1986 vs. 2009: Let’s talk about information access for an American in love with Euro bike racing. Back then VeloNews had the aesthetic & the journalistic qualities of The Thrify Nickel. Fresh in your mailbox every 2 weeks was ancient history. Looking for timely Spring Classic or Grand Tour top-10 results? You had to call a 1-900 number or buy the national edition of New York Times. And Winning, while glossier & more attractive, was overly pre-disposed to domestic teams. Coors Light, Crest, Lowenbrau, Schwinn-Icy Hot -- those words don’t signify mass market brands. Rather, as they trip across the tongue, they evoke sensory-triggered memories of my youth as arousing as the scent Calvin Klein Obsession. If you didn’t live through the media embargo of the 80’s, especially now in the era of pros blogging about the importance of their pre-race dump or tweeting Flip videos of a post-race team meal -- if you didn’t live through it, it’s near-impossible to appreciate it.
To live as a cyclist in 1986 was to see how fully black the darkness was, which is why the two articles shown below were so monumental. To get mainstream treatment of something so loved, yet so obscure -- it was pornographic in the full flower of the word. I was 16 and my inexperience was matched only by my eagerness to learn and by the difficulty to procure said porn. The ecstasy it triggered was something hard-wired and hormonal, as only a 16-year old feels it.
The circa-1986 Rolling Stone story about Greg Lemond is written by Trip Gabriel. His writing career eventually turned into an editing career, culminating in his position as Style Editor of the New York Times a few years back. His tenure at the Times was the final widely-read celebration of celebrity glamour predicated on taste & respect, before the concepts got gutted by TMZ and Gawker. Gabriel’s skills shine in this article.
The circa-1988 National Geographic piece about the Tour de France was penned by Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle, twice winner of Paris-Roubaix, and father of current pro Hervé Duclos-Lasalle. The text is brief, but instructive for an aspring young bike racer: On race day, no matter the pace, never let the strain show. And the photos lived up to the lofty standards of National Geographic. The face of Dag Otto-Lauritzen is picture-perfect suffering. And check out the charred legs of Lucho Herrera and his Café de Colombia teammates. After seeing that photo back in ’88, I stopped at my local grocery store to buy tanning oil (not to be mistaken with sunscreen) in an attempt to similarly sear my legs black on that day’s 4-hour, 100-degree ride.
It was a heroic time for reasons that 2009 can’t be the same. Enjoy these articles. Save them, forward them, print them, treasure them for the intoxicating period pieces they are.