When you play sports alone, a small miracle can happen: an idea appears. At some point during the exercise, the mind reaches a state of sharpness so high that it allows you to see details that you could not even see from the sofa at home. It’s like a flash. It appears suddenly, offering solutions to long-standing issues or providing a brilliant phrase. The problem is having the necessary memory to save it and write it down once the race is over. Or do a practical exercise, get off the bike for a second or stop jogging and write everything down on your mobile phone.
The cyclist and writer Guillaume Martin came to mind the phrase “the peloton is made up of solitary beings who do not know how to do anything but live together” while training in Sierra Nevada. After six hours of filming, he experienced a kind of grace that would have been impossible to achieve standing still or in company. He identified this thought as the basis of the first chapter of his new book La society del pelotón (Road Books) and started with it an interesting reflection on sport, human beings, the individual and the collective.
Martin, with studies in philosophy, poses an exercise in analogy between the platoon and society. Why, for example, can’t a group of escapees hold the lead to the finish line, if they just need to collaborate and coordinate to increase their chances? Well, surely for the same reasons why society is not capable of coming to an agreement to fight climate change: due to the inability to prioritize problems and look to the long term.
The dichotomy between the vaunted values of teamwork and the excessive praise that is made of some individual stars, the insistence on self-sacrifice, the desire to escape from the peloton, the almost certain victory of the group or the true face that appears in moments of effort and tension. A reflection of human contradictions, whether individual or collective.
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