As anyone who saw the sprint finish on Stage 1 of the Dubai Tour recently will confirm, Marcel Kittel is back. More to the point, so is that magnificent hair.
Kittel is quick – we all know that – but the hair is the follicular equivalent of go-faster stripes. Even when it’s under his helmet you know it’s there, and his rivals know it’s there. It’s a psychological marginal gain. Short of painting flames down the side of his bike, there is no better way of presenting the illusion of speed. And when you combine the illusion of speed with the reality of actual speed, what you end up with is one very fast bike rider.
Although it’s not my style to point fingers and single out individuals for derision, American Tyler Farrar could learn a thing or two. Am I the only person to have noticed that, for some time now, he has been sporting what can only be described as a ponytail atop his bonce?
Off the bike he seems to be adopting a look last seen gaining respect on the Seattle grunge scene of the early 90’s. I could sense Tyler’s disappointment upon the launch of his team’s (Dimension Data) new kit for 2016, when it became apparent that his suggestion of a plaid lumberjack design had been rejected in favour of something more, well, black and white.
He doesn’t even have the excuse that his hair is tucked up safely away from public view under a helmet for much of the time – we can see the pony’s tail poking out the back and flailing in the wind. And anyway, we’ve already established with the Kittel example that the performance aspect of a rider’s hairstyle of choice is not dulled by encasing it in bike helmet.
Of course, there is one very stylish Gallic elephant in the room when it comes to the great pro-cyclist/ponytail debate.
Two words for you: Laurent Fignon.
In the early eighties, as Bernard Hinault’s brutal reign of success began to fade, it was Laurent Fignon who stepped into the breach. He had the professorial wire rimmed glasses, the sporting arrogance that only a French man with an extravagant talent could possess, and that blond ponytail/headband combo.
Take some time to familiarise yourself with his stylish and completely dominant win at the 1984 Tour de France, his second Tour win by the tender age of 23, and you will understand how he managed to legitimise the ponytail.
The word ‘aplomb’ springs to mind.
As a pro-cyclist, if you sport a ponytail you are choosing to draw comparison with the mighty Fignon. This is what is commonly known as a losing battle.
Judging by his early season form, the same might be said about attempting to out-sprint Marcel Kittel this year.