The Col

Old George sipped his pastis and watched from the roadside cafe as the cyclists passed by; some at speed downhill but many just above walking pace uphill. There had been a lifetime of change here in the mountains. He hadn’t been born when the first dome had been constructed, but as a child he remembered the trail that conveyed men and equipment to the observatory in the summer months. Since then there had been much development in the area, most of it to be deplored and now the small quiet village of his youth had become an ugly ski resort in winter and an even uglier summer stopping point for middle aged men in lycra struggling their way up to the top of the Col du Tourmalet in an attempt to emulate elite riders almost half their age and half their weight.

George had nothing against cycling. He had cycled all his life in these mountains  He looked into their vacant eyes and wondered what they thought about as they suffered on the way up from the valley below. When did the bravado and good humour at breakfast disappear? Were the kilometre markers encouraging or did their spirits drop as they realised what little progress had been made for so much effort?  What did they think when they saw the hideous apartment blocks as they approached La Mongie; relief they had made it so far or despair knowing that there was still a third of the way to go? Did the satisfaction for those who made it make the ordeal worthwhile?

He wondered but he never asked. He never spoke to the tourists, they were not his kind. He looked at the bill, placed a few coins onto the saucer and rose slowly putting on his jacket. It was getting late and his daughter would be expecting him. He climbed onto his rusty old bike, pulled his cloth cap down tight and set off in the direction of the Col, passing rider after rider as he went.


About Peter Domican
Marketer and change professional. Writer and photographer.

2 Responses to The Col

  1. Anke Wehner says:

    I really like the mental image of an old man on a rusty bike showing the guys with the specially bought shiny equipment how it’s done.

  2. I’ve always loved those ‘middle aged men in lycra’ riding their fancy bikes. They pay $95 for a carbon fiber bottle holder to save 2 ounces when they have a huge gut!

    But yea, I love passing them too.

    Great story!

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