Reading in today’s cycling press the predictions of the great Roger De Vlaeminck for this season’s Classics, beginning with Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I was astounded to realize that I’ve raced with lads who are now the age of David Bowie, Mein Drumpf, and Jimmy Wayne Robison.
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Roger “The Gypsy” De Vlaeminck, c. 1977
“Raced with” requires a gloss. I can say only that I occasionally witnessed the typical pre-start arrivals of “The Gypsy” by helicopter — in fur coat, mod cap, and Beatle boots, looking like Nureyev dropping into Covent Garden after a Carnaby Street shopping spree. I can’t remember ever seeing him during a race, when he’d have been sheltered by teammates or else up the road alone, where the limelight needn’t be shared.
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Spike Lee in the Brooklyn Gum casquette
In fact the only time I saw him “on the ground,” as it were, was through a shop window one day in Ecklo, in East Flanders, where he was napping in a beautician’s chair while getting a pedicure. A man’s man, De Vlaeminck still cracks me up, weighing every upstart of the current generation against his own seriously scary talent, of which he’s never shy to remind us. But he almost singlehandedly lifted the sport out of the coal mines and nudged it towards the proper homoerotic popstar milieu that it now inhabits.