Welcome back to our 2012 Year End Awards. You’ve arrived at Part 2 (of 2). Enjoy.
– Website of the year:
Velominati.com. Or, more specifically, The Rules. This page should get handed out with every road bike sale. My favorite? At the moment, it’s this one:
‘Rule #11: Family does not come first. The bike does. Sean Kelly, being interviewed after the ’84 Amstel Gold Race, spots his wife leaning against his Citroën AX. He interrupts the interview to tell her to get off the paintwork, to which she shrugs, ‘In your life the car comes first, then the bike, then me.’ Instinctively, he snaps back, ‘You got the order wrong. The bike comes first.”
– Realization of the year:
It’s my new recognition that the best manner to consume the sport we love — except for doing it ourselves, of course — is through an underappreciated form of social media. Not Facebook or Twitter. It’s Tumblr.
The classic Tumblr feed to stoke the fires of inspiration is fuckyeahcycling. (Sorry for the potty mouth. My foray into Tumblr suggests to me that the ‘fuckyeah’ meme is common across many areas of interest.)
But a more recent Tumblr feed that leaves me breathless — so breathless, in fact, that we should probably give it Honorable Mention status as cycling website of the year — is ildolore.cc. Don’t get turned off by the moldy oldy 1950’s stuff. There’s gobs of post-Coppi eye candy there. The Il Dolore scanner must be working some major OT.
Honorable Mention for Realization Of The Year is the fact that 50 percent of the magic in modern-day handmade frames comes from what their builders have seen in typography books. But if you spend more than about ten minutes reading one, half the novelty of a handmade vanishes. Crack open one of these books and see the same light-bulb. Brightness!
– Word of the year:
– Trainer fodder of the year:
Yes, this video is in French. But as a non-speaker of the language, it’s almost better that way. Like the sound of wheels banging on cobbles, the honking of Euro car horns, and the thump-thump of helicopter blades, the French conversation is just another rich layer of the audio atmosphere.
Dig on a gangly Bradley Wiggins taking a CX tumble at 1:57. Then dig on a seemingly teenaged Thomas Voeckler — tongue lolling a la Michael Jordan — sprinting to the opening of a pavé secteur later on. Dig on watching a thoroughly shell-shocked Jacky Durand DNF’ing at a feed station. At moments, it’s as though NFL Films was covering the 2002 Paris-Roubaix. This is an absolute Youtube wonder. And at 52 minutes it’s long enough to make an early morning trainer ride fly by at warp speed.
– Poem of the year:
Depending on age and circumstances, one’s ‘golden era’ for being a fan of bike racing is different for each of us. For me, it spanned from Gabriele Colombo’s shocking win at the 1996 Milan-San Remo to the Alpe d’Huez stage of the 2003 Tour de France. It was a mad, mad, mad near-decade.
In 2012 we all learned beyond any shadow of a doubt that this was a period built on lies. Look at seconds 0:16 through 0:35 of the Alpe d’Huez video. Rubiera’s sprint? He’s going up a 12 percent grade, for Heaven’s sake. It was the decade of uphill braking. It was madness. But the heroics of the era inspired me to ride harder and longer and with more fury than at any other time in my life.
It was a timespan, for me, of pure cause and effect: The more I put in — mileage and intervals and suffering, suffering, suffering — the more I got out in terms of punishing my peers, or at least in being punished less by others. Underlying it all was childlike worship of my heroes. Bartoli, Bettini, Musseuw, Tchmil, van Petegem, and so many more.
I was living Velominati Rule #11 back then. So what about now, now that I know it was based on drugs, lies, and intimidation of those who tried to resist? As always, there are consequences. From here forward, the things I believe in, I’ll probably believe less strongly. Inspiration, when I find it, will likely inspire me that much less. Did a part of me die in 2012? No, not exactly. But is part of me less alive? Yes, that’s it.
After the coffin lid closes
over the body,
is sometimes described as noise.
It is not.
It is silence
and the mourners float upon it
like bathtub toys.
– Essay of the year:
The death of the short story fiction has passed unnoticed. But when it comes to the art of the essay, gems aren’t too tough to find. In common places — publications you might otherwise consider tedious or schlocky — you can come across beautiful non-fiction. Brian Hoffman’s decade of fishing reports in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper is an American treasure. Steve Casimiro’s ‘Intros’ in Powder Magazine is more of the same.
I was reminded of this when, like everyone I know, I spent countless days straitjacketed by darkness after the Sandy Hill tragedy. It was a time when thinking brought terror, so thoughts were something I repressed. And then a friend sent me Tom Chiarella’s essay ‘Gus’s Bricks’ from a 1999 issue of Esquire. It’s about Columbine, not Connecticut. No, it didn’t make me feel any less helpless. But in 1,200 perfect words about something I still couldn’t find the courage to lend a single thought to, it brought a welcome dose of unexpected comfort. Perhaps it’ll do the same for you.