Bridging a cultural chasm

I remember listening to music with lyrical content that, as I was told repeatedly by others, was highly emotional. But for me, the connection I had to much of that music was ephemeral at best. But today, when I listen to those same songs, I'm overcome with emotion...not because of the music itself, or the fact that I'm finally able to connect with its lyrical content. Instead this happens because of the memories that the music brings about, and my heavy tendency toward nostalgia. As the years pass, I'm amazed by how many things in my life function this way. Emotions remain a present-tense ordeal, to be sure, but the more pronounced examples of them are set in the past tense. And the things that bring those memories to the forefront are getting increasingly curious.

Perhaps the greatest example of this was how a couple of years ago, I found myself in front of my childhood home in Bogota, standing over a slightly uneven manhole cover on the sidewalk, which made an amazingly memorable sound when you stepped on it. Tink-tonk. It's a sound I remember hearing during much of my childhood, as countless people—mostly workers on their way to a nearby factory that made shoes—walked in front of that house. With all this in mind, I stood there on the sidewalk not long ago, lightly tapping the round manhole cover, making that sound, which brought back memories of life in Colombia, and my family's tumultuous move to the United States. I got oddly emotional about the whole thing, but clearly this had nothing to do with a manhole cover.

Freud and suffering
I often read about the reasons why people took up cycling at different points in their lives, either as fans or competitors. There are stories about seeing a race go by as a kid, or seeing the Tour de France on television. But more often than not, those who ride bikes speak of troubles in their lives, and how riding and racing bikes brought closure to problems, or helped eased their mind in one way or another. Of course, there's the constant talk of "suffering" on the bike, which leads me to believe that many people who ride believe they need to be punished in some way, much as Freud pointed out in Civilizations an Its Discontents (where Freud equates a person's need for punishment with their ongoing sense of guilt). 

I don't have that kind of relationship with cycling or riding a bike. Cycling is not something I do to get away from anything. It does, however, help soothe one aspect of my life that I suspect will continue to shape my reality for as long as I live: moving away from Colombia and to the United States (and the sociological and cultural implications therein). 

Unlike those in the United States who saw the Tour de France as kids on TV, and thus "discovered" this relatively unknown sport, I learned about cycling at a time when I simply couldn't escape it. "Discovery" would imply that cycling was hiding somewhere. And in the early to mid-80s in Colombia, cycling was omnipresent. So like everyone else in the country, I too started to listen to the Tour de France on the radio, and later began to watch TV broadcasts. I too became transfixed by Lucho Herrera, and unfairly put the sadness that Colombia was experiencing on this shoulders. 

Today, cycling reminds me of those days in Colombia. Of being a kid listening to the Tour on the radio, and then riding my BMX bike for hours around our neighborhood. It helps bridge the chasm between my life in the United States today, and my Colombian childhood. So while it's obvious that I like riding a bike, or watching a race, I'm very aware of the fact that cycling has little to do with sport most of the time, and more to do with creating a conduit to a certain time in my life. It's not about the race, in the same way that it's not about the lyrics or the sound that a manhole cover in Bogota makes. 


1. Yes, Juan Pablo Villegas, who retired from cycling amidst death threats after he spoke out regarding doping in Colombian cycling had decided to return to the sport. He will be racing with Manzana Postobon next season. The team will race at the Continental level, and will be racing in Europe for much of the season. 

Fernando Gaviria (Photo: MFS)

Fernando Gaviria (Photo: MFS)

2. Is anyone else looking forward to Fernando Gaviria's first season in Europe? Will the possible success of a Colombian sprinter in Europe remind Colombian race organizers that not every single stage should finish atop a mountain pass?

3. The Alps & Andes store sale continues. Stock on some items is running low, so get on it. 

4. Matt Rendell, the talented author of Kings Of The Mountains, How Colombia's Cycling Heroes Changed Their Nation's History is now Movistar's press officer. 

5. Speaking of Movistar, if you speak/read Spanish, I urge you to read Nairo Quintana's interview in El Pais. The guy is astonishingly self-aware, and also understand the meaning and importance of the cultural implications of a Colombian like him performing at a high level in Europe. Amazing stuff. 

5. Team Colombia riders are now owed four months of salaries, which are said to be paid next week. The team's riders have heard such promises before, but let's hope this time it actually happens. Of all the riders, Vavel reports that only three have found contracts: Rodolfo Torres goes to Androni, Daniel Martinez to Southeast and Leonardo Duque do Delke-Marseille. Edwin Avila and Rubiano are also said to be working on contracts right now.