Originally published in Holland in 1978. This is a passionate tribute to the art of bicycle road racing!
Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26th 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from the sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.
Everywhere cars are parked or driving by with antlers of wheels and frames. A few riders are already pedaling around. Smiling, waving. There are a few I don't know. Good riders? Bad riders? You can tell good riders by their faces, bad riders by their faces too - but that only goes for riders you already know.
I pick up my number at a cafe, shake a hand on the way back.
Between the bumper of his car and mine, a rider in a light blue Cycles Goff Jersey is sitting on the curb, deep in thought. Before him on the street lies a back wheel, beside him a wooden box full of sprockets. His gears: he still has to decide which one to use. There are four cols today, no one knows exactly how steep. I do: I've been over the course.
I don't recognise this guy. We mumble greetings, he muses on. Behind my car I put on my riding gear. Racing shirts, sweatshirt, suspenders, jersey. I toss my street clothes onto the back seat, look at the folds they make when they land. They'll stay that way until I put them on again, or until an official gathers them together after I've died in the race.
Leaning against the fender I eat a banana and a sandwich. Starting time is in forty-five minutes. I want to win this race.