The sport of pro cycling has always maintained a close relationship with banning stuff. Rules have been created, occasionally enforced, and broken, since records began.
We’re talking substances, riders, substances found in riders, and from time to time, technology.
Back in November 2018 the calls for the latest ban came loud, clear, and in French. Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme and UCI President David Lappartient called for an end to power meters during races; the suggestion being that riders race to the numbers on their gadget, which leads them to ride in a conservative, formulaic fashion.
They might have a point.
But I would take it one step further. If we’re in a banning mood, then lets ban everything that needs banning. In one fell swoop.
Firstly, they are a blot on the beauty of our favourite sport. Swedish brand POC rekindled the fashion for massive shades a few years back and they were, and still are, cool.
Minimal stylings, massive yet understated, the perfect fusion of 80’s facial infrastructure and noughties knowing cool.
But it’s gone too far.
The Speedcraft from American brand 100%, for example, or the latest iteration of Oakley Jawbreakers. To wear them here in the UK requires planning permission. You are a cyclist; you are not Boba Fett from Star Wars.
They’re. Too. Big.
Secondly the eyes, as we know, are the window to the soul. Which makes sunglasses the shutters, on the windows, to the soul. And I’m sure we can all agree that sport is better when the participants bare their soul.
Think of a rider with an absolute, stone-cold poker face. Nairo Quintana springs to mind. He appears on our TV screen deep into some high Alpine effort resembling an Easter Island monolith. We have no idea of the physical and mental torment.
Is he crying like a baby? Laughing like a maniac? Is he cross-eyed with exertion?
If we could see his eyes he’d have a personality. But we can’t, so he doesn’t.
The prefix “super-“
Invented by Mark Cavendish back in his HTC heyday, this is now common currency. A bike race is super-hard, some of the riders are super-well-prepared, and the winner is super-happy.
If you ask a rider how they’re doing and they answer “I’m super, thanks,” this is fine. A little goofy, perhaps, but feeling super, thanks, is an acceptable state of affairs,
But if you’re super-happy then surely you’re delighted, or jubilant, or enchanted?
Imagine you’re interviewing Peter Sagan after yet another easy win and he says: “Oh, I’m delighted with my race today, simply enchanted with the way things panned out in the sprint. My teammates will be jubilant”
So much better than: “Awww, y’know…was good…am super-happy with this win.”
Fancy socks, it’s fair to say, are the go-to item of the style conscious but skint cyclist. This is fair enough. Being stylish is a noble aim, and being skint is nothing to be ashamed of.
Fancy socks offer the illusion of style without the price tag. But we need to keep things in perspective.
Socks are essentially sartorial Salbutamol; we don’t need to ban them, perhaps, but they should be a specified substance. Subject to monitoring and control.
Garish, outlandish, creative socks can add a dash of colour and character to an otherwise tedious look. They can also draw attention away from other areas.
Perhaps you’ve worn your bib-shorts through to the bum crack and can’t afford a new pair. Maybe you haven’t shaved your legs since last November and now you’re heading out in the spring sunshine with the fast group.
You need fancy socks to throw them off the scent.
All other times you need white socks. Crisp, clean, and with minimal detail. These are your A-game. Stylish and understated. Nowhere to hide. Like Coppi and Merckx.
All of which brings me to one final thought: If we ban all this stuff, extra space will be created for us to introduce some new stuff. Stuff that would make our favourite sport better.
Early contenders include: An entirely cobbled Grand Tour; interviews, mid-race, live from the peloton; and see-through helmets.
Have I missed anything?