Friday, December 20, 2013

Allez, pou-pou!


In the cult classic, The Rider, by Tim Krabbe´, the author describes spectators along the side of the road, shouting encouragement to the cyclists in a race. "Allez, pou-pou!" they say as the riders pass by.

Pou-pou is a nickname for Raymond Poulidor, a French cyclist in the 1960s who perpetually came in second in the Tour de France to an unpopular Jacques Anquetil. I suppose the spectators were calling out the name of any cyclist they knew, and Poulidor was one of the famous ones of the day. Or maybe Krabbe´ was dreaming what they said. He dreamed up a lot of things on that ride. The whole book, beautiful as it might be, is something of a hallucination, since it is the closest thing I've ever read that describes what goes on inside a racer's head in the middle of a long competition. In any case, I like the way the exhortation sounds. So...French. Fancy scarves and skinny baguettes, all wrapped up in the sort of funny, lilting endearment you might say to a child.

Allez, pou-pou!

Krabbe´ also recounts this story, during one of the moments when he isn't dreaming: The 1956 Giro d'Italia was so cold that rider Wout Wagtmans climbed off his bike in the middle of the race, went into a cafe´ and stuck his feet, shoes and all, into a bucket of hot water.

I thought about both of these things while I was out riding today, bundled up against the cold and damp. I wore toe warmers on my Sidis, but even so, I could imagine myself finding a warm cafe´ and asking for a bucket of hot water.

I could have stayed inside, I suppose, and ridden on the trainer. But besides finding the trainer mostly a bore, I felt I needed to test myself against the elements. In part, I'm preparing for doing another Bike Garden Challenge in 2014. No trainer miles will count, so I might as well start toughening up right now. Foul weather shall not stay my rounds.

The temperature today was in the mid-thirties, the wind a gentle, but chilling 10 miles per hour from the north. My feet were numb under the toe covers.

"Allez, pou-pou!" I whispered behind my balaclava, because on my bicycle, I am still a child. "Allez."

The Bike Garden Challenge is just around the corner. Get your checkbooks ready.

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