Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mothers, jerseys and books.

Like other Thursday posts, today's offering is a mishmash of sorts, an amalgamation of items that have fallen through the proverbial cracks. But much like the Cheerio that you find under your couch cushions years after you dropped it there, today's post is still good and somewhat crunchy.

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.

Hernan Herron is given a blessing by his mother before a training ride.

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!


  1. if one finds the poignant human interest stories during cycling coverage to be annoying (as i generally do), imagine what will be on offer when the Olympic games hit the viewscreen later this summer.
    while teevee coverage has improved greatly in the u.s., i still find myself jumping up and down in exasperation when the network cuts away for "a word from our sponsors" while the attacks are coming thick and fast in the high mountains during le Tour.

  2. Ha! Welcome to the nightmare that was growing up in the U.S. completely addicted to "soccer". Thank God for Toby Charles and yes, Mario Machado.

  3. (2)An unusually nice jersey from Solo, but "With apologies to international customers, at this time we are able to ship only to addresses within the United States. (Which of course is no reason for you not to plug nice jerseys, but I would imagine that half of your readers reside outside the U.S.)

    (1)Funnily enough: while there is no shortage of errors and misspellings to my English, there are some that native (or almost native) speakers make *but I don't* and they really, really irk me - and you managed two!! in one post!: "son's" for "sons" and "brakes" for "breaks". Pull yourself up, young man!

    (0)I try to visit my old mother who still lives at home about 120 km away. But I have learned not to tell her in advance if I take the bike: she invariably worries herself sick that I'll have a nasty accident and if I'm one minute late, she'll run between the window and the phone, ready to call the police and the hospital...

  4. Anonymous 6.28am,

    I think their non-US site covers other countries, but I could be wrong

    So sorry about those errors, they are horrible ones and you are completely correct. I never realized how terrible I was at noticing little things like that in English until I started this blog. All apologies.

  5. someone should just do a reprint of the damn book. does redell have the rights to it? i'd totally do it.

  6. From what I understand, the publisher hasn't allowed him to do any updates to it, and without that, he doesn't want to do it. I'm guessing they retain rights, which didn't stop Norma (publishing company in Colombia) from reprinting it

  7. You are of course right re: Solo jerseys - and although the Halcón jersey is currently out of the stock, I found one at

  8. I sold my hardcover copy of Kings for $50 on Amazon as I'd found a paperback version for $10 new on clearance (now all gone). I felt bad for charging so much and was surprised as to how the value had gone up - but did post it at the lowest price that was listed there. I think I used the funds for new brake pads and bar tape, so it seemed like a worthy cause.


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