Go ahead, call me a Mamil if you want to, for sure I’m a middle-aged man, and I can often be seen riding my bike while wearing lycra. Then again, my deluded inner-self likes to think I’m a little bit different to your average Mamil – if such a mythological beast even exists. I didn’t take up the bike as a substitute for golf, or to avert a mid-life crisis, or because I was recently inspired by British Olympic cycling success, or the exploits of Wiggo, the Manx Missile, the (ahem, #cough#) “Froome Dog” et al. Neither was I impressed by the seemingly impossible acutely implausible superhuman exploits of a certain sociopathic Texan megalomaniac.
I’ve been following cycling since I was a spry teenager, back in the days when Wonderloaf and Sutherland’s Spread was haute cuisine and Eddy Merckx was achieving god-like status stomping on everything and everyone. And while I haven’t always been an active cyclist, I’ve always followed the sport and I’m still hugely indebted to those unfathomably old (well, it seemed so at the time) super-hard clubmen, steeped in the traditions of British Cycling who not only kept me hugely entertained but took a callow youth under their wing and helped shape me as a rider and perhaps as a person as well.
My boyhood heroes and idols were Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck, Francesco Moser and Giovanni Battaglin, José Manuel Fuente and most especially the greatest climber of all time, bar none: Lucien Van Impe.
Anyway, I’ve had grown men who should know better confess that they live for the weekend club run and I thought this unique British institution was something that needed celebrating. So, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphors, hopefully this blog will do what it says on the tin, lift the lid on the gloriously colourful, arcane practices, unique characters, great camaraderie and bizarre banter that makes a cycling club so entertaining and engaging. Who knows I may yet inspire a new host of Van Impe fans, or encourage the odd (nothing wrong with odd) casual cyclist to saddle up and join their local club. Somewhere along the way we may even get to address some of cycling’s greatest conundrums, such as exactly how do you clip into a clipless pedal?
… Oh, the name – sur la jante was taken from a lexicon of some of the more obscure cycling terms compiled on the rather wonderful Inner Ring blog http://inrng.com/2014/07/le-jargon-cycliste/ The full phrase is finir sur la jante, to finish on the rim as if you’ve punctured and have to ride slowly – which seems to adequately sum up my efforts in the weekly club sprint to the café.