Godot, Tight Shorts and Jesus

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by B. Lafferty, Jul 16, 2003.

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  1. B. Lafferty

    B. Lafferty Guest

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    Cycle drama Zoe Williams Tuesday July 15, 2003 The Guardian

    People always say that yellow jerseys are born, not made - reaching that summit of human attainment
    is written on to your genetic imprint. You'll find it filed under "spirit of a champion" and "nice
    big thighs".

    There is no amount of training that will make heroes of the unworthy. And I suppose this is true of
    all sport, as well as ballet, mathematical genius and the ability to get on well with any given dog,
    but it seems especially, superlatively true of the Tour de France.

    It is impossible to feel anything but the deepest admiration for these cyclists, even while you
    don't understand exactly what they're engaged in. (The only two people I know who can explain the
    rules are both in France, chasing the race on bikes.

    I think it's fair to say they won't catch it, since they started a week late and keep getting
    stoned, but that's an index of the pull of this sport - to comprehend it is to follow it all the
    way. Well, some of the way.)

    Cycling has a very sophisticated relationship with modernity - it's not Luddite; no one would ever
    eschew technological advances in design, in favour of a crap one with wooden wheels. But the very
    act of racing on bicycles when motorised transport exists suggests a critical distance from progress
    - an environmental concern, possibly, but more importantly a comprehension that physical struggle is
    an end in itself, and that to etch it out of endeavour diminishes man's Olympian spirit. Plus, I
    like their tight shorts.

    And really, even their cheating has an old-world charm; one racer had someone hide in the bushes and
    pass him a lead pipe on the way down a hill, to speed his descent. It's got everything - ingenuity,
    physics, human frailty, friendship and shrubbery. Having said that, most Tour cheating isn't about
    gravity at all, it's about drugs.

    They are inveterate caners, the racers, and always have been. In 1924, Henri Pelissier said to a
    journalist: "That's cocaine to go in our eyes, chloroform for our gums, and do you want to see the
    pills? We keep going on dynamite. In the evenings we dance around our rooms instead of sleeping."

    I find this pretty tickling - where all other athletes roll over in shame or denial when they're
    accused of chemical enhancement, cyclists say: "Well, we're engaged in a feat of epic proportions.
    This is mankind against nature. Of course we're going to take drugs!"

    This element - that while this is a battle between men, the greatest adversary is the mountain -
    is echoed in the altruistic codes of the race. There is a huge amount of sacrifice built into
    the process.

    Someone rides in front, breaking the wind for the champion; someone else rides alongside, and holds
    his bike steady while he has a drink; you're not allowed to overtake while someone's having a wee;
    the packs they travel in epitomise the noblest kind of human cooperation, since they are all elite
    cyclists, these people, and yet they undergo unthinkable pain for the triumph of just one rider.

    Even in individual races in velodromes, you see this happening - the races start incredibly
    sluggishly, since the person who takes the lead will lose all his energy breaking everyone else's
    wind, and always end up last. So the true starting point of every race is a surrender, which
    although made unwillingly, is still kind of cute.

    But if the riders are the heroes, the bikes are the stars. You always see car adverts stressing the
    fit of man and machine, but nobody really fits with their car. The shape, the efficiency (better
    than a salmon's, apparently), the simplicity of a bike is really the endpoint of Cartesian
    perfection.

    This is why Beckett had such a thing about the eroticism of the bicycle (in More Pricks Than Kicks,
    the hero rejects a lady suitor in favour of a

    because the perfect clunk-click of symbiosis that people associate with nooky is completely
    expressed in the relationship between man and bicycle.

    If the horse represents slavery and the car represents indolent consumption, the bike represents
    nothing but the honest profit of inventive genius.

    My boyfriend would like to point out that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he used an ass because a
    horse was too speechful of mankind's arrogance. And yet, the ass is still enslaved; if bikes had
    been invented, he feels sure the Godhead would have ridden one of those.

    I'd counter that, since God is omnipotent, if he'd wanted Christ to have a bike he would have fixed
    it for someone to invent it sooner. But these are theological matters. Incidentally, the closest
    Beckett ever got to explaining Waiting for Godot was when he referred to "a veteran racing cyclist,
    bald, a 'stayer', recurrent placeman in town-to-town and national championships, Christian name
    elusive, surname Godeau, pronounced, of course, no differently from Godot."

    So, not only are they handy for getting about, these lovely machines can also unlock a completely
    impenetrable work of literature.

    For all these reasons, and more that haven't occurred to me, the Tour de France is a beautiful
    phenomenon. Issues that befuddle other sports - sponsorship, cash, drugs, even competition - are
    irrelevant. You could watch it all day, every day. And you don't much care who wins, so long as
    someone does.

    [email protected]

    Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
     
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  2. Dan Gregory

    Dan Gregory Guest

    "B. Lafferty" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > Incidentally, the closest Beckett ever got to explaining Waiting for Godot was when he referred
    > to "a veteran racing cyclist, bald, a 'stayer', recurrent placeman in town-to-town and national
    > championships, Christian name elusive, surname Godeau, pronounced, of course, no differently
    > from Godot."
    Now the play makes sense! Estragon & Vladimir are sitting by the side of the road, it's evening, the
    Tour has gone by and what is there left? ;-)) Dan G (le coureur croulant)
     
  3. Deeznuts

    Deeznuts Guest

    Laffy Taffy,

    1. That was way too many words

    2. It was gay

    Try harder next time
     
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