Summit

There’s just one question left unanswered: Why?
What drives a man to do such deeds? What force
Compels him to endure such agony,
Won’t let him go till he completes the course?
He risks his life descending at high speed
On roads left soft and slick by summer sun;
What is this urge, this all-consuming need
To ride himself into oblivion?
Look at the champion’s bands around his sleeves,
His hollow cheeks, blank stare and lolling tongue:
It’s not about the money: he believes
In all of this – has done since he was young.
Such deep desires are not ours to command.
You have to ask, you’ll never understand.

 

Inspired by yesterday’s brilliant stage win in the Pyrenees by Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). The Frenchman is usually described as ‘plucky’ by commentators: this epic ride, which saw him lead the race over four massive cols, then negotiate a 10-mile hairpinned descent at 50 mph to win alone in Bagneres-de-Luchon, was nothing less than heroic. He’ll take the polka-dot jersey of King of the Mountains to the finish in Paris on Sunday, and it’ll be thoroughly deserved. Chapeau.

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4 thoughts on “Summit

  1. Hi Nick,
    it was a great sight watching the riders go down the steep mountain roads!
    Great sonnet again. I am glad (and so is my butt) that I am not a tour – ist! 🙂 Did you see the blood on that mans hand from getting in the wheel?

    • There were a lot of crashes this year for some reason, and some pretty nasty-looking injuries. Fortunately, there wasn’t anything to compare with your compatriot Johnny Hoogerland’s horrific collision with (first) a France TV car and (then) a barbed-wire fence last year! N.xx

  2. A great sonnet as usual, Nick, capturing the fanatical drive of the human spirit:
    Look at the champion’s bands around his sleeves,
    His hollow cheeks, blank stare and lolling tongue
    ending in an insight that stuns the reader:
    Such deep desires are not ours to command.
    You have to ask, you’ll never understand.
    There is truth here, my friend. Deep truth.

    • Thank you, Tom: I’m very conscious of not wanting to go down the cycling-as-metaphor-for-life road, but one of the (many) things that draws me to the sport is that there’s nowhere to hide on the road. Uniquely, the cyclist is both driver and engine, and while the bike confers mechanical advantage, it will only go as fast as the rider can pedal it. If you’re suffering, everyone can see: I think the fact that cycling can (and should) reveal truth so nakedly is what makes doping such a betrayal.

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