The Problem with Rule 5

Harden the fuck up.

That’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t? Stop whining. Stop complaining. Don’t even dare think about quitting.

Harden. The Fuck. Up.

Cyclists are supposed to be hard. You fall in the middle of a bunch sprint at 65 kilometres per hour and shave the skin off half of your back. You stumble over the line wheeling your bike beside you. You cry tears of self pity and pain when the cold water from the shitty shower in the flea-riddled ‘hotel’ hits your sticky bald flesh. But you are expected to take to the startline the next day, so you harden the fuck up, smile for the cameras and be thankful you are one of the privileged ones.

An innocuous crash at the side of the bunch as it rolls along behind the breakaway up the road. Crack!! Oh it’s not just your frame that’s broken. There goes your collarbone too. But you look for the spare bike anyway. ‘Give it to me. Give it to me‘. The race is getting away up the road and you’re not important enough for anyone to wait for you, not even your team-mates. The mechanic hops out of the team car, helps your one-armed mangled body onto the bike and gives your arse a hefty shove. The pain is excruciating, but you might be fine. Take it day by day. You are not fine, you are far from fine. But you can’t quit. You just cannot quit. Harden the fuck up.

Remember Fiorenzo Magni at the 1956 Giro d’Italia. He had broken his collarbone and the pain was such that he could not grip and pull the handlebars the way he needed to. So he tied a length of inner tube to the bars and held the other end in his teeth and he continued on. He finished the Giro in second place.

Or remember Tyler Hamilton in the 2002 edition of the Giro. He fractured his shoulder. But he hardened the fuck up and got back on his bike. He rode on while grinding his teeth as a way of dealing with the pain. He needed 11 of his teeth capped after the race due to the damage he had done to himself. He also finished the Giro in second place.


If you can’t remember that far back, perhaps you’ll recall Andrew Talansky on Stage 11 of the 2014 Tour de France. Three and four days prior, he had been involved in two terrible crashes. Consequently he was suffering from acute sacroiliitis, but like so many others before him, he hardened the fuck up and got on with it. He punctured near the start of that eleventh stage to Oyonnax leaving him all alone with his own thoughts inside his own world of pain.

He stopped at the side of the road, in tears. ‘That’s it‘ we all thought, a brave effort. But after a chat with Robbie Hunter in the team car, he slumped back over his bicycle and continued. We cheered. What a rider! What a hard man! He made it to the finish just ahead of the broomwagon and crossed the line to the loudest cheer of the day.

Reactions on social media were typical of how us cycling fans delight in the suffering of professional riders:

“What a fighter. Seeing him ride on in tears was pretty incredible.”

“[His] race was one full of never give up attitude. Something the kids of today should take notice of.”

Talansky. Hard as fuck.”

His fellow professionals agreed. Christian Vandevelde stated that what Talansky went through would be beneficial for the 25 year old. “Suffering in a race and fighting on is a very humbling experience and today is a day that will help him grow a lot”.

Talansky abandoned the race the next morning. He couldn’t start Stage 12 because his body was too damaged.


In the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, the Lotto-Soudal rider Jelle Wallays crashed twice in the first week and ended up with two broken ribs and a broken wrist. He finished the race. For two weeks he rode around Spain with a broken body. The team didn’t stop him. The team doctor didn’t stop him. The team management didn’t stop him. Fuck that. Fuck responsibility.

On the broken rider goes. On and on. Just to get to the finish line. Regroup. Recover. Perhaps he can fetch a water bottle or two later in the race. He’s helping the team again, increasing the chances for his leader to take the win. Failing that, the act of continuing with an injury in and of itself is enough to gain plenty of media coverage as the Talansky incident proved. And media coverage is the aim of the game anyway. If a team gets it by winning or via a self-flagellating rider, so what? But most of all, a cyclist can’t be seen to quit. Quitters don’t get contracts.

We’re all told to harden the fuck up. But the hard thing to do isn’t getting back on your bike. That’s easy. The hardest thing to do is to climb off. Give up. Enough is enough. You only get one body and destroying it so you can avoid a ‘DNF’ on the results list isn’t honorable – it’s foolish.

So yeah, let’s all harden the fuck up. Do the hard thing. Listen to your fucking body.


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