I have a habit of talking cycling.
While my wife is engaging me in some very necessary debate about our mortgage payments, our children’s education, or some other important impending domestic deadline, I find myself listening for a gap in the conversation so I can rekindle the debate around Richie Porte’s two minute time penalty in the Giro d’Italia, or get all deep and meaningful about Campagnolo.
I hear myself doing it, and berate myself for trivialising some important discussion by bringing up cycling – I’m not completely lacking in self-awareness, after all – but then conclude that, well, since we’re on the subject…
I also do it with friends, although I’ve learnt through trial and error to stop bothering those with no interest in cycling (poor souls…) with whom it’s a conversational cul-de-sac. So those who I know are (at least vaguely) cycling fans get both barrels.
You see, here in the UK if you’re a football fan, for example, you have ample opportunity to discuss your favourite topic, along with reading about it, watching it, and listening to other people talk about. I often think that ‘surely everything’s been said now, when it comes to football, and can’t we just have a couple of weeks off?’
The problem is that football is the medium through which much of the male population of this country express themselves – heaven forbid we should have to have an open and honest conversation about something without the safety net of twenty-two men running around a pitch and swearing at each other.
(Perish the thought!)
But cycling, although more popular than ever, is still a long way from mainstream.
Most of my workmates don’t want to hear my theory about how Brian Cookson is playing the long game in the fight against doping, and if someone down the pub buys me a beer, it’s probably on the basis that I’ll stop trying to explain the tactical failings of Ettix Quick-Step in the one-day classics.
For some incomprehensible reason, these people don’t want to know!
So for all of us cycling fans these bike related thoughts build up inside until they have nowhere else to go, and inevitably they come gushing out all over the nearest person who shows even the vaguest flicker of interest in the sport.
Many people I know have clearly stopped bringing the topic up in my company for fear of finding themselves on the receiving end of a barrage of half formed opinions about Peter Sagan’s recent return to form, and what is most easily referred to as ‘the Astana situation’.
Luckily I do have some friends who, like me, find the general topic of real life stressful, complicated, and sometimes a bit dull, and would much rather see the world through the prism of a slightly archaic, morally questionable, and ultimately pointless professional sport.
Which, thinking about it, brings us neatly back to football.