Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Constitution

There are a lot of things that go into making a good cyclist, but I strongly believe that first and foremost being a good cyclist comes down to one thing: constitution.

There are those that have it, and those that don’t. There is no real way of properly defining constitution, or indeed testing for it in a lab. Some of the most unlikely souls seem to be possessed of the most rugged constitutions, and there are plenty of dilletantes who think they should have it but who just don’t.

You can't create or replicate constitution any more than you can sprout wings and fly. It is something you either have or don’t, and it is apparent in all walks of life. Lou Reed had constitution, Keith Richards & Margaret Thatcher had constitution. Like them or not, they were people who could live off scant hours of sleep, and still work at an incredible rate, without making themselves ill.

To be a bike rider you have to have constitution simply so you don’t miss races by being sick or injured. These days science fights an ongoing and impressive battle with constitution. Riders only have to show a glimpse of talent at a young age before they can be supported by all sorts of practitioners and specialists who work so hard to make human bodies that keep failing, keep going.

Injuries and sickness are often tagged as bad luck, but being slow to recover, or being sick or injured in the first place, is often natures way of telling the human body that it is beyond its limitations.

However the fact remains, you will always have to have constitution to be a bike rider at the highest level. You will have to not injure easily, not get sick through periods of physical and mental exhaustion, and you will have to keep digging deeper and deeper into reserves that won’t deplete.

I was made up to find then, during some research, the palmares of this man: Benoit Faure´.

Not only was Faure´ 8th in the 1930 Tour de France while riding as a ‘Tourist-Routiere’ he was a professional cyclist for a remarkable twenty years, racing between 1925 to 1945. Conditions for cyclists in that era were unbelievably arduous compared to today’s standards (even without the world being at War for the last 5 years of his career).

How he managed to keep going for twenty years at that time is beyond me. Faure´ wasn’t a real winner, taking only 24 victories in 20 years, the most important of which being the Criterium International in 1941. But he must have had enough to keep slugging away.

All I can say judging from the few photos of him, the remarkable career length, and his 80 years on the planet, is that there was a man with a constitution, a man cut out to be a professional bike rider.


  1. I always thought the key was mental strength, but this is more fundamental, I suppose. Something without which you can't even use that mental strength, let alone talent and fitness.
    Shows what I know!

  2. Excellent point, never really thought of this aspect. Explains why regrettably I've always been on the edge of illness (and for 8 years pretty much had the body shut down, saying "enough ") whilst many others abused their bodies yet never succumbed to illness. I now I understand, it's down to their constitution!

  3. Biological + Mental + Physical constitutions are some of the terms, there's many more!

  4. Mmm yes, you can break it down like that, but how does one define the limits of biological constitution?
    Is there a way that you can say at what stage an individual is going to get sick because he is simply exhausted? or a way to know whether or not you are the kind of rider who can go to a nightclub till 3 am and then get up and get third in Paris Tours a day later?
    I think these things are only defined by trial and error, and varies largely from individual to individual.

    All the mental strength in the world isn't worth a dime if you are unable to go out and ride a race.

    Cheers all for comments, much appreciated, as always.