The Smell of the Peleton

Saw a delightful piece earlier this week in Velonews about the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen, a Belgian cycling museum. The author, Jed Schneider, a young American racing in Belgium this season, described with some delight and relish and difficulty of explaining bike racing to those unfamiliar with the sport. He tipped his hat to John Nash and game theory (when was the last time you saw Nash on your sports page) and the power of the draft. And the smell:

So, yes, bicycle racing is an experience. I don’t know how much the average European knows about the intricacies of racing strategy. But, when your car gets pulled over by a motorcycle cop and a group of 200 racers comes screaming by your car lined out one-by-one so fast all you see is blurred color and hear the breath, and humming of wheels, and smell the repugnant odor of riders “on-form,” at the same time praying that your Mercedes comes out with no dents and a drivers side mirror; well I bet that is an experience.

I realized I’d read something of his earlier in the year, a vivid explanation of the problems of being far back in the peleton when it slows down for a tight turn. I loved it, and kept repeating my explanation to riding buddies as we’d go through the left-right-soft-S curve along the bike path under the freeway.

I tracked down his email address and wrote him a note saying how much I appreciated the piece. He wrote back, saying when he was in town in the fall we must go riding. Turns out he’s from here. Nancy, one of my bike riding buddies, remembered him from when he was a teen tyke winning the mountain bike races. Small word.

We definitely must ride.