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.
But it’s unfair to single out any one perpetrator of cycling vanity, we’re all guilty of it. Arm warmers matched to overshoes, helmets to glasses, bar tape to mitts. Some of the scruffiest and unstylish dressers in everyday life will turn out on the bike with every detail accounted for, the look carefully balanced by nuisances and nods to the professionals in our sport. In fact, those struggling with the confusing minefield of modern fashions can take solace in the reassuring uniformity of club kit or designer cycling brands.
If you suspect that you’re a cyclist of a vainglorious disposition, then take note of the warning tale set by undisputed playboy of the peloton Filippo ‘Pippo’ Pozzato. His wet-look permed locks, unnatural tan and unpalatable TV adverts for Sidi has painted an image of a rider shy of getting his fingers dirty. So carefully styled is his image that it’s difficult to imagine him risking a scuff on his garish custom shoes in the pursuit of victory.
The pinnacle of cycling vanity must be the rider whose sole goal is to win a race and to be photographed crossing the finishing line alone. Pozzato was guilty of this crime in the 2010 Milan-San Remo; arguably the strongest rider in the race, he launched a suicidal attack several kilometres from the finish. It was doomed to failure and his dreams of crossing the line with enough spare time to preen himself in readiness for the cameras were dashed. Pozzato finished in the undistinguished position of 29th, whilst the winner was Oscar Freire who had remained hidden and anonymous until the very final metres. Not for the winner any accusations of style over substance.