There is a genre of cyclist who likes to ride big miles. For them, the perfect day involves five hours in the saddle under sunny skies, followed by a full collapse on the settee with painful legs and a license to eat carbohydrates.
The amateur psychologist in me can think of many reasons they might choose to do this: too much to prove; lack of a social life; a powerful urge in their souls to escape, from everything, all the time!
I am qualified to talk about this because I am one of those cyclists.
The other thing that many of these cyclists like to do is tell people about these big rides. They like the look in a non-cyclists eye when describing the simple pleasure of a hundred mile ride – it’s a look that they think says: “wow…that’s amazing. You really are an absolute legend aren’t you? I wish I were more like you.”
When, in fact, it actually says: “You have a lot to prove, you need to get a social life, and what are you actually trying to escape from?”
Social media, you may have noticed, is jam-packed with cyclists talking about big miles. Some of this is attention seeking but most of these cyclists are just really proud of themselves and are sharing that, in the way that new parents share pictures of their kids and competitive vegetable growers share pictures of courgettes.
It’s all fine.
On one condition: that these big mileage sharing cyclists understand the context. That they know where their big ride stands in the roll-call of big rides. Jacques Anquetil is a good place to start.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s Anquetil was one of the world’s greatest pro cyclists. He was also a canny businessman. In 1965 he was on the lookout for a new achievement – a goal which, if completed, would encourage sponsors and race organisers to dig deeper into their pockets to secure his services in future.
And that goal was this: to win the Dauphine Libere – the eight-day Alpine stage race and traditional pre-Tour de France tune-up – then hop on a plane and fly to Bordeaux in time for the 2am start of Bordeaux-Paris, the three-hundred-and-fifty-mile (and now defunct) one-day classic.
That’s the 2am immediately following completion of stage eight of the Dauphine at 3pm the previous day.
And win that one too, of course.
Which he did.
As big days on the bike go that’s tough to beat.
Post your big miles by all means. Shout from the roof tops, screenshot your Strava feed, Instagram your mid-ride coffee and admit to your sock doping. It’s all fine by me.
Jacques Anquetil was almost certainly turbo charged by, at the very least, amphetamines, for this epic feat of endurance – he was quite open about his use of pharmaceutical assistance. I’m not suggesting you follow suit. In fact, on balance I would suggest you don’t follow suit.
Hollow-eyed and amphetamine addled is really not very 2018.
Personally, for fuel, I find Eccles Cakes to be a pretty good alternative.
(Anquetil Image: By Giorgio Lotti – http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/the-french-cyclist-jacques-anquetil-posing-at-the-start-of-news-photo/141553576, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41810917)