Not So Fast, Mr. Coppi
“Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.” – Fausto Coppi
In sports, and perhaps life in general, the young have the advantage of strength and stamina, while those more advanced in years have the advantage of experience and wisdom. Unfortunately, coming into cycling late in life has given me neither.
Ironically, the advantages I do have are the result of a somewhat sedentary and misspent youth largely devoted to less than virtuous excesses. While those who have dedicated themselves to athletic pursuits from an early age are often plagued with chronically bad knees, backs, and ankles, I suffer only from a slightly shrivelled liver, and sadly diminished ability to skip the lineup at a dance club.
But unfortunately, us old folks heal slowly. When I tore my UCL last fall, I underwent weeks of physio after spending a month in a cast. When I expressed some frustration at my apparent lack of progress, I was reminded “you’re not 20 anymore, we older folks take longer to heal.” The old doctor was lucky to get out of the room with his testicles intact. That injury, I assure you, would have taken a very long time to heal as well.
As far as wisdom or treachery go, this will most certainly be a learning year for me as I try to decipher the mysterious and terrifying world of race tactics. Much will be learned as I watch people ride away from me while trying to keep my lunch off my handlebars. There will most certainly be defeats, but there will be victories too. Those victories might not entail prizes or podium girls, but they will be glorious nonetheless, like the first time you figured out how to ride with no hands.
In my opinion, treachery is a skill that comes not only from experience, but also from your guts. I’ve been told that to be a successful road racer you have to have a thick skin, something in the past year or two I have started to earn in both the metaphoric and literal sense. But I have a long way to go before I am the Lady MacBeth of bike racing.
Starting something new at a point in your life when you otherwise have your shit together can be very humbling. It forces you to listen, watch and learn – skills that may be as rusty as your crimping iron. In spite of what people say, learning when you’re older is easy. Is the remembering stuff that’s hard.
Perhaps all things being equal, what Mr. Coppi said is true. But let’s face it, things are rarely equal. I’ll end with a quote from someone else I admire, someone a little closer to home:
“The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know a goddamn thing.”– Dear Old Dad