Thesis Part 6
It was into this politically volatile situation that our friend Spartan Pete, through a series of events far too complex and extraordinary to explain here without further narrative digression, found himself riding as a full-fledged member of Sweden’s Team Gustav Cycling Club. This was to be Pete’s first (and only) professional bicycle race. In fact, he hadn’t ridden a bicycle in over a decade.
This is not to say Pete was by any means a poor bicyclist. Despite decades of unrepentant chain-smoking, a greasy lunch counter diet, and his somewhat advanced age*, Pete proved to be a popular addition to the team and an adept rider. And, as we shall see, despite his short tenure with them, he became integral to the success that has followed this now-storied cycling club throughout the decades.
*Spartan Pete’s age has always been somewhat of a mystery to us. When pressed, he tended to answer vaguely or jokingly, and one would find no clues in his appearance. Pete was one of those men who was outwardly robust until that day late in life when seemingly overnight, he’d been transformed into a strikingly decrepit old man, barely capable of shuffling down the street. In 1970, At the time of this particular anecdote, Pete could have passed for a haggard 25 year-old, a somewhat leathery 36 year-old, or an amazingly well-preserved 48 year-old. We tend to think the latter was closer to the truth.
In those days, Team Gustav had the distinction of being Sweden’s only all-divorced professional competitive bicycling team.
The martial status of the racers was a marketing ploy concocted by their sponsor, a Scandinavian pharmaceutical company that had just released a new brand of deodorant aimed at aging bachelors.
Before Pete joined the club, the members of Team Gustav were an exceptionally moody lot. Never were a group of men more ill-suited to the contemplative state of mind that repetitive aerobic exercise, sustained wind exposure and staring at long stretches of open roads will engender in the human psyche.
As a race would move forward from hours into days, Team Gustav’s reluctant bachelors–instead of reaching a state of endorphin-induced enlightenment–would sink deep into endlessly circular interior dialogs of regret, loss and heartbreak.
To an outsider like Spartan Pete, it was immediately evident that his team needed new energy and inspiration. Adrift in their collective miasma of despair, Team Gustav’s members had not only lost their competitive edge, but to his eye, they had become monumentally boring people, either silent mopers or self-indulgent depressives.
In a letter to his (and our) friend Franzie, Pete remarked that he “can’t tolerate stunted and starchy conversation for long stretches, and long stretches are all I have to look forward to with these cheese-eaters. What these boys need is a distraction. Normally, I’d say a good night or two with a friendly schatze might do the trick, but these fellas already have enough women trouble. What we need is a thinking-man’s solution.”
special thanks to my coworker Johan for the Swedish translation