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Weekly Wibble: Holding On

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Photographs: Offside-LeEquipe

Cheer up, Davide. Life begins at 42, right?
Growing old gracefully isn’t easy, not in an era where nip-and-tucks are as common as blown inner tubes, when we’re all going to live in some cryogenic state until we’re 150, and where octogenarians can still pound the bottom brackets of their Treks like they’re Cancellara with a combover.
The pressures of ageing must be doubly hard for the professional cyclist. You’ve spent most of your life eating, racing, eating and sleeping, and having your directeur sportif’s angry spittle blown in your ear at 30 miles an hour, with the occasional holiday thrown in for visits to a doctor somewhere up a Taiwanese mountain.
Then, all of a sudden, that’s it – no more dragging yourself up the north face of hell every July; no more cobbles to make you chuck up your Easter Sunday breakfast. Just eating, more eating and sleeping – and, if you’re lucky, a chance to blow your own spittle at some hapless 20-year-old version of yourself.
The cyclist can approach the end of his career via two paths. The first is the Millar Method. This involves trumpeting your impending retirement a year in advance, in order to enjoy the kind of lengthy adulation usually reserved for the Pope, Jesus, or Hein Verbruggen in Aigle. Women adore you, men want to be you: you could perform handstands for the duration of Paris-Nice and still count Jonathan Vaughters as a BFFL, because you are the Prematurely Retiring Cyclist.
Then there’s the Rebellin Route. This is altogether sketchier: you won some Classics a decade ago, got popped for CERA at some point along the way, and the world sort of forgot about you, until a few overly-inquisitive souls realised that you’re now 42 and riding for CCC Polsat Polkowice – a team that even the Poles have yet to realise exists.
The Rebellin Route begs the question: is the rider who follows it ever going to retire? Or is his fate to be the Tour of Poland’s Sisyphus, leading out riderless sprints long after his great grandchildrens’ bedtime? It’s not a particularly attractive destiny, unless you subscribe to the patented Christopher Horner Life Improvement Plan, where careers start from just 42 years of age.
But as Simon and Garfunkel famously sang in the unused verse of El Condor Pasa, “I’d rather be a Millar than a Rebellin”.

We’ve seen some unlikely product endorsements by pro cyclists in our time, but Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez being announced as the “new face of BUFF Headwear” in a missive with a few misspellings (Medrisio World Championships? La Vuetta? We must have missed those prestigious races) last week is right up there.
At least he’ll have a warm neck on the Zoncolan should the weather at the Giro turn nasty again. Or he could adopt the over-the-face “Bandit Country” look, handy for escaping the team bus unnoticed in Armagh. 
In case you were wondering why black frames continue to dominate the pro peloton, a painted white frame is on average 100g heavier, according to Gerard Vroomen. Depressing news for haters of the dark side.
“For what we have new rules? Front group all on the asphalt bike path, peloton all on the cobbles.”
Hooray, modern cyclists aren’t all robots being told what corporate-friendly fodder to Tweet and hashtag by PR people. Lotto-Belisol rider Marcel Sieberg stuck the oar in over the bikepath riding/no bikepath riding rule/unimplemented rule after Het Nieuwsblad.
He’s got a point. Then again, surely his grievance had nothing to do with the fact his team’s best rider that day finished 13th?
Come on, admit it. There’s no way you thought Stannard was going to win that sprint, is there?
A youthful (well, 32-year-old) Davide Rebellin wins the 2004 Amstel Gold Race from Colgate advert Michael Boogerd.
Great racing alert: Chris Horner inspires a rash of midlife crises by beating Nibali on the Angliru last September.

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