The Cyclist and His Shadow

A Memoir

2022
Author:

Olivier Haralambon
Translated by François Thomazeau

A philosopher and former racing cyclist examines how competitive riders lose their sense of self as they pursue perfect motion and mastery over pain

The Cyclist and His Shadow offers an illuminating meditation on what drives cyclists to devote their lives and bodies to training, racing, and even doping. Olivier Haralambon, who spent ten years as a racing cyclist, presents cycling as simultaneously physical and creative, technological and mystical, torturous and ecstatic, and writes about the world of competitive cycling with rare honesty and self-reflection.

[Haralambon] draws the reader into the mind of the racer to help us understand what drives this passion and the ability to suffer in the pursuit of the finish line.

Wall Street Journal

After ten years as a racing cyclist, riding in up to ninety races a year, Olivier Haralambon became a journalist and philosopher. In The Cyclist and His Shadow, he writes about the world of competitive cycling with rare honesty and self-reflection, exploring it not merely as a sport but as a spiritual and artistic practice, imbued with a mystical quality.

In prose at once poetic and precise, Haralambon depicts the intensity of cycling as physical activity in which the rider’s consciousness becomes inseparable from the instantaneous movements of limbs, the exertion of heart and lungs, and the marshaling and expenditure of energy. He describes riding as an ascetic activity always accompanied by pain that the cyclist can control but never fully eliminate. But cycling for Haralambon is not only suffering but also an addictively pleasurable activity in which the rider’s sense of self dissolves and melds with the bicycle, mind and body exploring the vibrant solitude of the course and limits of human endurance. Engaging in the repetition of ascension and the endless hours immersed in an oceanic interior, cyclists are artists in the vastness of landscape, both interior and exterior.

Published in association with The Cycling Podcast (https://thecyclingpodcast.com), The Cyclist and His Shadow offers an illuminating meditation on what drives cyclists to devote their lives and bodies to training, racing, and even doping. Drawing from personal experience, Haralambon presents cycling as simultaneously physical and creative, technological and mystical, torturous and ecstatic.

Fascinated by bicycle racing from the age of 13, Olivier Haralambon was a racing cyclist for ten years, riding in hundreds of races, after which he studied philosophy at the University of Paris XII. He is a sports journalist and author of four books.

François Thomazeau is a French sports journalist, translator, publisher, musician, and renowned crime novelist.

Richard Moore was a freelance sports journalist, former racing cyclist, and cohost, with Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe, of The Cycling Podcast. He wrote seven books on bicycle racing.

[Haralambon] draws the reader into the mind of the racer to help us understand what drives this passion and the ability to suffer in the pursuit of the finish line.

Wall Street Journal

Foreword Richard Moore

Translator’s Introduction François Thomazeau

The Cyclist and His Shadow

1 My Pet Shadow

2 Flat Cosmos

3 The Finger of St. Thomas

4 Competing

5 Liquid Body

6 Vocation

7 The Monster

8 Intimacy

9 Grace and Disgrace

10 Go to Heaven with Your Body

11 Nocturne

12 Physique

13 Trace

14 The Old Man