Whistle while you work

This is what really drives me nuts: the motobikes, hovering around the peloton like hornets. I know they’re needed. They are there for our safety, they block roads and stop traffic, they take photos and film us, and they show how big the gap for the breakaway is.

But they also want to pass us all the time, along the bunch packed on the road. So they torture their horns until your ears ring, they make their engines roar ‘til it drives you crazy, and they blow their filthy fumes in our faces.

In the meantime, we really don’t feel like making space for the motobikes trying to pass us. Experience shows that if you do so, you will lose your carefully-obtained spot in the bunch. There are a lot of riders who boldly profit from a polite move like that – they pass you quickly to pinch the place you just made for the moto. After a while you really don’t feel like being the idiot making space all the time anymore. So the motos and the riders keep on battling the whole race. They try to direct us aside, getting more agitated by the minute. And we try to ignore them as much as possible.

Even though I belong to the group of riders who, after a while, desperately starts yelling to please fi-nal-ly make some space, the problem is this – you get used to the honking and the roaring of engines. You develop a deaf ear for it. In the end you don’t bother the motos deliberately, you just don’t notice their presence anymore.

One of the moto men in France last week found a solution for that. He didn’t make his engine roar. He didn’t honk. He whistled. A piercing four-tone tune which was impossible to ignore. The first time I heard it, I looked around in confusion. Who was whistling like that? The motobike passed me quickly, whistled again and overtook the bunch in just a couple of seconds.

The second time I heard it, I steered my bike aside automatically. I saw my colleagues doing exactly the same. Hey, I thought, the whistling works! We are not used to it, so we listen! Finally!

The third time the piercing noise penetrated my ear, I was just giving it my all riding uphill. I wasn’t the only one, and apparently the suffering resulted in some girls having temporary deafness. The moto kept lingering halfway through the bunch, and he kept repeating his tune. If you’re giving it all, you cannot handle a lot. So it didn’t take long before I felt like hitting the moto man in the lips so he wouldn’t be able to pucker up and whistle. After another minute I wished I had a gun. Not to murder the moto man, but to shoot myself in the head, so I didn’t have to hear that horrible whistling anymore.

The fourth time I heard the moto man whistle was during the lunch break between the morning time trial and the afternoon stage. I heard his tune long before I saw him. He was filling his plate at the other side of the hall. And at that moment a miracle happened: the riders in front of him, who had all crowded before a box of bananas, looked over their shoulders and hurried away as fast as possible. At long last, the moto man had plenty of space, and was able to find for himself the most fresh and delicious banana.

Photo: Geert Nachtergaele

Translation help: @cycletard

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