INTRODUCING: CONVICTS OF THE ROAD
Introducing Convicts of the Road, a new range of prints from The Handmade Cyclist. From the earliest days of the Tour de France the riders have been mere pawns in the enormity of the challenge of the Tour, set ever-tougher challenges by organisers set on furthering the legend of the race.
In 1924 a French journalist, Albert Londres, was assigned to follow the Tour for the first time. He was struck by the similarity of the mood and morale of the riders to the subjects of his previous report - the convicts subjected to hard labour in France’s brutal penal colonies. Overcome by sympathy for the riders and awed by their courage he wrote ‘truly these are the convicts of the road’.
Over the years the Tour has changed massively, but the conquest remains the same. Instead of the unpaved roads and mammoth stages of the past the riders face new challenges - excruciating pressure, higher speeds, super-organised teams ready to press home any tiny advantage and the suffocating glare of the world’s media. Failure is not an option in a race where only the few succeed. Little wonder the riders still talk of being trapped within the race, prisoners to the hugeness of the Tour.
To win the Tour you need the precision of an accountant, the courage of the bullfighter and the flair of the dancer.
Three weeks, thousands of kilometres, decided by mere seconds. Weeks of concentration, focus, plotting and paranoia. Little wonder the riders feel like prisoners of the race, breaking rocks daily just to stay alive.
Those riding for the win suffer most of all. Constantly chasing the uncatchable horizon, never afforded a moment’s rest. Trapped in the race and in the unquenchable pursuit of glory.
Sprinters are professional killers, paid to finish the peloton off with cool, dead-eyed precision. Nothing can stand in their way. Win at all costs.
Some say their race is only 300 metres long. If so, it must be the longest 300 metres in all of sport, a lung-busting chasm as elite athletes go deep into the depths of oxygen debt at 45mph.
How far away does the finish line look as the sprint is launched? How enormous the boulevard? How suffocating the pressure, an entre race defined by a split secord? To hit or to miss?
King of the Mountains
Climbers are cycling’s dreamers. Impossibly light, the greatest climbers seem to defy gravity as they soar towards the clouds. They hide in the safety of the bunch on the flat, gossamer-fragile, lest the crosswinds catch them.
But when the road rises, unbound they fly.
Like any convict, the climber dreams of escape. The spiraling hairpins of the high mountains give them their chance to break the shackles and fly solo, alone into the thin crisp, mountain air