The Art of Mountains
The human experience is intrinsic to developing a sense of place. The characteristics that make somewhere special and unique allow us to develop an affinity, create a relationship and attach a story to a physical landscape.
For cyclists and fans of cycling the mountains of Europe have become fundamental to understanding the sport. Mont Ventoux, Passo dello Stelvio, Alpe d’Huez, these famous peaks have become temples where riders create a sense of self, where men and women validate their worth and where the sport’s champions are born.
Yet there’s something very primeval about making a passage over a mountain. From Hannibal to Napoleon history tells us this is where nature presents the ultimate challenge to human physicality; they make us raw.
Within cycling there is a hierarchy of mountains defined by the stories they have helped create and the punishments they have meted out. Notoriety is defined by the sum of gradient and length and for every climber there is a tipping point – one mountain too far and dreams and aspirations can melt away.
For riders, both professional and amateur, each journey into and out of this alpine landscape is unique. From the solitude imposed on the last man on the road, to the resolute decent of a rider dropped by the group and the deep suffering of a glycogen-depleted athlete, every ride is deeply personal.
But what these pictures show is that cycling’s imprint on the mountains is merely temporary. The frenzy of fans, the cacophony of sound, the caravan of vehicles comes and goes, fades and disappears when the race is over.
Nature is indifferent to our obsession and allows it only on her terms – our ascents are defined and limited by where the road goes and what the seasons will allow. When the carnival has gone the mountain remains and the memories, still fresh in cycling’s history, are gently erased by the evolution of this physical landscape.
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