You don’t have to watch too many highlights of cycling’s Tour de France to know that road racing is a specialist, highly technical and physically gruelling sport that has evolved its own universe of tactics, machinery, nutrition, training regimes and, of course, pharmaceutical aids. Specialism also means jargon and in a world of élites such jargon can also be used to confuse the less-than-élite. And, as French is also the lingua franca of road racing, so it can become even more confusing to a non-Francophone, monolingual, cycle-recreationalist like me. Even the English-orientated terminology can be confusing; after all, who would have thought that it is possible to ride a bike at the same time as bonking?
All of this can be problematic when trying to define the cyclist in you. So, leaving aside any consideration of fitness levels or ability and, given my body type, aptitude, technical skills and doping nutrition preference, what rôle would be mine?
Rouleur: A rouleur is a bit of an all-rounder and capable, perhaps, of managing to win the occasional race or race stage. By definition, an all-rounder must manage hills quite well and I don’t and never did, even when I was younger and quite fit.
Puncheur: These riders thrive in races that combine relative short, steep climbs over an undulating route, but lack the extreme uphill endurance of the specialist climbers that excel on truly alpine ascents; however, the very mention of hills, short or not, counts me out as a puncheur.
Climber: Climbers are petite, lightweight riders that seem able to ‘dance’ on their pedals as they climb ridiculously steep hills at a ridiculously fast pace. I am neither petite nor lightweight and I certainly can’t dance!
Sprinter: Sprinters do what it says on the tin. In a mass finish these are the really big-thighed riders that can summon the strength to outpace all others in what can be an extremely reckless pursuit of victory. They are, by way of compensation, hopeless on the big hills, but that doesn’t help me as sprinters can be foolhardy in the extreme and can get badly hurt in the mêlée of a bunch sprint. I have no stomach for that (or perhaps too much stomach these days 😢)
Time trialist: Individual time trials set the rider against the clock; there are no team-mates to pull you along. It is just you trying to keep your power output high as the pain levels go even higher. This is the one where everybody suffers – really suffers – which counts me out.
So, that all draws a blank, but even though it looks as if I would be a nondescript member of a racing team (in more senses than one) not all is lost. Although I don’t race or ride the vast distances of the audax, sportive or cycle-touring communities, road cycling is my pursuit of choice. My drug of choice is caffeine and, nutritionally, I am all for a nice bit of cake. As an internationalist I am happy to acknowledge French or faux-French as the patois of the road, and this makes me deeply indebted to the Pâtisserie Cyclisme website and to one essayist in particular that has helped me to find my true cycling identity:
“The trundleur is a cyclist who enjoys riding any kind of bicycle, at their own pace for the sheer enjoyment of it. They frequent cafés, stopping to enjoy the view, converse with friends or simply sit and reflect. The trundleur does not care for recording their rides obsessively, nor do they obsess about their speed or beating their fellow cyclists.
The trundleur finds a simple joy in the act of riding a bicycle.”
Mesdames et messieurs, je suis un TRUNDLEUR!
Postscript: Sadly, the Pâtisserie Cyclisme website appears to have been taken down.