Essay: On the Finer Points of Roubaix
(2016) I have a nephew, Chris, who is quite young and exploring the world. He loves manly things such as trains, Transformers, and cars. I recently observed him manipulating a die cast car whilst bringing his face in for an ultra close-up view. It is a purpose-driven inspection reserved for an attention to detail. He accompanies his inspection with the mimicking of the car’s engine. Other times, when it is a Transformer, he does his best to replicate the digital Transformer sound effect. It is enjoyable to watch him explore the fine intracacies of machinery by shifting his perspective to extreme close perception.
Taking a cue from the nephew I took a step inward to imagine what it would be like to be a curious kid again. Let me zoom in to an object, analyze every moving part right down to the tire spinning. I would inspect the moving parts with the utmost observance. How much bounce does my chain have when I hit a bump? How much jiggle do my biceps display when crossing the cobbled sidewalk in Carversville? What does my race face look like? This would be my nephew's perspective.
Day Five of my Roubaix Withdrawal sees me watching GoPro’s beautiful video chronicling last Sunday’s race. Much like my nephew, GoPro provides viewers around the world with a closeup eye to the action. Instead of die cast cars, we inject our fastidiousness toward Spring Classic bikes, aggressive par cours, and encouraging spectators. GoPro helps us enjoy the rumbling in their recent YouTube video.
We ride along with a gaggle of riders who meander through the cobbled secteurs, support vehicles, and fallen riders. The video includes viewpoints from the neutral support bikes, a brief glimpse of frustration from a team car, as well as one of the riders who were taken out by the Cancellara crash. It captures so much unseen experiences of this beautiful and historic race.
As I watch it for the fifteenth time (today) I think about how my nephew might perceive me watching this video. Here I am, again, on the edge of my seat, imagining the rumbling sound of the cobbles, pausing the video to analyze the kit some of the riders possess. The chain wobbling must be around here somewhere. He would probably think I was weird for remarking how many riders' facial expressions are quite different from their fully-paved ride face.
Maybe critics are right about cyclists. Maybe they are a group of people who never grew out of the bike- riding phase and find enjoyment in something that should be explored in the pre-teen years. If that’s true I guess that explains my moving to examine my bike after each ride imagining the roaring European crowds shouting as the peloton negotiates the cobbled stones of Northern Europe. I might not zoom in with bewilderment as he does, but then again, I'm no longer six years old.
*Cover photo is from Manual For Speed. I do not own the rights to it. Special thanks to them for granting permission for its use. Definitely check their work out.