Hinault, Le Blaireau

Truth and Fiction

Truth and Fiction

by / / 68 posts

There is nothing more disappointing than discovering the truth behind a myth or spotting the mortal behind a legend. This is why I make a point never to do any research or in any other way attempt to validate my assumptions when evaluating a situation; mystery that feels like a fact and sounds like a fact is better than an actual fact. Truth, like sex, is something that should be kept private between willing participants, not spread around for everyone to see.

Lucky for me, I’m Dutch, which means my assumptions are usually correct and by extension means I’ve mastered almost every challenge I’ve taken on in life; sometimes it pays to descend from pale Northern European stock that subsists equally on root vegetables and wild guesses (external participants’ experience may vary).

I’ve always been obsessed with history and mythology; the Iliad and The Odyssey occupied my mind like little else did if you can ignore Luke Skywalker or exactly what I might accomplish in life if I had access to a lightsaber and/or the use of The Force. When I became interested in Cycling due in part to Greg LeMond’s influence on the sport in the early 80’s, I was immediately confronted by this crazy character he was embroiled with nicknamed Le Blaireau who was a tireless competitor spitting out quips like, “If I breathe, I attack.” I pulled on the yarn and discovered similar or greater legends and stories hand over fist. This was a sport that seemed to combine everything I love in life: history, legend, myth, aerobic sport, discipline, technique, and not a small amount of OCD within its practitioners.

The most amazing thing about Cycling is that it has a unique kind of mythology. Mythology is normally something that lays in the distant past, far from the reach of our personal experiences. But in Cycling, our mythology and legend lays within the span of our influence, it is something tangible we feel when we watch it unfold before us at the roadside or even on television. This is also why our fallen heros continue to be lionized; when the observer is genuinely unaware of the false forces behind the performance, the emotions felt at the time leave an indelible mark that are unsullied of thoughts of cheating or malfeasance. Discovering the truth years later may well tarnish the reasonable portion of our minds, but the imprint of those original emotions can never be removed and continue to influence us at a level that lives somewhere below the conscious and the rational. This explains why those of us who watched a rider like Pantani dance away from the bunch in the late 90’s continue to love him, while those who came to the sport later view his performances as obviously false and wonder how we could rationally continue to ignore the elephant behind his legend. The point is, rational has nothing to do with it.

They say truth can be stranger than fiction, but I have rarely seen anything more interesting than myth; we are lucky to be a part of a sport whose mythology is still developing and rather than frown upon the truth behind some of its details, I cherish the opportunity to be a part of it.

VLVV.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Nostalgia // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. @ Frank – you are playing my song sir! I have always loved mythology and would agree cycling has a unique capacity to serve as a canvas for the gods to paint upon.

    A quintessential example of that which you speak – Buzzati’s account of Coppi as Achillies defeating Bartali as Hector from the 1949 Giro.

    “For years and years, we realized, there would be endless talk about this brief moment which by itself did not seem to be of special importance: merely a man on a bicycle, who was pulling away from his traveling companions. And yet in that instant on this stretch of road came to pass what the Ancients used to call “Destiny.”

  2. First, awesome photo of M. Hinault. The hairnet, the “other” sport gloves, the nylon cap and, of course, the rain jacket with mesh panels for “breathability.” Those things sucked. It was like wearing a think bin bag. You got as wet inside from sweat as you did outside from rain.

    As for the character of Hinault and suggestions he was a COTHO. I’m not buying that. He was the last true patron of the bunch. Rode ALL year. Was very generous to teammates. He was a winner and, let’s face it, winners of the highest order are more often than not, difficult, determined characters. That was Hinault. Remember, in thew case with LeMond, it was the Tour FFS, not the Giro or Vuelta, the Tour. He was French. He was the Patron. He was a Breton. Was he going to meekly accept the role of +1? Hardly. The man is a living legend. He rode on his own terms and retired at age 32 in 1986. In today’s world, that’s young, but look at his palmares – incredible. Not for the Badger getting whupped by lesser riders. That’s how you create a mythology – ride your peak years and retire with dignity. Don’t sully things by going on too long. Cases in point? Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Both went past their sell by dates and that will be the postscript to their legends.

  3. @Buck Rogers

    @PeakInTwoYears

    Climbing (or mountaineering or alpinism or even simple rock climbing) has always been a pursuit pursued by people who understand the power of myth and the power of words. Just as another example.

    This was my first thought on reading this article. Only in climbing have I found a similar (or, to blaspheme here, even greater) mythology than cycling. Reading “The White Spider” or Herzog’s “Annapurna” and you are walking with the Gods. I first read them in early med school and was “lost” to climbing for the next 9 years until I had my first child. Frank, I give you some unasked for advice, do NOT start climbing/mountaineering or reading Mountaineering literature b/c of what I know of you through the interwebs, you’ll be in the Himalaya wihtin two years (which, having been there myself, is not a bad thing but it sure fucks with your riding time!!!)

    Buck, Buck… Lost to climbing? Come now. But regarding Harrer and Herzog certainly mythology there. Both of these men have had their myths challenged. Not whether they climbed the mountain, but the why (in Harrer’s case) and the how (in Herzog’s case). Personally I have more tolerance for the challenges to Harrer’s motivations for climbing the Eiger Nordwand, whereas I detest how Herzog’s ego and control of the Annapurna narrative relegated the true heroes Lachanel and Rebuffat. If you haven’t, you should read David Roberts’ “True Summit” (http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/06/04/reviews/000604.04barc.html).

    What happened to Lachanel is just tragic.

    Sorry for the thread drift.

  4. @DeKerr

    That was absolutely fantastic!

  5. I would add that the legends of competitive sailing (Paul Elvstrom, Peter Blake) offer much to the mythology of the sport. Watching the Volvo Ocean Race that’s going on now shows true Rule #5, #9, #10 compliance.

  6. I think Hinault stands pretty tall when comparing his real persona and the myth built around him. He was very much in the Eddy (and Lance) mold in that he was going to win every race he entered. What could be the point of doing anything else. His drug was the force of his Breton will.

    Slaying the Badger was fun to watch but it didn’t really change my feelings toward him. He was a driven, viciously competitive bastard, that’s what it takes to get to the top sometime. It was his nature.

  7. @TheVid

    @DeKerr

    That was absolutely fantastic!

    Indeed. How about a badge for this?

  8. Perhaps not exactly what was being referred to by this particular article, but something I’ve always found interesting about cycling myth and lore is how it can be entirely inaccurate but still those inaccuracies live on and in a sense become more ‘true’ than the truth. For example, I’ve long heard and read accounts of Hinault’s famous quote about how P-R was absolute shit and how he then went on to win the race in ’81, but never ride it again after that. What a great story! (except for the fact that it isn’t true – he rode P-R again several times).

    Or Tim Krabbe’s accounts of the stories of Anquetil always removing the bidon from his bike and placing it in his jersey pocket on climbs in order to make the bike as light as it could be….only then to find photograph after photograph of the bidon still placed in its cage as Anquetil pedaled up each slope. Krabbe insists that the story told about Anquetil speaks more to the nature of the rider and therefore is indeed MORE true. I like that.

  9. Watching a TV programme at the weekend in the UK Guy Martin – Speed on C4. Worth a watch in C4 Player if you missed it in the UK. Anyway he came up with a name G P Mills and here which is worth looking up. Not sure anyone would get away with his solution for nuisance chasing dogs though these days.

    Also a little anecdote that the term Break Neck Speed originated from racing Penny Farthings – for obvious, if unfortunate, reasons.

  10. @Teocalli

    Yep, also some pretty good insights into spending the best part of 24 hours sitting in a recumbent gently pickling in your and your companions piss.

  11. @BatDan

    @Teocalli

    Yep, also some pretty good insights into spending the best part of 24 hours sitting in a recumbent gently pickling in your and your companions piss.

    Yeah it did cross my mind that the simple expedient of some holes in the seat and the padding would have made quite a difference.

  12. I really do wonder sometimes @frank what prompts you to a certain topic to which you turn your pen. This here, could it be Gunderson and the ill fated Fondo return? Or perhaps the team of sky blue coated climb rockets? It matters not I suppose, more that it is written.

    @DeKerr
    Brilliant, just brilliant.

    Mythology – the tales of helping your fellow man, of caring for them while both suffering, the patron and these other more human elements are what I enjoy most about history. When professionalism, sponsorship come into effect, they lead to more controversy and less of a regard for others or the legends of before. It happens with most sports really, cycling, cricket, golf to name a few that have had a ‘gentlemanly’ element previously, but are now as cut throat as any other at the top level.

    Still, below that level, these type of tales, such as helping your mate change his third puncture during a shared century, passing food or water around in a time of need while pedalling through some unbeknown locale, we write our own myths.

  13. @DeKerr

    Good one. Reminds me of McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. Excerpt:

    We are the Dead…

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

  14. As someone who came into cycling in their mid-20s, I’m enthralled by the legends, the myths, and the tales of the peloton. Oh, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a historian either. Great piece, Frank! I only started riding seriously in the early aughts and watching seriously within the past few years. But, I can’t get enough these days. Cycling is a part of my daily life and I enjoy the history lessons provided by Keepers and Followers alike, thanks!

  15. The (Cross) Force. Happy Halloween!

  16. @Dave R

    Wow, what a great short film! I’d read a few snippets of Twight’s writing. He struck me, his humor notwithstanding, as a fundamentally quite serious individual–someone who could not only quote Nietzsche but live Nietzsche.

  17. @gilly

    For all that Hinault was an utterly compelling rider to watch, let’s be honest here guys. Among many other aspects, I was drawn to cycling because of the code of honour that was evident, like not attacking the jersey while he stopped for a natural break/ had the misfortune to flat. Or the way that a local rider was allowed up the road to see his family. That stuff was unique to cycling and made it special to me. What was once commonplace is now rare enough that it is commented on, like when Wiggins slowed things down for Cuddles to catch up after the tack throwing In 2012. Back to my point, while I admired him as a rider, I still think that Hinault was a COTHO, a generally difficult man, clearly devoid of the integrity gene based upon the “Slaying the Badger” tour. Greg may have taken some shit for his reaction, but fuck me, a deal between gentlemen is a deal. Without LeMan playing his part it is doubtful that Hinault would have got 5, let alone 7.

    Some good points here, and I’m very much on the fence on the whole LeMan/Hinault thing. I certainly think Hinault tasted victory and couldn’t resist having a go, which is really incorrect after making an agreement – particularly when LeMond waited in ’85 and could have gone after the win himself.

    On the other hand, LeMond did seem to almost feel like he was almost entitled to win, not unlike what the Schlecks were acting like during the Swivelneck Tour. I think with LeMond’s massive talent, he was used to winning or at least doing well without having to get his head as strong as his body; I do feel Hinault hardened LeMond mentally like nothing else ever could have, and I’m sure those reserves were drawn upon during the ’89 and ’90 Tours.

    The last scene of Slaying the Badger is great when he says it would have been very easy to race for the win; that grin that comes across his face is very, very telling of his attitude and drive.

  18. @Dave R, @PeakInTwoYears

    Amazing to me the connection between climbing and Cycling; it comes up time and time again. Must expolore this more some time.

    @PeakInTwoYears

    I think you meant “subsist” rather than “subside”

    Do you have any idea how many times I read that paragraph and never caught that error? Granted, most of the reads were not for editing but to remind myself how clever and funny my own joke was, so there’s that.

  19. @Stephen

    After watching ‘A Sunday in Hell,’ I came to accept that there is one man who could slay the Prophet, and it would be okay. But only one man, and that man only. Roger de Vlaeminck

    Such a fucking stud, that one. Although the scene where Moser comes blasting by is one of a kind as well.

    Even though he’s nowhere near a bike, this might be my favorite shot of him.

    Start ’em young.

  20. @Buck Rogers

    @PeakInTwoYears

    Climbing (or mountaineering or alpinism or even simple rock climbing) has always been a pursuit pursued by people who understand the power of myth and the power of words. Just as another example.

    This was my first thought on reading this article. Only in climbing have I found a similar (or, to blaspheme here, even greater) mythology than cycling. Reading “The White Spider” or Herzog’s “Annapurna” and you are walking with the Gods. I first read them in early med school and was “lost” to climbing for the next 9 years until I had my first child. Frank, I give you some unasked for advice, do NOT start climbing/mountaineering or reading Mountaineering literature b/c of what I know of you through the interwebs, you’ll be in the Himalaya wihtin two years (which, having been there myself, is not a bad thing but it sure fucks with your riding time!!!)

    My experience with mountaineering is limited to reading books about it, but I think a lot of the mythology in both sports comes from writing and not having a camera there, because cameras make truth much too obvious, and mythology and lends by no means willing participants to the truth.

    Take the expeditions into the Himalaya in the early 1900’s; holy shit, most that is built from journals and post-expedition reports. In other words, its basically made up. Its beautiful stuff!

  21. @wiscot

    First, awesome photo of M. Hinault. The hairnet, the “other” sport gloves, the nylon cap and, of course, the rain jacket with mesh panels for “breathability.” Those things sucked. It was like wearing a think bin bag. You got as wet inside from sweat as you did outside from rain.

    I had the clear version and I agree, they sucked ass. Despite rain coats getting much better, they still suck unless it’s raining hard enough that the animals are starting to line up in pairs.

    @rfreese888

    @ Frank – you are playing my song sir! I have always loved mythology and would agree cycling has a unique capacity to serve as a canvas for the gods to paint upon.

    A quintessential example of that which you speak – Buzzati’s account of Coppi as Achillies defeating Bartali as Hector from the 1949 Giro.

    “For years and years, we realized, there would be endless talk about this brief moment which by itself did not seem to be of special importance: merely a man on a bicycle, who was pulling away from his traveling companions. And yet in that instant on this stretch of road came to pass what the Ancients used to call “Destiny.”

    THIS!

  22. @wiscot

    That’s how you create a mythology – ride your peak years and retire with dignity. Don’t sully things by going on too long. Cases in point? Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Both went past their sell by dates and that will be the postscript to their legends.

    I don’t know who those guys are, but Merckx, RdV, and Coppi all come to mind as having ridden on too long. Not to mention Pharmstrong, as having quit when he said he would, he’d still be a 7x “winner”.

    Agree though, Hinault was no COTHO; COTHO was a COTHO – I’m not aware of anyone else deserving the title. Its a tough one to earn, that.

    @Gianni

    I think Hinault stands pretty tall when comparing his real persona and the myth built around him. He was very much in the Eddy (and Lance) mold in that he was going to win every race he entered. What could be the point of doing anything else. His drug was the force of his Breton will.

    Slaying the Badger was fun to watch but it didn’t really change my feelings toward him. He was a driven, viciously competitive bastard, that’s what it takes to get to the top sometime. It was his nature.

    This.

  23. @frank

    @wiscot

    First, awesome photo of M. Hinault. The hairnet, the “other” sport gloves, the nylon cap and, of course, the rain jacket with mesh panels for “breathability.” Those things sucked. It was like wearing a think bin bag. You got as wet inside from sweat as you did outside from rain.

    I had the clear version and I agree, they sucked ass. Despite rain coats getting much better, they still suck unless it’s raining hard enough that the animals are starting to line up in pairs.

    The thing about breathable waterproof (water resistant) fabric is that when it rains they stop breathing as the water on the outside blocks all the pores. So you get just about as wet inside from sweat as a non breathable one. Also when it is dry there is a limit to the exchange rate which might be OK for cruising but ain’t going to cope with a warp factor ride output.

  24. Love that photo of Rog! How did we go from the ill-fitting Men’s Wearhouse suits to the skinny suits in such a short span though?

    I’m all for well-fitting clothes, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be wearing anything (off the bike) with the word “skinny” in the description.

    That said, I bemoaned cargo pants and carpenter pants for years, now we have Crocs and faux eyeglasses paired with fauxhawks. Goddamnit, I didn’t wish for this!

  25. @VeloVita

    Or Tim Krabbe’s accounts of the stories of Anquetil always removing the bidon from his bike and placing it in his jersey pocket on climbs in order to make the bike as light as it could be….only then to find photograph after photograph of the bidon still placed in its cage as Anquetil pedaled up each slope. Krabbe insists that the story told about Anquetil speaks more to the nature of the rider and therefore is indeed MORE true. I like that.

    Krabbe is a genius, and is obviously also right about speaking more to the nature and therefor being more true.

    I might also point out that he’s Dutch.

  26. @freddy

    @DeKerr

    Good one. Reminds me of McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. Excerpt:

    We are the Dead…

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    I was brought into that piece by way of Big Head Todd and the Monsters in ’89. Such great writing, and to be in Northern France and Belgium, you feel those spirits still hanging in the air.

    @Ron

    As someone who came into cycling in their mid-20s, I’m enthralled by the legends, the myths, and the tales of the peloton. Oh, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a historian either. Great piece, Frank! I only started riding seriously in the early aughts and watching seriously within the past few years. But, I can’t get enough these days. Cycling is a part of my daily life and I enjoy the history lessons provided by Keepers and Followers alike, thanks!

    Your posts are always so enthusiastic and ADD, totally awesome, I bet you and Buck could really tear a place up if you ever got together.

  27. @Teocalli

    @frank

    @wiscot

    First, awesome photo of M. Hinault. The hairnet, the “other” sport gloves, the nylon cap and, of course, the rain jacket with mesh panels for “breathability.” Those things sucked. It was like wearing a think bin bag. You got as wet inside from sweat as you did outside from rain.

    I had the clear version and I agree, they sucked ass. Despite rain coats getting much better, they still suck unless it’s raining hard enough that the animals are starting to line up in pairs.

    The thing about breathable waterproof (water resistant) fabric is that when it rains they stop breathing as the water on the outside blocks all the pores. So you get just about as wet inside from sweat as a non breathable one. Also when it is dry there is a limit to the exchange rate which might be OK for cruising but ain’t going to cope with a warp factor ride output.

    This is why I normally just go for windproof and forget about waterproof. I’m getting wet either way, what I want is the wind off my chest when its wet and cold.

    @Ron

    Love that photo of Rog! How did we go from the ill-fitting Men’s Wearhouse suits to the skinny suits in such a short span though?

    I’m all for well-fitting clothes, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be wearing anything (off the bike) with the word “skinny” in the description.

    That said, I bemoaned cargo pants and carpenter pants for years, now we have Crocs and faux eyeglasses paired with fauxhawks. Goddamnit, I didn’t wish for this!

    The best part about being a skinny Cyclist is we’re ask thin as the food-starved models they were designed for. I’ll rock a skinny suit any chance I get, so long as its tailored perfectly.

    @Ron

    The (Cross) Force. Happy Halloween!

    HA!

  28. @frank

    @Teocalli

    @frank

    @wiscot

    First, awesome photo of M. Hinault. The hairnet, the “other” sport gloves, the nylon cap and, of course, the rain jacket with mesh panels for “breathability.” Those things sucked. It was like wearing a think bin bag. You got as wet inside from sweat as you did outside from rain.

    I had the clear version and I agree, they sucked ass. Despite rain coats getting much better, they still suck unless it’s raining hard enough that the animals are starting to line up in pairs.

    The thing about breathable waterproof (water resistant) fabric is that when it rains they stop breathing as the water on the outside blocks all the pores. So you get just about as wet inside from sweat as a non breathable one. Also when it is dry there is a limit to the exchange rate which might be OK for cruising but ain’t going to cope with a warp factor ride output.

    This is why I normally just go for windproof and forget about waterproof. I’m getting wet either way, what I want is the wind off my chest when its wet and cold.

    Yup – I go for a waterproof(ish) gilet and good arm warmers. So my core can stay reasonably dry and warm as the arm holes allow plenty of ventilation and the arm warmers act a bit like a wetsuit.

  29. @Teocalli I ride in ALL weather! ALL year round! For the wet and cold layers are best but new tech is out so you can be waterproof and still let sweat out! I have been fall/winter ride with a Sugoi RSE Neoshell jacket and it is awsome! Wet outside and dry inside!

  30. @Teocalli

    Watching a TV programme at the weekend in the UK Guy Martin – Speed on C4. Worth a watch in C4 Player if you missed it in the UK. Anyway he came up with a name G P Mills and here which is worth looking up. Not sure anyone would get away with his solution for nuisance chasing dogs though these days.

    Also a little anecdote that the term Break Neck Speed originated from racing Penny Farthings – for obvious, if unfortunate, reasons.

    Watched that, sitting in a puddle of piss, top man!

  31. @frank

    @freddy

    @DeKerr

    Good one. Reminds me of McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. Excerpt:

    We are the Dead…

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    I was brought into that piece by way of Big Head Todd and the Monsters in ’89. Such great writing, and to be in Northern France and Belgium, you feel those spirits still hanging in the air.

    @Ron

    As someone who came into cycling in their mid-20s, I’m enthralled by the legends, the myths, and the tales of the peloton. Oh, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a historian either. Great piece, Frank! I only started riding seriously in the early aughts and watching seriously within the past few years. But, I can’t get enough these days. Cycling is a part of my daily life and I enjoy the history lessons provided by Keepers and Followers alike, thanks!

    Your posts are always so enthusiastic and ADD, totally awesome, I bet you and Buck could really tear a place up if you ever got together.

    The conflagration of irascibility would be GLORIOUS!

    And @freddy, being born of the maple leaf and thistle though never served, that one always gives me a solid case of the Feels.

  32. @gmk69

    @Teocalli I ride in ALL weather! ALL year round! For the wet and cold layers are best but new tech is out so you can be waterproof and still let sweat out! I have been fall/winter ride with a Sugoi RSE Neoshell jacket and it is awsome! Wet outside and dry inside!

    I have to say, the best cold/wet jersey available is the Gabba jersey by Castelli. Unreal. Pair that up to wool knee/arm/leg warmers and you are good to go in the worst of weather.

    Wool, by the way, retains most of its insulative properties when its wet, which makes it incredible for that sort of application. When it freezes after being its not as helpful, or in really hard wind (wind from riding itself is fine when its cold and wet.)

  33. @DeKerr

    @frank

    @freddy

    @DeKerr

    Good one. Reminds me of McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. Excerpt:

    We are the Dead…

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    I was brought into that piece by way of Big Head Todd and the Monsters in ’89. Such great writing, and to be in Northern France and Belgium, you feel those spirits still hanging in the air.

    @Ron

    As someone who came into cycling in their mid-20s, I’m enthralled by the legends, the myths, and the tales of the peloton. Oh, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a historian either. Great piece, Frank! I only started riding seriously in the early aughts and watching seriously within the past few years. But, I can’t get enough these days. Cycling is a part of my daily life and I enjoy the history lessons provided by Keepers and Followers alike, thanks!

    Your posts are always so enthusiastic and ADD, totally awesome, I bet you and Buck could really tear a place up if you ever got together.

    The conflagration of irascibility would be GLORIOUS!

    And @freddy, being born of the maple leaf and thistle though never served, that one always gives me a solid case of the Feels.

    I’m sorry, I believe you’re speaking Canadian, not English. Please try again, I haven’t the foggiest fucking clue what you just said.

    @the-farmer

    @Teocalli

    Watching a TV programme at the weekend in the UK Guy Martin – Speed on C4. Worth a watch in C4 Player if you missed it in the UK. Anyway he came up with a name G P Mills and here which is worth looking up. Not sure anyone would get away with his solution for nuisance chasing dogs though these days.

    Also a little anecdote that the term Break Neck Speed originated from racing Penny Farthings – for obvious, if unfortunate, reasons.

    Watched that, sitting in a puddle of piss, top man!

    Haven’t watched it, but the piss puddle sitting sounds compelling.

  34. @DeKerr

    @frank

    @freddy

    @DeKerr

    Good one. Reminds me of McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. Excerpt:

    We are the Dead…

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    I was brought into that piece by way of Big Head Todd and the Monsters in ’89. Such great writing, and to be in Northern France and Belgium, you feel those spirits still hanging in the air.

    @Ron

    As someone who came into cycling in their mid-20s, I’m enthralled by the legends, the myths, and the tales of the peloton. Oh, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a historian either. Great piece, Frank! I only started riding seriously in the early aughts and watching seriously within the past few years. But, I can’t get enough these days. Cycling is a part of my daily life and I enjoy the history lessons provided by Keepers and Followers alike, thanks!

    Your posts are always so enthusiastic and ADD, totally awesome, I bet you and Buck could really tear a place up if you ever got together.

    The conflagration of irascibility would be GLORIOUS!

    And @freddy, being born of the maple leaf and thistle though never served, that one always gives me a solid case of the Feels.

    Although Dutch born, I’ve lived most of my life in Guelph (McCrae’s birthplace), so you could say his poetry has seeped into the bones a wee tad. Every year around Remembrance Day a local thespian would recite In Flanders Fields properly in church (ie according to the sentence structure–not the lines). It would send shivers down my spine (Frank: that’s partly what @DeKerr means by “the Feels”).

  35. @frank

    I have to say, the best cold/wet jersey available is the Gabba jersey by Castelli. Unreal. Pair that up to wool knee/arm/leg warmers and you are good to go in the worst of weather.

    A most useful and deeply appreciated piece of kit. And adding the ability to choose between base layers of different r-values makes it amazingly versatile with regard to ambient temperature and wind chill.

  36. I am at the end of the comments and I have no idea what the original article was about. Legends of cycling? Or was it climbing? Were we discussing poetry or was it a review of wet weather gear? What happened?

  37. @therealpeel

    I am at the end of the comments and I have no idea what the original article was about. Legends of cycling? Or was it climbing? Were we discussing poetry or was it a review of wet weather gear? What happened?

    Sounds about normal for a thread around here?

  38. @DeKerr

    Once more unto the rise my friends, once more
    Or burn up our matches in reckless pursuit.
    On the ride, there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As casually deliberate.
    But when the bells and horns of competition ring in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of Le Blaireau;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.

    Disguise your suffering with practiced bluff;
    Pedal circles and not squares;
    Let your magnificent stroke serve as the beacon
    To those who hold your wheel; lead them deep,
    Deep into the pain cave
    And once there, you attack
    Only to leave them without a flashlight.
    Grit your teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
    Hold hard the breath and sur la plaque.
    Open the break. On, on, you glorious riders.
    Whose legs are glistening like the guns of Navarone!
    Legs that, like those of De Vlaemincks,
    Have in these parts from morn till even rode
    And stabled their bikes for lack of light:
    Dishonour not your soingeurs; now attest
    That the treasures of your musette are the finest.
    Be copy now to men who are also peaking,
    And teach them how to ride. And you, good domestiques,
    Whose legs were made to shut up, show us here
    How deep the cave goes; let us swear
    That you are worth your palmares; which I doubt not;
    For there is none of you so mean and base,
    That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
    I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
    Straining upon the start. The flame rouge ahead;
    The sprint is on: and upon this charge,
    Remember “” It never gets easier, you only go faster!

    Well that there is fucking Gold!!

  39. Frank – I’m high-energy, I just try to contribute whatever I can!

    Yeah, I gotta pay Buck a visit. Now that I’m no longer in NY state, it’ll have to be a pitstop, but there ain’t no reason why I can’t make him tow me up Bear Mountain. Will have to detour sometime when I travel north.

  40. A sudden impulse to post this…

  41. @frank

    @VeloVita

    Or Tim Krabbe’s accounts of the stories of Anquetil always removing the bidon from his bike and placing it in his jersey pocket on climbs in order to make the bike as light as it could be….only then to find photograph after photograph of the bidon still placed in its cage as Anquetil pedaled up each slope. Krabbe insists that the story told about Anquetil speaks more to the nature of the rider and therefore is indeed MORE true. I like that.

    I might also point out that he’s Dutch.

    I wouldn’t have guessed that judging by the cover of the book.

  42. A great piece, on a great rider. Je voudrais rencontrer l’homme un jour.

    http://rouleur.cc/journal/history/bernard-hinault

  43. @Ron

    Frank – I’m high-energy, I just try to contribute whatever I can!

    Yeah, I gotta pay Buck a visit. Now that I’m no longer in NY state, it’ll have to be a pitstop, but there ain’t no reason why I can’t make him tow me up Bear Mountain. Will have to detour sometime when I travel north.

    YES! Ron, we have a date with DESTINY!!! Or a ride, not sure which? Either way, some of us are going to do one FUCK of a ride next summer on the 18th of June from the coast of Maine to Burlington, VT. Cogal write up coming sometime soon, right Gianni??? We should meet up for that one!

    And Frahnk!!! Fuckin work has blocked your website!!! Not sure why the US Army no longer approves of you, maybe it was b/c my productivity was dropping like a Schleck in a race sometime in the last two years. But, you know of anyway to sneak around DOD filters at work???

  44. @DeKerr

    A great piece, on a great rider. Je voudrais rencontrer l’homme un jour.

    http://rouleur.cc/journal/history/bernard-hinault

    Indeed, great story. What year was it published? I could not find the date. Mentions Pharmstrong’s comeback so must be 2009? But, I have to say that the author is a bit too much in love with Le Blaireau when he says things about Hinault like, “Eddy Merckx, quite his equal in achievement”. Eddy Merckx was Hinault’s equal in achievement???

  45. @Buck Rogers

    Perhaps that was a bit of deliberate understatement?

  46. @Ron Red 5 being chased by The King…gotta love ‘cross.

  47. Loved this and subsequent replies, they get to the heart of why people ride and follow their heroes. It’s romance isn’t it. And I agree, Krabbe is a genius too.

    I was reminded of this poem when reading through the posts so thought I’d share it.

    No matter, the road is life.

    Right here, right now I can go anywhere.
    Be anyone.
    Everything looks so new in the soft apricot glow of the early morning light. The clean washed out blue of the endless watercolour sky. The mouthwatering fresh greens of the trees and hedges, every possible shade from almost yellow to almost black.
    Sunlight trickles through the leaves above and dapples the path ahead. The air is soft and lazy-still but for the gentlest and most welcome kiss of breeze on my skin.
    There is only me in this moment. Everything there has ever been from then to now has been in anticipation of this. An entire universe, born of nothing an infinity ago for the express purpose of these – are they minutes? are they hours?
    I am lulled by the hypnotic rhythm of my legs. The only sound is the ticking of the wheels as they turn and the life of the landscape around me. The road slides past beneath me.
    Exhaustion. Elation.
    The path is in turn smooth and rough – a slash of asphalt in the green, straight and solid and true in some places, gradually being reclaimed by the encroaching wild in others.
    My mind is emptied of all conscious thoughts but one. Consistent. Insistent. Persistent.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .

    My fucking arse is KILLING me.

    I thank you for reading. :-)

  48. @frank Can’t argue with any of that Frank and you make a good point, it is credible that Hinault inadvertently made Lemond tougher in the head. Still a shitty way to treat a man, let alone a team mate. I haven’t seen the film, only read the book. I’ll make an effort to check it out

  49. Fuck’in SPOT ON!!! Respect for Le Blaireau on this one. And Fuck Miller and Mcquaid. He wasn’t only blaming Pharmstrong but was asked specifically about him. Fuck! Hinault is a strong Bastard!

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/hinault-criticised-by-former-peers-for-his-lance-armstrong-comments

  50. Good read, it is indeed an amazing sport with so many stories and enormous popular appeal. The sport has changed a lot, not all for the better. I don’t think today’s athletes are as good at racing as they were 16+ years ago. I hope we get rid of the ear pieces and let the riders race like the 80’s. The sport was better for it. The way races were won and lost would not work in today’s format and I surely hope we get back to the days where riders had to feel the race and rely on race info combined with info inside the peloton.

    Love the sport and always will, for its legends, it’s code and the great people who practice it

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