My father once said to me that he wanted Sean Kelly’s knees. I told him they wouldn’t be much good without the rest of Sean Kelly attached to them. We can marvel at the feats of the professionals, but when does our admiration turn into that most unattractive trait – envy?
Cycling, like most sport, is built upon envy. We envy the athletes their superb bodies, their dedication, their equipment, their training camps in Majorca. We all wish we were younger, fitter, more committed. Though naturally we don’t want to make any sacrifices to get there. Give up ice-cream? Ridiculous!
Because this whole subject is rather sensitive, our envy of the riders’ abilities becomes transmuted into envy of their bikes. The bikes of the peloton, like these lovely Bianchis, are symbols of the superiority of pro riders. Yes, in theory you can go out and buy one tomorrow if you have enough money. But in reality it will never be a pro bike, with all those special little details like prototype components and your name on the top tube, and your bike will never be as shiny as a pro bike, no matter how much you polish it.
As you loiter around a team car before a stage, eyeing up a rack full of glittering carbon, have a look at the seat posts and handlebar stems. Look at the positions the riders have their machines set to, and think about riding 200km in a position like that. You might be feeling envy now, but if a mechanic were to hand you one of those bikes and tell you to ride the stage, you’ll soon be feeling something much worse than envy – back pain.
Photo by Marshall Kappel