Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Blame the Italians

My first bike

People get into bike racing for a variety of reasons, in my case it's all the fault of the Italians.
As a kid I was vaguely aware that bikes existed, but due to the impoverished nature of my childhood I didn't get a bike until my teenage years. Now I didn't come from a family with a cycling history, in fact a lack of cash prevented anyone from having a bike.
Now I knew I wanted a bike, I'd asked for one for Christmas, but there was a general uncertainty about what they looked like. This coupled with the lack of money meant that on December 25th what I actually got was a cardboard box with the word BICYCLE written on the side. The bottom had been cut out and I would climb into it and hang it from my shoulders with string. I would then join my street mates, all with their cardboard box bikes, in running around pretending to be Maurice Garin and making bike noises. Initially this consisted of a lot of crunching sounds, until one kid turned up with a small cardboard box with oil written on the side, after that we were all as silent as the night.
Of course there was always that one family which had a bit more cash than the rest of us, their kids had a cardboard boxes with Colnago written on the side.

As I got older I left the world of cardboard bikes behind, they were never that good in the rain and moved onto other things.
Then in the early 80's I was on a motorbike (not made of cardboard you'll be pleased to learn) crossing the Alps into Italy and where the tree line met the July snow I passed a group of cyclists in matching club kit. I was struck by the image and it was a life changing moment, never before had I considered riding a bike seriously. But here with the breathtaking beauty of the Alps and at an altitude that I thought you'd need oxygen to get to there were cyclists. That you could ride a bike, look cool and have fun this high up in the worlds most beautiful scenery was a revelation. My fate was pretty much sealed after that, no more relaxing holidays in the sun no more surplus in the bank account, oh no, from now on holidays involved 'getting the miles in' and the bank manager wondered at my sanity as I'd spend weekend after weekend racing all over the British Isles or watching obscure races in Belgium, Holland , France or Italy. Now days I spend my weekends coaching and my evening's getting my head around power meters and VO2's. Life was much simplier when I had a cardboard box.

Cardboard has come a long way, I still prefer my original though.

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