Kiki & Lala

The Rider

Posted on: August 21, 2009

I just finished reading 150 pages of what is consider a cult classic for all the cyclists out there.  For a cyclist wannabe like me it was 150 pages of pure inspiration.  The Rider was written in 1978 by a Dutch, amateur cyclist named Tim Krabbe, who also happens to be a champion chess player and a journalist. Can he make me feel any more inadequate?

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Its a simple yet captivating story about one day, one race, the Tour de Mont Aigoual in the 1970’s.  This a 137 km race that climbs about 500 ft above.  Mont Aigoual, known for its steep climbs and faux plateaus, sometimes features as a stage in the Tour de France.  Check out the terrain that these racers have to suffer through.

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Krabbe gives us a glimpse of what goes through a racer’s mind when struggling to finish (at the very least) or win a grueling tour like this.  He also allows us to witness the gamut of emotions he sifts through as he toils to climb the hills and as he tries not to crash when zooming down the mountain. 

No this isn't him.  This is another rider who recently did the Tour.  And this is how cool I wanna look!

No this isn't him. This is another rider who recently did the Tour. And this is how cool I wanna look!

He writes with a hefty serving of arrogance and moxie which I think every rider must have to be able to conquer the unpredictable conditions in the mountain and the extremely punishing hills that humble you to pieces in a tour. 

The Dutchman: Tim Krabbe

The Dutchman: Tim Krabbe

Cycling is really a test of will, a barometer of how hungry you actually are.  The physical strength and agility is necessary of course but when all of you racers have trained to near death, its all up to your imdomitable spirit to bring home the prize and the honor.  He writes, “People are made up of two parts: a mind and a body. Of the two, the mind, of course, is the rider.” He shows us that racing (like many sports) is really more mental than physical.  “Bicycle racing is a sport of patience.”, he says. Patience that you also need to apply when “licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own.”  Such fighting words… I like!

Krabbe talks incessantly about the joy of pain and suffering while riding. “In interviews with riders that I’ve read and in conversations I’ve had with them, the same thing always comes up: the best part was the suffering.”  Knowing that this pain, this suffering will only make you stronger and a better rider makes you realize that cycling is an appropriate metaphor to life.  In cycling, as in life, you gotta set aside your fear, look at pain from the climbs in the eye and in your best Clint Eastwood game face say BRING IT ON.  And in life as in cycling, you just keep pedaling and don’t give up. 

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2 Responses to "The Rider"

just like sister madonna… making something so physical spiritual – nice!

Yes! And I suppose it helps when you are that intimate with nature…

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