The beauty of fatigue and the thrill of conquest
   Edition 2024

On hot summer days, pedaling with immense fatigue through the Oltrepò Pavese vineyards, on asphalt or dirt roads that rarely offer ten metres on the flat, it occurred to me that cyclists and farmers are similar.

 They have many things in common. Cyclists and farmers accept what the sky sends: drought or storm, frost or heatwave, they forge ahead anyway, getting on with it. Keeping everything in, in what is perhaps a higher order or simply an internal one. It is one aspect of a greater virtue that goes by the often hallowed name of patience. Those who have patience - etymologically speaking, those who have come to know adversity, fatigue, or even pain - always know what to do, even when others advise giving up. It is an exercise of calm control, of managing emotions, of constant dedication to a goal - the harvest, the finish line - that seeks to finish the job that was started. Persevering without giving up. Being stubborn without being obtuse. There is an acuteness in knowing ourselves and knowing time, not just the weather, but the outcome of our actions: knowing when it is time to accelerate, to act quickly – the harvest, the break from the peloton, acceleration in view of the finish line - and when it is better to wait, even slow down. Cyclists and farmers have their own economic discipline regarding effort: never overdo it, never stop. The roads of the cyclist are the farmer's fields, the winemaker’s rows. The experience of each leads us to the knowledge that there is an eternal order in the world that farmers and cyclists have contributed to designing and shaping, tracing furrows or furrowing tracks. 

The world has changed. Farmers are increasingly rare, cyclists who were farmers, or sons of farmers, are increasingly rare. The Bottecchias worked as gardeners, the Coppis cultivated the land on the clay Tortona hills and hoped for a future of social promotion for the young Faustino, as a masapursé, a pig butcher, making salami. Anquetil's father, Ernest, a master builder by profession, to avoid collaborating with the Nazi occupation building defense lines along the Atlantic in Normandy to counter the Allied landings, reinvented himself as a strawberry grower in Quincampoix. Raymond Poulidor grew up in a family of sharecroppers in Limousin. Bernard Thévenet, son of farmers from Saint-Julien-de-Civry, southern Burgundy, where the enormous white Charolais cows are raised, said that, after all, being a cyclist was less tiring than cultivating the land. Francesco Moser and his brothers have had Müller Thurgau vineyards in the Cembra valley for a long time. 

It's hard to find a farmer today, and not just in cycling. However, the fact remains that patience, fatigue, obstinacy, knowledge of oneself and of the road are (heroic) qualities that still today make cycling - and cyclists - one of the sports that help you to know, and therefore also love, the roads and lands that preserve its essence. 

Gino Cervi

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