…woofda.

  38. Oh, the frickin’ creaking… You shouldn’t have to WD40 your cleats. [cough] [Speedplay] [cough]

  39. @Calmante

    Your speedplay creak? I put a bit of teflon lube on my cleats every few weeks, and they are fine. Almost two years on the same set now.

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