What a bastard.
Marching relentlessly forward without so much as a hey there, humanity, do you actually want machine learning to take over your lives? Safe in the knowledge we’re distracted by free stuff. Producing shiny new things so clever that we can’t help but trip over our own big, dumb shoes to get to them.
There’s plenty of tech in pro cycling. I’m not convinced there’s quite enough to justify an £8,000 price tag on a high-end road bike, but hey. Some people make ‘em, other people buy ‘em, what you gonna do?
My issue with technology in cycling is niche. It’s very specific. There’s a danger it might ruin my favourite sport.
The big, fancy teams (I’m looking at you Ineos, and also you, Jumbo Visma, with your Grand Tour winners and your no-nonsense Dutch-ness) now have their riders log, in great detail, their food intake. They do this during a three-week Grand Tour. They also, of course, gather lots of data during the actual racing; that’s why you see riders so frantically pushing the stop button on their bike computers as they cross the finish line.
Which, by the way, is the ugliest, least romantic way to end a dramatic day out on the ol’ push iron.
The team then calibrate all this combined data, et voila! They know how much a rider must eat at the dinner table that evening, what they should then have for breakfast and, crucially, what and when they should eat during the next stage, based on it’s difficulty, probably intensity, and, should they so wish, the position of the moon in relation to Eddy Merckx’s home town.
In this way they can manage a rider’s weight so that the days of ending each Grand Tour in a state of exercise induced emaciation are consigned to the past. This is a good thing. Emaciation is not a positive body image to promote to the kids.
But here is the niche bit that worries me.
Part of cycling – for me, on a local weekend loop in the Lancashire hills, or for Chris Froome and his pals on one of their massive five Alp suffer-fests – is eating. Taking on board calories. Rice cakes, gels, flapjack; whatever. Eating enough, at the right time, is part of the craft.
Part of the drama of the sport, on our TV, as the finest athletes on the planet go at it, is that we don’t know where they’re at. Energy-wise. Or bonk-wise, you might say.
If each rider is fuelled, optimally, at any given moment, this significant variable is taken out of the equation. Drama and unpredictability is reduced. Another little bit of art, craft, and humanity is removed.
I know this stuff can’t be resisted. You can’t ban calorie counting. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.
The bonk is dead (or, at least, dying). Long live the bonk.