With their first season drawing to a close, Dave Brailsford admitted that there was a “closing of ranks” amongst other teams after Team Sky’s bombastic debut. “It’s always going to be hard to come in at this level, a lot of people have been in this small world for a long time.” To many observers this comes as no surprise – not only was there the hype and swagger of these new kids on the block with their ambitious aims and big talk of marginal gains, but there was also the ostentatious flaunting of the teams big budget. That massive team bus, the Jaguars, the bullish pursuit of Wiggins – little wonder it provoked envy from the rest of the cycling world, and no small amount of resentment.
Closer to home, there’s a similar divide when it comes to those who can afford the latest gizmos and those who make do without. Back in the eighties mobile phones were considered a derided ostentation favoured by hotshot yuppie types, until a decade later when a critical mass caused their cost to tumble and become an essential accessory for the masses. Power meters are our current cycling equivalent; still too costly as to only be affordable to a minority and causing a divide between those who talk of watts and power data, and those still measuring heart rates, or simply not measuring anything at all.
It is no surprise that the male mid-life crisis has become associated with cycling – middle-aged men in lycra (‘Mamils’) are really not far from the classic stereotype we’re all familiar with. Simply swap the convertible sports car for a Cervelo R3; the leather jacket for the technical fabrics of Assos; swap Just For Men dyed hair for their hairless legs.
Mamils are in search of the shiny elixir of youth (which isn’t, by the way, an expensive brand of organic chamois cream), and cycling can provide that boost for the sagging male ego. It’s a peculiar phenomenon; the man in crisis looks in the mirror and admires his renewed youthful vigour. Meanwhile all those around him find the sports car and sartorial regressions plainly ridiculous. The pot bellies of Mamils squeezed into bib shorts attract similar sniggers of derision.