Twistin Banged and Felled. And Got Back Up.

Vande Velde leads on the Stelvio. Photo: Steephill/Sirotti

As a byproduct of brakes being strictly for ornamental purposes, cyclists are often forced to find alternative means of stopping their bikes. As a matter of both convenience and effectiveness, the tarmac and other objects of greater mass than the sum of cyclist and bicycle are often employed for this purpose. Collectively, we refer to this process as “crashing” and typically frown upon its use at least as much as using brakes in the first place. While strikingly effective, the process involves several undesirable side effects including a loss of skin, blood, and equipment. It also inflicts some degree of pain. Though tragic when they occur, brain injuries are rare primarily because you can’t hurt what you don’t have.

Though his powers are weakening, if I was going to identify an authority in this process within the Pro Peloton, I might pick Christian Vande Velde or, as we know him by his Nomen Velominatus: Twistin Banged and Felled. After a career spent in the service of others, Christian rocketed to the top of the “We’ll Doom You With Our Unrealistic Expectations” list during the 2008 Tour de France when he flirted with a podium place before falling off his bike while going down a mountain. In 2009, he crashed out of the Giro d’Italia on Stage 3 and, being short on form due to his injuries, returned to the role of domestique for Brad Wiggins in the Tour. He might have fallen off again, but I’m not sure. Let’s assume he did, for sake of argument. In 2010, he decided that 2009 was so cracking, he’d try to repeat the formula and crashed out of the Giro on Stage 3 for the second year running. It was all going to plan until he mistakenly also crashed out of the Tour on Stage 2, during the infamous Stockeu oil-slick crash. Oh well, best laid plans and all that.

Amidst of all this brakeless stopping, however, Christian has experienced the aforementioned side-effects acutely. As a result, he has some serious back problems and was forced to grow a few special bones which he then broke just so he could hold the record for Most Broken Bones. He contemplated retirement several times, knowing the battle that waited before him as he lay injured in a hospital bed somewhere in Europe.

Coming back from injury is hard. I’m coming back from laziness myself, and even that’s hard. Going out every day, knowing you’re not as fast and strong as you were, knowing that all the work it took to get that strong and fast has been lost and all that suffering will have to be relived. It’s as maddening as it is demoralizing.

But each time, he gritted his teeth and fought back. When Cycling is in your blood, there is no other way. You may tell yourself you’ll quit, or that you’ll never do a ride again, but those things are just something your brain and body need to hear before they start something hard over again from scratch.

Twistin Banged and Felled, and got back up. And as his performance as Ryder Hesjedal’s super domestique in the closing stages of the Giro d’Italia testifies, it was a fight worth having. More than any of the attacks, sprints, victories and losses, the image that for me identifies the 2012 Giro is that of Christian on the front of the ever-dwindling bunch on its way up the Stelvio. Kilometer after kilometer, after kilometer: Christian with the throttle wide open. Ryder better have given him a special thank you gift from Canada, though I’m not sure what that would be. Miniature hockey stick, probably.

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122 Replies to “Twistin Banged and Felled. And Got Back Up.”

  1. @Ron
    If you want to stop better than you’ve ever stopped before, put these on your cross bike:
    http://www.trpbrakes.com/category.php?productid=1120&catid=185&subcat=0
    Unbelievable stopping power – almost too good. And forget fork shudder, noise, and fickle set-ups. Awesome cross brakes.

    After the 2004 presidential election in the states I spent much time on marryacanadian.com trolling for new citizenshi…er a new bride. I can also see Canada from my house (well, if I get into a canoe and paddle for a couple hours) so all this Canada slagging makes me think about being offended. Which I suppose is Canadian in and of itself. Think about being offended then be reminded you’re a doormat and laugh at yourself.

    CvV is certainly the workingman’s velominatus. Sort of like Hincapie but with even less realized potential. This one goes out to you CvV – courtesy of Canada:

    I get up at seven, yeah,
    And I go to work at nine.
    I got no time for livin’.
    Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.

    It seems to me
    I could live my life
    A lot better than I think I am.
    I guess that’s why they call me,
    They call me the workin’ man.

    They call me the workin’ man.
    I guess that’s what I am.
    So I get home at five o’clock,
    And I take myself out a nice, cold beer.
    Always seem to be wond’rin’
    Why there’s nothin’ goin’ down here.

    It seems to me
    I could live my life
    A lot better than I think I am.
    I guess that’s why they call me,
    They call me the workin’ man.

    They call me the workin’ man.
    I guess that’s what I am.

    Well they call me the workin’ man.
    I guess that’s what I am.

  2. knowing that all the work it took to get that strong and fast has been lost and all that suffering will have to be relived. It’s as maddening as it is demoralizing.

    This what I’m learning at the moment, the sort of times I’m clocking up climbs it would appear that over 7 weeks I’ve lost the equivalent of a year in terms of performance, not to mention a butt load of confidence going back down said hills…

  3. @mouse

    Quite ironic that you’re slagging Canada considering tha Seattle is an outer suburb of Vancouver, isn’t it?
    You’r more Canadian than you think.

    Spoken like a true Aussie, or whatever you are. Canada is actually a suburb of two towns: Seattle and NYC.

  4. @Marko

    Which I suppose is Canadian in and of itself. Think about being offended then be reminded you’re a doormat and laugh at yourself.

    This also draws into sharp relief the fact that Minnesota, by and large, is more Canadian than it is American. But without the good health care. And with much better beer.

  5. @frank
    I also appreciate a band that doesn’t give a shit about maintaining a tempo throughout a song. My Merckx did they ever speed up during that.

  6. @frank
    What’s the US dollar worth these days? With my paltry academic salary in Canadian dollars, I just bought half of Montana on ebay. Look out, Wyoming: I’m annexing you next. That is, after I survey Vermont at the end of the month. Note that Minnesota and Vermont are probably already more Canadian than most of Canada. I’d knock Seattle, but I actually rather like Seattle. Shame about the music scene, though…

  7. @minion

    I’ve got no dog in this fight, apart from this;
    Amercia, Amercia…

    Don’t even get me started on Romney. That tosser thinks that he stands for what the founding fathers of the US stood for. In reality, he’s pretty much looking to turn the clock back a few dozen decades…

  8. @ten B

    @Steampunk

    @Xyverz
    Not sure I use any of those either. Most of us speak the Queen’s English. Which is as it should be.

    Yeah, I thought that too, until I moved to Oz and found out that using z instead of s in words that end with ‘ise’ is an Americanisation of the language.

    I’ve been living in the US for 30+ years, and I *still* spell shit with the ‘ise’… My spell-checkers hate it.

  9. @Steampunk
    Funny thing I learned about Seattle when I moved here; Grunge is alive and well. They’re just not playing Grunge anymore; they’re playing a kind of Country Rockish thing. Its not bad. But the Grunge label was mistakenly put on the Music, when it was actually a lifestyle and they just happened to be playing that music at the time.

    And, I might add, that that music totally kicked ass.

  10. @frank
    You’re makin’ me wanna break out my Rush collection, man!

    @frank
    Neil is an absolute master at maintaining tempo. Johnny was great for raw energy, but I’m still a Neil fan.

    Oh, and that’s what Alex looked like before he got bald and fat? ;-)

  11. Interesting factiod regarding Ice Hockey: It was invented by British soldiers in Nova Scotia. Of course it was probably Scottish soldiers seeing that they were posted in New Scotland. Us Scots invented and discovered just about everything worth inventing and discovering.

    I once mentioned (jokingly) to a guy on a chairlift at Big White that we Scots think of Canada as a province of ours. He didn’t like it at all and asked me why it was the case. I asked him if he knew that many of the place names were Scottish for example Banff. “How do you know the Scottish one wasn’t named after the Canadian one?” he queried. “Well ours has been there for much longer. I doubt if a place like Kicking Horse is ours though.” Turns out though that a Scottish surgeon in a group looking for a railway route had been kicked in the chest by his horse during the expedition and that’s where the name came from. I wonder if he checked it online that night like I did.

    Oh, and we invented the modern bicycle too. You’re all welcome.

    Please bear in mind Rule #5a.

  12. I tortured the family with Rush 2112 during breakfast a few weeks ago. Funny enough, the kids asked for a replay during dinner. “Attention all planets of the solar federation. We have assumed control”…

    I’m coming back from laziness also, my lamest winter since, uh, last winter. Is it June already?

    A few days a week of road and single track, climbing out of the hole. A 24 hour mountain bike race over Memorial Day weekend to really kick things off. Let the season begin…

  13. @Marko

    @Ron
    If you want to stop better than you’ve ever stopped before, put these on your cross bike: TRP Brakes

    After much debating, just bought these. That’s quite the ringing endorsement. Hoping to find out for sure when I put them on this weekend.

  14. @Xyverz

    Neil is an absolute master at maintaining tempo. Johnny was great for raw energy, but I’m still a Neil fan.

    Neil is too fucking precise. Too much machine, not enough man. And, yes, Neil, we get it, you read Ayn Rand. Time to move away from the subject and write a song about fucking and self-loathing like all the other respectable bands.

  15. @eightzero

    Wiggo put how much into Good Cuddles today? wow.

    Wow. 1:43, and – almost more impressively – 34 seconds into Martin. Smokin’, though with the 2 minute time penalty for wearing all-yellow bibs (when is that UCI Rule going to get implemented?) he’d be out of the running.

  16. @snoov

    I once mentioned (jokingly) to a guy on a chairlift at Big White that we Scots think of Canada as a province of ours. He didn’t like it at all and asked me why it was the case. I asked him if he knew that many of the place names were Scottish for example Banff. “How do you know the Scottish one wasn’t named after the Canadian one?” he queried. “Well ours has been there for much longer. I doubt if a place like Kicking Horse is ours though.” Turns out though that a Scottish surgeon in a group looking for a railway route had been kicked in the chest by his horse during the expedition and that’s where the name came from. I wonder if he checked it online that night like I did.

    Brilliant. The second you said Kicking Horse, I thought that has to be part of the training in the Scottish Marshal Art of “Fook Yu!”. Too classy for punching bags, you just go around kicking horse.

    Brilliant, I love you crazy fucking Scots. So yes, Thank You.

  17. @sgt

    I thought this little morsel belonged on this thread.:“Dull and Boring to Hook Up”
    I’ll be in Cascadia next week, may Merckx have mercy on me…

    Proper Rule #9 weather ripping through the territory, mate. Cold too. You’ll love it, you big SoCal pussy.

    @Dan O

    I tortured the family with Rush 2112 during breakfast a few weeks ago. Funny enough, the kids asked for a replay during dinner. “Attention all planets of the solar federation. We have assumed control”…

    I’m coming back from laziness also, my lamest winter since, uh, last winter. Is it June already?

    A few days a week of road and single track, climbing out of the hole. A 24 hour mountain bike race over Memorial Day weekend to really kick things off. Let the season begin…

    Its OK Dan O, we can pretend like its still winter and get some good winter training in. Haven’t you been outside today? Merckx-oh-me.

  18. @frank

    @Xyverz

    Neil is an absolute master at maintaining tempo. Johnny was great for raw energy, but I’m still a Neil fan.

    Neil is too fucking precise. Too much machine, not enough man. And, yes, Neil, we get it, you read Ayn Rand. Time to move away from the subject and write a song about fucking and self-loathing like all the other respectable bands.

    Wearing your idiot fez perfectly.

  19. @frank
    Frank, let’s just agree to disagree. I like his technicality AND his prose.

    @Nate
    LOL! We have some of the same up here, Nate. That and a good Training Wind most of the time.

    @versio
    WIN!

  20. @frank

    @Xyverz

    Neil is an absolute master at maintaining tempo. Johnny was great for raw energy, but I’m still a Neil fan.

    Neil is too fucking precise. Too much machine, not enough man. And, yes, Neil, we get it, you read Ayn Rand. Time to move away from the subject and write a song about fucking and self-loathing like all the other respectable bands.

    I don’t think a “looser” drummer would fit in Rush.

  21. @Steampunk

    @pistard & @mouse:
    I’ll drink to that. Although I now live three time zones to the east, I’m a fervent Cascadian. No finer place on the planet.

    @minion
    Here’s a little lesson about Canadia.

    @Tobin
    I’m coming to terms with the fact that Canuck mediocrity is the last vestige of my youth. If they actually won the Stanley Cup, I don’t know what I’d do. Maybe I’d start cheering for the Norwegian hockey team or something. But even that sounds a bit crazy…

    Nice. I am a huge fan of the American News outlet, The Onion. It expalins to me the insanity of American politics.

    Last time I was in the US, I was a store that had over 25 different types of Coke. It was awesome.

  22. @frank

    @Marko

    Which I suppose is Canadian in and of itself. Think about being offended then be reminded you’re a doormat and laugh at yourself.

    This also draws into sharp relief the fact that Minnesota, by and large, is more Canadian than it is American. But without the good health care. And with much better beer.

    You’ve obviously not had Fort Garry Pale Ale…

  23. @Dan_R
    I don’t need to have tasted it. Hands down, the best beer I’ve had is Surly.

    @Xyverz
    Its not the content, mind you – I’ve read every Ayn Rand book I’ve been able to get my hands on, though I might upset the apple cart by saying that Anthem is the best of her works (I also am not an Objectivist nor do I agree with a lot of what she says) – its the blatancy of the lyricism. It fits with his drumming style, though. All very precise, with little error. I like a lyric with some mysticism, one that leaves a little to the imagination to say, “I wonder what they meant my that.” I would name Chris Cornell as the best modern lyricist.

  24. @frank
    I was living in Victoria for that whole grunge scene. It really is just a way of life. Before it became popular, we called it metal, kinda like Soundgarden’s earlier stuff. \m/

    @snoov
    No kidding about the Scots. Note a previous post of mine on Fort Garry ale. Named by a Scot after a Scot fort named after a Scot. Oh yeah, first regiment I served in – Scottish. Anybody that can enjoy haggis and neeps has got to be tough.

  25. @frank
    OOohhh, that looks like a road trip back to the land of ten thousand lake!

    Ditto on the Chris Cornell comment too. Pure genius.

  26. @Dan_R
    He is the master. Also a bit of douche these days, though he looked the part of a proper Rock Star again last summer when we went to see Soundgarden’s reunion.

    Of the Neil Pert era, though, I have to say The Trees is a good track. There are some others, but majority is bullox. (Did I get that right? Bullox not ballocks?)

  27. @minion

    @frank
    Has Cornell got blood on his shirt?

    From eating a bug, Jens-Style. But he couldn’t do a small rodent like Jens will during the Tour.

    @sgt
    Are you bringing those? Spoke with Saul today and I’ll grab the bike early next week and you can just meet me at my house. Methinks it will be easier.

  28. @frank
    If you ever go to @sgt’s stomping grounds your pale ass will want 50 SPF at least. The sun down there is like Hawaii. I seem to have gotten a permanent and magnificent arm tanline from his Cogal.

    @sgt
    Oh yeah, you’ll be all set then.

  29. @frank

    @snoov

    I once mentioned (jokingly) to a guy on a chairlift at Big White that we Scots think of Canada as a province of ours. He didn’t like it at all and asked me why it was the case. I asked him if he knew that many of the place names were Scottish for example Banff. “How do you know the Scottish one wasn’t named after the Canadian one?” he queried. “Well ours has been there for much longer. I doubt if a place like Kicking Horse is ours though.” Turns out though that a Scottish surgeon in a group looking for a railway route had been kicked in the chest by his horse during the expedition and that’s where the name came from. I wonder if he checked it online that night like I did.

    Brilliant. The second you said Kicking Horse, I thought that has to be part of the training in the Scottish Marshal Art of “Fook Yu!”. Too classy for punching bags, you just go around kicking horse.

    Brilliant, I love you crazy fucking Scots. So yes, Thank You.

    Crazy?

    Us?

    Wibble.

  30. @frank

    @Marko
    I had assumed you were going in this direction, considering CVV is actually American.

    Again, how this turned into Canada-slagging is a delightful surprise.

    How soon some forget the Liberation. Ontevreden! Schandalig!

  31. @frank

    I would name Chris Cornell as the best modern lyricist.

    Fuck: seriously? You do need to crawl out of your cave a little more frequently…

  32. @frank

    @Nate
    Shut the fuck up about sun bitches. Whilst I may wrongly speak of Australia being the best at anything there is no doubt that this country is the world capital of skin cancer.

  33. @Marcus
    I’d advise you to have the dermotologist check that chip on your shoulder for pre-cancerous moles and melanomas.

  34. @ten B

    @frank

    @Marko
    I had assumed you were going in this direction, considering CVV is actually American.

    Again, how this turned into Canada-slagging is a delightful surprise.

    How soon some forget the Liberation. Ontevreden! Schandalig!

    Don’t even start me on the Dutch influence on American culture. The Boss? Yes, comes from the Dutch word for manager, “baas”. Yankee? Comes from the Dutch name “Jan Kees”. The list goes on and on and on. This place would be nothing without the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam.

    You’re welcome.

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