Dr. Hutch: sportive sabotage

The Doc bemoans the banality of sportive saboteurs then changes tack to suggest more successful strategies

In case you missed it, there was another incident of sportive sabotage in the New Forest the weekend before last.

Can you guess what the centrepiece was? Bet you can’t. It was drawing pins on the road. Oh, the originality! The imagination! The sparkling wit! Surely the invention of a special mind, one so incisive that it could see through the ‘entertainment’ front of all those Road Runner cartoons and realise they were an anarchist documentary.

This kind of thing makes me want to bang my head on a desk in despair of humanity. In the whole history of cycling sabotage, tacks on the road account for approximately 100 per cent of incidents. I’m quite certain that every single perpetrator thought it was a bit of innovative brilliance, from the 1905 Tour de France (125kg of nails between Paris and Nancy on stage one) to the Etape Caledonia (twice) and back to the Tour last year, via every prick in-between.

If only the saboteurs knew a tenth of the truth of even an unadulterated road. The grit, the flints, the potholes that can swallow a wheel, the ruts that can snatch your bike from below you.

The van drivers whose whole hate-filled psyche rests on a hair trigger of rage, or the golden-retriever-brained lorry drivers who assume that as soon as they can no longer see something it has ceased to exist. If they knew about these things, they would realise that mere drawing pins will shrivel under our contempt.I want to start a campaign for better sabotage.

A sort of ‘Change Sabotage Now.’ I want to see fresh thinking, and new forms of disruption, ones that treat us with more respect as opposition.The objective of the saboteurs is simple. They want to stop cyclists. How best to accomplish this?

Let us think for a moment about the psychology of a bike rider. There are any number of stunts that stop them more effectively than a puncture.

Bradley tricked
The most obvious quick and easy starting point would be a large sign by the roadside that says, ‘Bradley Wiggins signing copies of his new book here today, 50 per cent discount.’ An arrow points up a farm track. At the end of the track, a small tent, and a notice saying, ‘Please queue this way – Brad will be here very soon!’ The thought of meeting Wiggins, combined with a chance to save money, will keep most riders standing placidly in a field all day.

Any cyclist who slips through that net because they don’t care for personal interactions and love spending can quite certainly be halted in their tracks by a second sign a little further on that says, ‘Test ride the new Cervélo P6 here today.’

If they want to chase bike riders clear out of the county, though, something more dramatic is needed. Humiliation is the currency here. The most painful humiliation for a cyclist is being bested by a faster rider. It’s worse if the faster rider isn’t ‘one of us’, that’s to say, someone wearing proper shoes. It’s worst of all if it’s a local youth on a crappy mountain bike, especially one with a bit of repartee about him.

If the New Forest commoners really want to see the back of us, there are any number of unemployed former pro-team medical staff available who can help them with a doping programme for anyone under 16 found hanging around a bus shelter of an evening. EPO for aerobic speed, testosterone for aggression, and maybe some cognitive-enhancement drugs to help sharpen up the dismal quality of most youths’ badinage.

As a side benefit, the Mothers’ Union will be delighted that people have stopped stealing the drawing pins off their notice board in the local village hall. Even if they still hate bike riders on sight.

Acts of cycling stupidity

Several years ago I did a four-up team time trial. I hate team time trials. This one was as hateful as any other, with the added stress that after about a mile I noticed that the quick-release on one of my team-mates’ back wheels was not done up. The lever was flapping about over every bump. The wheel might fall out at any moment.

The others, apart from him, noticed it too. We exchanged concerned glances. And in an attempt to preserve ourselves, we started to cut into third position in the string when we changed, rather than go to the back. Afterwards the man with the open quick-release laughed at our concern, and explained that the lever had broken the previous day and he’d had to modify it to close with a spanner instead. “Mind you,” he said, “maybe there’s something more to it. That was the easiest race I’ve ever done.”

Cycling greats Alfredo Binda (1902-1986)

Alfredo Binda is probably the greatest cyclist you’ve never heard of, unless you’re Italian. In Italy he’s still a star, 90 years on. In a spectacular career spanning the 1920s and early 30s, he was professional world champion three times (including the first ever championship), and won both Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Lombardy on multiple occasions.

He was an excellent time triallist, a superlative climber, and held world records for 10, 20 and 50km on the track. The only thing missing from his palmarès was the World Hour record, though it wasn’t for want of trying.

He won the Giro d’Italia five times, collecting 41 stages along the way, and was so dominant that in 1930 the organisers paid him 22,000 lira, the equivalent of the first prize to stay away as far as possible from their race to give someone else a chance.

On the other hand, the Tour de France, in the same year, paid him its first ever appearance fee, something he only admitted in 1980. He rode a handful of stages, of which he won two, trousered his fee, and went home.

As if all that wasn’t irritating enough, he was handsome, charismatic, and massively popular. He’s an excellent answer to the pub question, ‘Who’s the greatest of all time?’ because firstly everyone will have to listen respectfully while you tell them about him, and secondly, he quite probably was.

This article was first published in the April 25 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

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