"Her heart breaks as she sees him struggle through countless hardships during the Vuelta"
American cycling fans are quick to point out how much they detest the commentary and reporting that is readily available to them during major races. Part of what inspires fury in some are the rider profiles and human interest stories that sometimes take away from live race coverage in the United States. With this in mind, it's interesting to see that fairly similar content was written in Colombia during the very first Vuelta a Colombia in 1951.
At the time, few of the country's citizens were aware of regions other than their own. Colombia's rugged topography made travel dangerous, if not impossible in many cases. It's for this reason that the Vuelta helped shape both national and regional identities, as well as teaching many citizens basic geography. This being Colombia, however, coverage of a bike race would not be complete without a short article about riders and their mothers on the front page of the nation's biggest newspaper.
Forero and Gil's Mothers Follow their Sons at Work During the Race
Saturday, January 6th, 1951 | El Tiempo newspaper
A clear sign of the immense enthusiasm that the Vuelta a Colombia has brought about, is the fact that behind the race, doing what they can (and trying to do what they can't), are the rider's mothers. They want to be close to their sons, and want to see every bit of the race.
The mothers of Efrain Forero, and Pedro Nel Gil travel in the backs of open-deck trucks, suffering every possible hardship. Forero's mother is at least a bit lucky, in that she travels in a truck that belongs to a soda bottler. But Gil's mother, who is all heart, has had no other recourse but to travel on the back of the open-deck truck that carries bike parts, and luggage. But she's happy to travel this way, knowing that up ahead is her son, the one who has her very own blood flowing through him. The one on whose behalf she so badly wants to intervene during difficult moments in the race. Her heart breaks as she sees him struggle through countless hardships during the Vuelta.
Of course, for those riders who didn't have their mothers with them at the Vuelta a Colombia, there was always a loving proxy standing nearby.
2. It's an unspoken rule
Not long ago, I found myself watching a race with a friend who knows nothing about cycling. He asked why riders didn't attack while others ate. "It's an unspoken rule, part of tradition, that you don't do that", I said. He then asked why they didn't attack ("go faster" as he put it) when another rider had a mechanical. "It's an unspoken rule, part of tradition, that you shouldn't really do that." Most of his questions that day were answered in the same fashion. Finally, he turned to me and said, "So this sport is so obsessed with tradition, and history, but they ride on bikes that are basically plastic, with computers measuring their power, and while wearing clothing that's made of fabrics and colors that don't exist in nature?" He had a point. At the professional level, cycling is a balancing act between the new, and the old (though the new tends to win).
Not long ago, I received something in the mail that made me think of this balance, a jersey from Solo.
While I don't normally mention such things, the jersey got my attention because of its obvious nod to both Colombian cycling, and its place in history. Because of this, and the rather simple styling (note the upside down triangle, a visual reference to the Varta jersey) I thought some of you might enjoy it. Modern fabric and production methods, with an eye on the past.
The sizing is on par with other companies (so you shouldn't have to size up or down), and the jersey has a nice woven collar and armbands. For those who find high collars to be annoying when fully zipped up, it's worth mentioning that the collar on this jersey is a bit lower and won't rub against your chin. The colors are bright, and the construction is very nicely done, with the interior of the fabric being soft and almost flocked.
If you are interested in buying one of their jerseys (I'm now going to sound like an infomercial), use code GILET50 to get a 50% discount on one of their vests (and no, I'm not being paid to tell you about this). Don't let it be said that your friends at Cycling Inquisition never helped you get a bro deal!
3. Kings Of The Mountains
Speaking of savings, from the first time that I mentioned Matt Rendell's book "Kings of the Mountains: How Colombia's Cycling Heroes Changed Their Nation's History", I've had readers ask me where they can buy a copy. The book has been out of print for a while, and copies of it come up on eBay for as much as $150, and sell for that price. (UPDATE: $530 is not unheard of either).
While I think the book is absolutely amazing, I fully understand not wanting to pay that much for it (particularly when you consider that Matt won't be seeing any of that money). So from now on, whenever I see copies of the book at an affordable price, I'll make an effort to mention those listings here on the blog.
I have nothing to do with the companies that these links will take you to. I merely mention them for those who might be interested in buying a copy of the book at a normal price (which based on emails I've received, is a good few of you). Prices are listed in US Dollars.
Bookbyte, for $36
Barnes and Noble, $29 and $34
eBay (UK Listing) $34
Lastly, please note that a new episode of my brother's podcast is up. It features (among others) a very special guest: me!