Part of the route of the 2012 Olympic road race has understandably become a crowded Mecca for recreational road cyclists in the South East of England. The Box Hill climb has become a carbon-surfaced festival of lycra-clad, middle-aged IT professionals and former golfers.
The use of so-called masking agents in professional sport has until now been limited to athletes’ use of one pharmacological ‘agent’ to cover up the use of other performance-enhancing medications. A recent development, however, is the alleged use of masking agents by riders seeking some enhanced peer perception on the road. A low-carb diet of Rapha videos and Rouleur photo spreads has resulted in riders seeking to mask a hugely pleasurable activity by remaining glum and focusing on small objects in the distance. It had been rumoured that Botox is migrating from the nearby beauty salons of Surrey housewives to become the masking agent of choice for the sportive crowds.
Last week the dandy dopers’ reliance on Botox to mask obviously positive activities clicked with Team IG Sigma Sport rider Wouter Sybrandy, who commented on Twitter
Noticed Boxhill is now the new Richmond Park with loads of people riding laps, on their own, looking grumpy and not talking to eachother
— Wouter Sybrandy (@Wouter_Sybrandy) January 5, 2013
This stony-faced aspect of the sport has led to concerns that passive observers may think that cycling is an unpleasant activity, the preserve of manly stoics and not something that delivers unbound joy to happy, active souls. On Sunday morning Cyclismas met with some self-confessed dopers who expressed a disregard for conventional enjoyment of exercise while seeking to massage their minuscule egos. Before that we spoke to Bob, 47 as he enjoyed a coffee whilst riders sped past in silent groups. “I thought after Wiggo and the Olympics that cycling looked fantastic and was all set for getting a bike. But while walking on Box Hill with the kids, all I saw was hordes of thoroughly miserable feckers looking like Christmas had been canceled. These guys must be really suffering, I think I’ll stick with golf. A friend showed me that video of some guys riding with LeMond and there was laughing and smiling, but they were Yanks, innit. I’m told you can’t do that in Surrey, best I could hope for is a knowing smirk if someone’s ristretto is weak.”
Geoffrey, a data analyst from Beckenham, laid out the mindset that led to his appointment with a beauty therapist and a vial of Botox. “I’m quite chubby chopped and to be smiling while I ride would expose me to taunts of not taking this shit seriously enough. I suffer for my sport, especially since switching to a 53/39 and to not be seen to be suffering would negate the thousand of pounds I spent on bike fits and power cranks. Inside I’m smiling, but to show pleasure is to show weakness. I’m like Merckx, really, the poker face while on the rivet and I know he was going 12 mph faster, but suffering is relative. If he was as fat as me, he’d find the Surrey lanes on a spring day to be like Flanders in February.” As he spoke, the trace of a smirk which battled through the plastic edges of his lips was wiped in an instant by an approaching rider. “I know he ignored me completely, but if he hadn’t have done so and caught a trace of cheerfulness, that would be game over.” When pressed further Geoffrey admitted, “No, I don’t have a clue who he is, but you don’t understand. The perception of complete strangers that I’m utterly indifferent to them can’t be taken for granted.”
“Botox is the perfect solution to my issues” stated Tarquin, one of the most-respected Surrey Raphtafarians. As he faked a lazy eye and looked into an approaching storm cloud, it was obvious that he was using a masking agent. “You see a smile, you see weakness. Riders around here know that ‘Tarqs’ ain’t happy and they believe it’s because I’m riding so hard that pain is the drug. But actually, a bit of Botox means that I can soft-pedal and enjoy the view whilst giving the appearance of Purito in a Lombardy storm. We’re not covering up EPO or HGH, we’re trying to mask endorphins – pleasure. I love this sport so much, the fun I get from riding a bike is like nothing else but should the masking agent be banned at sportives I fear I’ll be ridiculed. It’s OK for Wouter, he gets paid to enjoy riding, no one pays us to feel this good. If I can’t look like Brad Pitt in a fragrance commercial people will think I only bought a bike after the Olympics, whereas I got this little beauty the week before the opening ceremony. The oval chain-rings came after Wiggo’s TT gold. You don’t see Sir Brad smiling do you? Point proven. Oh and if anyone asks why you’re talking to me, you’re my power data guy. We don’t talk to the media. Actually we can’t talk coherently any longer, our faces are too rigid.”
Sybrandy was unconvinced. “It’s so obvious that they enjoy cycling and the use of masking agents is just plain cheating. These guys have no idea how much pleasure we get from racing – we wouldn’t do it otherwise. If I can smile having had to come back from a bad race injury, they can smile having burnt their feet moulding shoe inserts. Oh and they should just put a number on their backs and join the fun.”