Rouleur Classic

The Peloton: Le Temps Perdu

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The Peloton, Timm Kölln’s mammoth work combining breathtaking portraits of a generation of professional cyclists with the thoughts of the riders themselves, is finally ready.

1’s Sofie Andersen gives you a taste of what went on behind the scenes in this extract from the forthcoming issue 21.

Throughout the spring and summer, a print-out of a spreadsheet had a space on the wall of the 1 office between the prints and posters more obviously dedicated to possibly relevant things (at the office of a cycling magazine, I mean) like bikes and people who ride bikes and such. This spreadsheet had a few hundred cells this way, and ten or fifteen cells that way, and it bore the words ‘Spreadsheet of Doom’ (we are, generally speaking, a very optimistic bunch), appended with, in a smaller but equally illegible hand, ‘Don’t panic!’ It would change every week, adding this rider or that print or this interview, or occasionally taking away the rider, print or interview. Each writer had a column, as had each biographer and each translator (if you’re lucky, you might be able to count those people on two hands). In fact, the spreadsheet continued to changed every week – or every day, or several times a day – until the print deadline. It changed a few times after that as well. In spite of the advice that would usually be scribbled on the spreadsheet within minutes of a new print (“Don’t, whatever you do, panic!”), it may have inspired a panic attack or two – and it certainly got to be a lot bigger than it was meant to.

When asked how long he thought it would take to finish the small matter of the design, Andreas Töpfer, the designer, said he thought it would take two weeks; when asked how long it actually took, he laughed and said that he had no idea. Unusually, Andreas also isn’t quite sure how much space the Peloton files are taking up on his harddrive – but he is confident that it’s more than any other book he’s ever designed.

No, The Peloton is not the sum of the logistics involved, but they were certainly involved. Then again, the peloton – the real peloton: the one that’s out there in the world and riding the Tour or the Giro or some impossibly difficult Spring Classic – is, you might argue, also more than the sum of the riders who are in the peloton and were in the peloton (and, conceivably, will be in the peloton) because the peloton that Timm recorded and documented is no mere concept, and it remembers things that no single rider can recall.

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