Dr. Hutch: water boy

Early in the second week of the Giro, the TV pictures cut to a shot of Ryder Hesjedal, back at the team car, stuffing bottles in every pocket and down the back of his jersey.

This was his new role – the Grand Tour winner and defending champion had lost so much time on the previous stage he’d become a water carrier.

The super-star with eight men’s lunch down his jersey is one of the TV director’s mid-stage money shots, like the horse galloping alongside the peloton, village children dancing round a maypole, and Cadel Evans grinning broadly at the sheer joy of being alive.

There was an outstanding entry in the genre at the Tour last year, when Cav was photographed looking like a World Championships-themed beach ball. If he’d crashed he’d have burst in a giant, sticky explosion. Now that would have been a money shot to remember.

This kind of thing shows how humble even the biggest stars can be when their team needs them. But even more, it shows how profoundly rubbish a racing bike is as a means of carrying anything other than a cyclist. Cav would hardly have looked more ludicrous if he’d been wearing a bow tie and carrying the drinks on a tray.

Sky riders are no longer allowed to put bottles down their jerseys. This is in case they stretch their lovely Rapha kit.

We ought to be clear; there are rules for the carrying of luggage. For instance, unless you’re collecting refreshments from the team car, you may never carry anything down your jersey, except a newspaper, and even then, only when riding downhill. Where might one get the paper from, you ask? Just like a pro, you snatch it from someone standing by the side of the road. Perhaps at a bus stop. Try it on your commute.

You may not overstuff your pockets. It was easier for riders to get this right in the 1950s when the jersey pockets were on the chest. More than half-a-dozen wine gums, and they started to swing like mighty pendulous breasts. There is a theory that Fausto Coppi won his first Giro d’Italia by stuffing his pockets and distracting good Catholic boy Gino Bartali with his cleavage.

Pack light
Your pockets may contain the following: two gels, or one gel and one energy bar. Another form of food, like perhaps a banana, but only if the banana is small enough that it doesn’t stick out. You should carry nothing wrapped in tin-foil, unless you’re over the age of 50, or Irish.

Your pockets may also contain a rain jacket, but only if it is already at least drizzling. You may only take it out and put it on when the rain is bouncing to at least axle height. When you have finished with it you must not put it back in your pocket, but give it to a team-mate to take back to the car for you.

This applies especially if you’re just out for a casual ride with a friend. Try it. Bet you he takes it before he remembers he’s not Kanstantsin Siutsou.

Your pockets may, under no circumstances, contain a pump, inner tubes, Allen keys, zip ties, or anything that properly belongs in a toolbox. These create unsightly lumps in your pockets, and shriek ‘amateur’ like a soggy rolled up rain jacket. You may place such items in a saddlepack, but only (and I can’t emphasise this enough) if you have both a beard and mudguards. Otherwise, you’ll have to leave them in little caches around your favourite training routes.

Incidentally, this is why Bradley Wiggins keeps chucking broken bikes about the place angrily. He can’t remember which lamppost he hid his spare inner tubes under.

Acts of cycling stupidity
An email from Kev Spedding arrives:

Not really a funny story, Doc, but I was out riding recently when I overtook two guys on what looked like newish bikes. They were both a bit amateurish-looking – knees sticking out, saddles a bit low – so I assumed they were beginners. As I breezed past, just going at a nice steady clip, I said ‘hello’. There was no response.

A few hundred yards further on, they came huffing past. ‘You do that again,’ puffed one of them, ‘and we’ll f**king drop you. Got it?’

I have the feeling they didn’t intend the word ‘drop’ as in ‘Nibali has dropped Evans on the climb’. Is cycling getting a bit too popular, I wondered?

Kev – too popular? Not a bit of it. I hope you gave these charming neophytes a cheery wheelman’s greeting, and encouraged them to share the road. But not nearly as much as I hope they live a long, long way away from me.

Great inventions of cycling – 1820s Photography
Photography is yet another very complicated thing that was invented before the altogether simpler bicycle.

Like the bicycle it’s a bit hard to pin down exactly who invented it. Unless you’re French, in which case it was the work of Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre (the French are equally sniffy about the fact that the British think the bicycle was invented in Scotland).

Cycling was just made for photography. Out on the roads, far from most spectators, and in the days before TV, dramatic photographs communicated the drama, the suffering and the sheer beauty of cycling.

Then, back at home, over the morning newspaper, armchair fans could criticise to their hearts’ content everything from gear ratio selection to facial expression, without an all-knowing TV commentator to tell them they were wrong when they tweeted their observations.

No one invention has proved more lucrative for the cycle industry than the photograph. At first, it just showed what the pros were using. But it moved into its own when it started showing amateur riders exactly what they looked like. ‘Ye gods,’ cried the amateurs almost as one, ‘I look terrible! I must immediately buy a more expensive bike. That will solve the problem.’

Alas, the problem was not solved by a new bike. Nor new kit. Nor even by going to have the photographs taken on a lovely holiday in the Alps. But the photographs kept coming. And the kit kept selling.

Ironically, the photographs usually came up quite pricy as well.

This article was first published in the May 30 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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