After several days at altitude, the Giro begins to drop towards the plain. The advantage of the altitude natives begins to diminish. But aren’t we all altitude natives? Our evolutionary ancestors lived in the altitude of the Great Rift Valley. The hominid fossil record there goes back six million years. At sea level, swamped in oxygen, we are sluggish and feeble. Or maybe it’s just the way you feel, two weeks into the Giro.
The past is an infinite abyss. The sovereign individual only emerged in the last thousand years or so (once dubbed “The Me Millennium”). We hear and feel in the womb. Language acquisition begins prenatally, and we develop in dialogue with significant others. There is a theory that Descartes, who rooted existence in the sovereign individual by virtue of his notorious Cogito ergo sum , was suffering some form of dissociative illness.
How many decisions in life actually come down to individual free will? On rest day, news that came out that IAM Cycling will, at season’s end, become I was. No co-sponsor. The question is to be or not to be, but market forces hold the casting vote.
What about the peloton? A collection of free individuals, exercising independent decision-making, or a self-regulating system with its own, inescapable laws? Constant interaction, complex feedback loops, within the moving stream of air we call the slipstream, eclipse the individual. A paradox emerges: the slightest advantage requires a colossal effort of the will.
Which brings us to Steven Kruijswijk, a rider hidden behind a name. as people outside the Netherlands did not know how to pronounce the Dutch letter ij, the football team Feijenoord changed its name to Feyenoord and Hendrik Johannes Cruijff became Johan Cruyff.
That said, Kruyswyk is not the accessible solution to anything. Kruijswijk roughly meaning “the district of the cross,” but the Giro d’Italia so far has turned out to be anythign but a Calvary for him. Afte yesterday’s stage win by the Green Bullet, perhaps we should call him, with ourfriend and colleague Edo Sturm, Kruijsraket – the cruise missile (which should, admittedly, be written without the j). Or is that pushing the military metaphor too far?