In a corner of the stable, rising out of the damp straw, gloriously surrounded by cobweb, a bicycle, which once was black, handlebar and pedals eaten by rust, is finishing, there, its career. Did it take part in the bicycle race of the Haute-Vienne where, towards Saint-Léonard, the racing cyclists returned, carted back by a gas-driven machine, stripped as they were by terrorists devoid of the civic faith of these champions at the head of volunteers watching over cycle practice, entitled to take the identity of cycling offenders and insensitive to the lessons which such masters would impose on their undisciplined admirers going into the Loiret in spite of a strict ban; Masters who, in return, would be gratified by an official plaque on the block of flats, their residence, in the heart of a chic part of the Capital and in the very street which houses a Marshal of France, a distinction which would prompt the resigned indignation of Petit-Breton, dead keen cyclist, but, as for him, holder of a State diploma in the domain of physical and sport Education and who did not always appreciate the the boomerang of ... the firing of the other.
Did it compete for the trophy Paris-Reims of the grande époque during which one saw, at the climb of Ville-en-Selve, racers dismount from their machine or stay put, unable to go forward, in the image of this Champion of France who acknowledged defeat like a Bartali putting his foot on the earth in the Col du Portet d’Aspet (towards Luchon) on a slope from which the autochthons never descended without dragging an enormous faggot behind them to slow them down, as explained by my godfather from Cagire, the future head of the maquis of the neighbouring peak (and who bequeathed me his muskets).
Has it won the grand Prix de Puteaux under the casaque Garin (19 bis, rue Delisy at Pantin), all dressed in Alumag, an Idéale saddle, Cantilever-Savoie brakes and Mavic rims and handlebar ? Or did it serve as a mount to one of these two cyclists who attacked a post-lady in order to steal from her the food-vouchers of Elincourt-Vandelincourt in Picardy (this was not yet the Jour de Fête of Jacques Tati !), or was it part of this batch of 7000 Hercules (or Royal Enfield ?) bicycles waiting to be sold in a small town of Westphalia as authorized by the military authorities ? Or would it not be, more simply, just the ultimate residue of jetsam expensively sold by some cycle merchant of basse Ariège at the time of the faded dark bicycles ?
Claude d’Esplas (Le Parcellaire)
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Translation : Dagmar Coward Kuschke (Tübingen)