pro cycling real life cycling

Big cyclists and bags of sugar

Andre Greipel

As my fellow blogger Sur la Jante pointed out recently, as I mused on the massive physique of German sprinter Andre Greipel, big cyclists only look big next to other cyclists. This is especially true when the other cyclists are skinny climbers; essentially sixty-odd kilos of bone and sinew, with some highly developed muscles in some very specific paces.

When that ‘hulking beast’ Greipel stands next to a normal sized human he looks like, well…a normal sized human. A little small, even.

Recent pictures of Bradley Wiggins at the Tour of California demonstrate that same phenomenon. Having bulked up to race on the track for the Olympics he now looks like a big lad on a bike, despite weighing a fairly average amount for a man of his height. It’s enough, of course, to rule him out of any kind of challenge in California – he insists he’s just there to top his tan, anyway.

Embed from Getty Images

As he explained: “Twelve kilos is a lot to be carrying around. It’s like a carrying a small baby on your back.”

I, for one, would pay good money to watch a dads ‘n’ lads version of the Tour of California, featuring many of the world’s top pro-cyclists ferrying their offspring around the sweeping landscape of California; with kids hanging from bike seats, napping in bike trailers, and pestering riders with endless “…why?” questions.

I wonder how the team mechanics would feel about the nappy changes?

Measuring extra poundage in units of ‘baby’ is one way of doing it, but personally I prefer the time-honored measuring method of ‘bags of sugar’.

Andre Greipel
Andre Greipel: a big guy…for a cyclist (Image: via Wikimedia)

I’m a fairly average weight for a semi-serious cyclist who enjoys both riding a bike quickly and eating things containing lots of butter. I would like to be a few kilos lighter but I find it tricky to turn down a bottle of wine on a Friday night and a massive plate of bacon and eggs on a Saturday morning.

What can I say? In the final analysis wine and fatty food taste better than Strava KOM’s feel.

The trade-off here is that, when I go for a ride with certain friends of mine who strike the balance between body weight and pleasure slightly differently to me, the road heads upwards and I slide backwards.

It’s all very well to say things like: “I’m a good climber for my weight”, but that’s just another way of saying, “I’m a rubbish climber”. Being a good climber, by its very nature, means denial and weight loss. It’s a bit like saying: “well, if it wasn’t for the fact that I can’t help shoving cake into my mouth and also my fundamental lack of talent, I would be a really good climber. It’s not my fault…”

So, when the aforementioned skinny cycling friend accelerates away on the uphill bits I find myself thinking: “how many bags of sugar would I need to slip into his jersey pocket to level the playing field?”

About five, for the record.

Definitely more practical than slipping a small baby into his jersey pocket.

10 comments on “Big cyclists and bags of sugar

  1. It is funny how Greipel looks bulky and muscly when surrounded by all the other pro cyclists, even the other bigger sprinters, but in “real life” he would be average (although a very lean average) weight. He must be what, 70 or 75kg tops? But obviously very little of that weight is body fat! This year I am going to kick into Operation Hill Whippet, as long as I can still fuel that using coffee and cakes…

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s right – Kittel is the same, in real life he’s not the brute he appears. Lemme know how you get on with being a hill whippet!


  2. biking2work

    12kg is a big “small baby” in my world. In fact at that weight they’re nearly ready to walk (or ride a bike…)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In the end there’s only one choice for climbing – lose weight (as much as realistic); Over the last 18 months I’ve lost 22kgs and am now 74 kgs for 1m89cm – I sure as hell am going up the 12% sections of the local cols better on a 34×25!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are right about Greipel. When I went to the TDU a couple of years back, all the riders would come out for dinner on the main strip in Adelaide. I had to do a double take when I saw the Gorilla’s signature smile because he looked… small. Guess he was always going to be small standing next to all of my 88kg.


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