The dangerous summer is almost over. One must confess, dear and faithful reader, that your author’s intention was originally not to return to posting on this blog. One always questions whether one has anything useful or interesting or constructive to contribute to the discussion on cycling, given the crowded marketplace and the already very insightful comments provided by some of the more outstanding bloggers. Still, your author was gratified to receive many supportive comments on the penultimate post back in April; a return to at least some musings on the current – and historical – state of cycling in all its meanings seemed therefore appropriate.
It is perhaps no coincidence the the two occurrences of pro cycling on the front page of the local newspaper here in Vancouver were, firstly, Ryder Hesjedal’s Giro win and, secondly, Lance Armstrong’s – how does one phrase it – fall from grace. Victory or scandal is what is required to capture the attention of the mainstream press. The events must be dramatic, outsized and of historical importance. There must be opportunities for pundits to editorialize on their significance. We need to be able to be invited as readers to assess their wider meaning.
The American writer Adam Gopnik, writing in The New Yorker, has said: “Sports are about human character inasmuch, and only inasmuch, as they show that you can master anything with enough effort.” This is undoubtedly true: sports may not say much about the human character. But they are at least, however, reflective of the human character. The unfolding sagas of Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Jonathan Vaughters and several others – of which we have heard much over the last few months and will continue to do so in the months ahead – are human stories, with sport at their heart. Sport is not just a physical challenge to be mastered. Sports are the arena where human character plays out, they are the backdrop of suffering, sacrifice, joy, heartbreak, greed and deception. It may not be as important as politics or the economy but sport is still just as interesting, if not for what it is but certainly for those who take part. Why else would we find it so engaging?
Cycling books occupy roughly three shelves of your author’s Billy bookshelves. And these are just the ‘core’ texts, not counting those that have been sold on, given to friends, or donated to the local library. It is hard to think that so many books could have been written about something with very little meaning (but more on that idea, later, perhaps). Thus, the other books on the shelves are always sharing their space with cycling books. Making connections, tortured and disparate but nonetheless hopefully interesting, has been one of the goals of this blog. This is likely to be the primary focus going forward, although there will – of course – be the opportunity to talk about climbs and climbing as well.
Sharp-eyed readers will also notice the change in background colour. The focus here on Italian cycling is officially over and some comments will be forthcoming on why this (dead) end was reached. The chosen colour is, according to some palettes, in the style of a Provence yellow. In his book A Little Tour in France, Henry James wrote: “It was a pleasure to feel one’s self in Provence again,— the land where the silver-gray earth is impregnated with the light of the sky.” With fall approaching, if not already here, and winter coming on behind it, we might all wish we were in Provence. To paraphrase James, “The [ride] itself was charming; for there is an inexhaustible sweetness in the gray-green landscape of Provence.”
Watch this space, therefore, for new postings. They are likely to be infrequent, with monthly being the goal, and may be overly ambitious in attempting to weave together too many disparate strands of ideas. They may also be reflective, indulgent, even solipsistic, or excessively focused on the minutiae of our sport. With only the barest of plans at this stage, one can only hope that a coherent set of postings can be produced. As always, your indulgences are appreciated. As such, the next post will revisit Ernest Hemingway, discuss the meaning of heroism, consider the golden age of cycling, and conclude with disparaging comments on cycling autobiographies and why the Tour de France is sick and depraved. Yes, it will be a wild ride. A bare-knuckle, high-speed decent from the summit of Mont Ventoux, reflexes straining and legs muscles screaming, the brain dulled to witlessness by the preceding ascent, the gray-green landscape of Provence stretched out before us, but with its sweetness exhausted and only our pounding hearts to offer solace as our tyres lose their grip beneath us.