Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hemingway gets his velo on

I'm reading Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" right now. It's about the years that he spent living and writing in Paris during the 1920s. Just read a section about his love for bike racing, and it was so interesting that I'm actually going to sit here and transcribe part of it for you...

I have started many stories about bicycle racing but have never written one that is as good as the races are both on the indoor and outdoor tracks and on the roads. But I will get the Velodrome d'Hiver with the smoky light of the afternoon and the high-banked wooden track and the whirring sound the tires made on the wood as the riders passed, the effort and the tactics as the riders climbed and plunged, each one a part of his machine; I will get the magic of the demi-fond, the noise of the motors with their rollers set out behind them that the entraineurs rode, wearing their heavy crash helmets and leaning backward in their ponderous leather suits, to shelter the riders who followed them from the air resistance, the riders in their lighter crash helmets bent low over their handlebars their legs turning the huge gear sprockets and the small front wheels touching the roller behind the machine that gave them shelter to ride in, and the duels that were more exciting than anything, the put-puting of the motorcycles and the riders elbow to elbow and wheel to wheel up and down and around at deadly speed until one man could not hold the pace and broke away and the solid wall of air that he had been sheltered against hit him.

There were so many kinds of racing. The straight sprints raced in heats or in match races where the two riders would balance for long seconds on their machines for the advantage of making the other rider take the lead and then the slow circling and the final plunge into the driving purity of speed...

There's another part where he describes a famous rider nicknamed "The Sioux" who would "suck up cherry brandy from a rubber tube that connected with a hot water bottle under his shirt when he needed it near the end as he increased his savage speed..."

I guess they weren't too worried about riders using performance enhancing substances back in those days.

Very good book.

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