Before team cars escorted the racers, hovering like nervous grandmothers, before there were feed zones, magic spray, magic food or any conception of how hydration works, riders would come into a small town on the Tour de France and raid a soda fountain. They’d run into the shop, steal a bunch of drinks, and run out again, the angry proprietor blocked by rabid fans. Riders would shove a bunch of sodas down their jersey and ride back into the peloton to distribute them to teammates, friends and rivals. Tom Simpson had a coke a teammate stole from a bar before his fateful climb up Mont Ventoux. Of course, he also had a bunch of speed, some brandy, and was woefully dehydrated on a really hot day. So let’s not blame the coke on his untimely death. It was probably the healthiest thing he ingested that day.
Coke survives in cycling, despite all odds. No one swills red wine on rides anymore (well almost no one), nor do they drink 40 espressos (Gino Bartali, subject of our newest men’s shirt), and they certainly don’t light up 2 packs a day, pound sausage or eat gobs of creamy sea food the night before a big stage (see Jaques Anquetil). But they still drink coke. Of course it’s not the only thing they down. A host of really boring, quickly outdated sports drinks make up the bulk of the peloton’s liquid intake. Many teams ban the public consumption of Coke. Despite the blacklisting, Nicholas Roche writes in his memoir about life in the peloton: “Our manager drove alongside and gave me a Coke. To some teams, it’s a not a big thing, but at Credit-Agricole and lots of other teams, it’s a big deal, because we’re not allowed to drink Coke. If you have a can, everyone is your friend. Some guys will even try to buy it off you, but the ethical thing to do is have a few swigs and pass it around. Next time, you could be the guy asking for a drink.”
There is something cutting and refreshing about coke. The acid and the sugar combination slices through the sickening taste of endless energy food. The caffeine provides a welcome boost when the system is lagging, and the carbonation helps settle stomachs tortured by heat, gels and endless road buzz.
Coke was originally served in small glass bottles. My dad tells stories about buying a case of glass bottled coke from the grocery store, filling galvanized pails with ice and soda and heading to South Park to shill the sodas for 10 cents, a 50% profit margin… The idea of a 5 or 10 cent soda never seemed feasible in my lifetime, until I found myself in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, at a Soda Fountain tucked in the back of a dusty, careworn 5 and Dime. I assumed the sign for the 5 cent coke was either a joke or a vintage sign but there it was, being served in Dixiecups for 5 cents a pour. So I had a cup or two.
At the risk of being cycling’s Andy Rooney, Coke should really only come in glass bottles. Aluminum is what you make rims out of, and stems. Not beverage containers. And plastic… let’s not get started with plastic. The thick, greenish glass insulates the soda, keeping it cold on sweat soaked Maryland summer days. My favorite stop on long whatevering rides is the Mountaindale Convenience Store, on Mountaindale Road, where the back cooler houses 8 oz glass bottles of Coke. They have an opener behind the counter, but it’s best to use a pedal or a multi-tool. That, and a frozen Snickers bar, and you can climb anything.
A few more bits of news:
There are three weekly shop rides. The two that always happen in the same place are the Wednesday climbing ride and the Sunday whatevering ride, which both leave from the shop. The women’s ride rotates around town. Come into the shop or email us to get on the invite only facebook page for the women’s ride. email@example.com
Brian’s Wednesday night climbing ride, which, believe it or not, happens on Wednesday. Wheels down at 5.30 from the shop. Fastish hill climbing ride. Popular with those who like the pain.
Sunday night whatevering rides. Join James, Andre, Dan the Younger, and whoever else on a 30-45 mile ride thru the local backwoods. Dirt, climbing, pain, but at a slow, semi conversational pace. Might be some singletrack, dirt roads, etc. We’ll stop, chat, swim, whatever. Roadish bike. Bring tail light and a good head light, too. 200 lumen min. Good means you could go down a black tunnel covered in dirt at night with it. Meet at 5 at the shop, wheels down at 5.30. Check Facebook for weather updates.