Friday, March 1, 2013

First Friday Writings for Randos - Character

{First* Friday Writings for Randos - A monthly post that features pieces from other writers that touch some facet of the Randonneuring experience, even if that was not the author's intent. It's stuff that's best read out loud - slowly.} This month it's an excerpt from:
The Rider
by Tim Krabbe

If only I'd come down with a puncture. How often, fighting away in a long beaten peloton that nonetheless lay down a hellish tempo I could barely follow, have I longed for a flat tire? A puncture, permission from beyond to stop the dying.

For years, something kept me from talking to other riders about that longing, but when I did it turned out that they all knew the feeling. A lot of praying goes on in the peloton, especially to God and to Linda. Please let me get a puncture. But the speed of prayer has its limits, so the rider occasionally resorts to more drastic measures. He pounds his wheels through potholes, through gravel, searches for sharp rocks and, perchance, when he has a race to ride but no morale, he'll even mount a carefully selected tube that's ready to blow.

There are riders with glasses who treat rain as a puncture. Punctures take the weirdest forms. Some riders who have to do without glasses consider a snapped brake cable to be a puncture, or the witnessing of more than two crashes.
. . .

But when no heed is given to your longing for a puncture, there's nothing left but to suffer. Suffering is an art. Like the downhills, it's a non-athletic art in which the the great champions nevertheless outstrip all amateurs. On all seven of my climbs of Mount Ventoux, I arrived at the top feeling fresh. Gaul had to take an ambulance to his hotel, and when Merckx won there in 1970 he collapsed and had to be put in an oxygen tent. Jan Janssen: now there was a man who knew how to hit bottom! He'd sink his teeth into the wheel in front of him and grind until everything went black. He gnashed his way across the mountains, and sometimes after a stage he would fall, against the crush barrier, unable to speak a word for the next ten minutes. Character.

 *Some of you regular readers may have noticed the change in title. This part of my blog is going to be posted monthly instead of weekly. At least for now.


  1. Excellent to find this excerpt here, the book is on my list of future reads. I look forward to your Friday posts, but can hardly imagine the work, attention, energy and focus to keep them up week after week. So now I will happily look forward to monthly posts.

    1. Suze,

      Thank you, and many others, who have checked in on a weekly basis to read the sometimes tangential selections that have made up this series. It has been a labor of love (and a bit self indulgent as I get to basically say read this thing because I like it). And in the looking I have found so much to like (Mary Oliver for one). But in the end, you are right, it takes time an energy and while it is worth both, I don't want to force it just to make a deadline. So I will read and dog ear pages and share passages, because good writing may be a solitary creation but it is a communal experience.

  2. I'd like to know more about these carefully selected tubes.

    1. So would I. My tubes seem to do the opposite of what I want.