29 September 2010 3 Comments

Hope for MAMILs everywhere

Malcolm Elliot, Lincoln GP 2010 Rollin' back the years

A couple of months ago my father-in-law sent me a link to an BBC article about the rise of the MAMILs (Middle-aged men in lycra). I could almost hear the chuckles as he hit the send button in his email client. Naturally enough, I knew that the article didn’t apply to me, after all I was a “proper” triathlete whose involvement in the sport goes back 8 years. I wasn’t a Johnny come lately who had bought a Pinarello Dogma and a Sky Team replica kit and signed up for the Etape du Tour. Hang on, though, I didn’t do my first triathlon until I was 40 when I was looking for a new challenge (I’d been a very average rockclimber since my early twenties), so maybe the triathlon thing was a kind of mid-life crisis and the lycra label is right (we’ll just ignore the fact that rockclimbing went through a very garish lycra period in the ’80s when I could regularly be seen hanging off a crag wearing electric blue tights with palm trees and sombreroes on).

I do aspire to a reasonable level of performance, however (on my own terms) and will readily admit to a certain schadenfreude every time I pass a rider with a flash Italian bike walking up a hill  on the Fred Whitton, or a Cervelo P3 rider walking at Wimbleball. So I was very pleased today to read of Jeannie Longo‘s effort in the World Time Trial Championship in Geelong. She finished 5th. Nothing remarkable in that, until you realise she is 52. She is perhaps the greatest female bike rider ever and her list of wins is frankly unbelievable:

  • Olympic Road Race Gold
  • 5x World Championship Road Race Gold
  • 4x World Championship Time Trial Gold
  • 4x World Championship Track Gold
  • 15x French Road Race Champion
  • 9x French Time Trial Champion (including ’08, ’09, ’10)

I shudder to think about the competitive urge within her that has kept her performing at an international elite level for 30 years. I can’t think of another example in an endurance sport. The nearest I can think of is the British cyclist Malcolm Elliott who completed the Tour de France twice back in the ’80s and won the sprinter’s jersey in the Vuelta in 1989 (a feat repeated by Mark Cavendish this year). Elliott is still active at the elite level in Britain having ridden this year for the Motorpoint Marshall’s Pasta team.

These two are obviously phenomenal athletes whose powers of recovery and ability to remain motivated are truly exceptional. However, despite my status as a midfield plodder, I am still setting personal bests (this year I broke my pb half marathon time twice and knocked over an hour off my Ironman time), and as long as that keeps happening, I’m not ready to hang up the lycra tights quite yet.

Image by placid casual under a Creative Commons licence on Flickr

3 Responses to “Hope for MAMILs everywhere”

  1. Zugz 1 October 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Nice post. At the grand old age of 38 I was sent the MAMIL article too by a number of smirking acquantances. I can only think it was written by a skint journalist who was in a bad mood having been dumped by his young mistress and refused a bank loan to fund his mid-life sports car purchase.

    Yes, a lot of triathletes and sportive riders are in their late 30’s and 40’s and admittedly this time of life can coincide with greater wealth (certainly needed for tri these days) and a need to get your kicks and challenge from something other than building a career and partying. But is this such a crisis?! A woman racked next to me at IMUK this year was 62 yrs old and cruised round in about 14 hours….



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