Kriterium "Rund um den Matznerpark" 1962.

Who is first? Who is last?

Look up, and look around you. What do you see? Who are these people next to you? Who are you sharing the road with?

You see Puncheurs – powerhouses that attack and surge ahead on the short, very steep hills and ramps of the rolling terrain. We don’t do that. We can follow the puncheurs wheel, but we soon run out of steam and need to shift into a lighter gear. Make up the lost ground on the decent, or in tedious work in the flat. We are not puncheurs. But then, what are we – you and us? Grimpeurs, small and wiry climbers that get out of the saddle and dance up the long hills and mountains in the big ring? No. We shift into the small ring when a mountain approaches. We do not attack when the road is pointing up. We dig in, and grind away. We swallow the road, meter by meter, suck it through our teeth, slowly inching closer to the top. We are not grimpeurs.
What is clearly not for us is the dangerous business of the Sprinteurs, the most confusing of bike riders. They just sit in the peloton and wait, for hours on end, and when their time has come, their work is done in a few seconds. We are no sprinteurs, we lack the patience.
Then what is left for us? The flat and rolling roads, the unchanging terrain, the chore of dragging along for hours on end. The territory of the Rouleur.

So we are rouleurs, then – but slow ones. Lent. Which is fine. Because a slow rouleur is the closest thing to the perfect rider. They are slow in every terrain, in every circumstance. Being slow – always slow – is being consistent. And consistency is the key to success as a bicycle rider.

Slow rouleurs always come in last. And in a bike race, only two things matter: Who comes in first, and who comes in last.


(Image: Kriterium “Rund um den Matznerpark” 1962, from Otto Vesely’s austrian cycling sport archive.)

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