When driving around the country roads of the Ampurdan, one is likely to pass two species of cyclist. The first type travels in groups, is brightly clad in Lycra shorts and shirts emblazoned with the logo of their sports club. They wear aerodynamically designed helmets that make them look vaguely extraterrestrial. They are generally, though not exclusively, white, male and sufficiently well off to own a lot of fancy gear.
The second type of cyclist is solitary, drably garbed in the cast-off clothing of the rural poor, though sometimes he sports hard-earned or fake Adidas or Nike shoes and hoody. He will generally be on his way to, or returning from, a day of menial labour in the fields. At other times he may be sighted rummaging through the municipal garbage and recycling dumps outside local villages. He will be looking for scrap metal, discarded cookers and fridges, even the aluminium from a broken deckchair. This cyclist is invariably African, male
and very poor. He will almost certainly be an illegal immigrant.
The relative speeds at which these distinct cyclists progress along the country roads appears to be in direct proportion to their socio-economic status. The ones who do it as a leisure activity or hobby travel very fast up the winding mountain roads. They are dosed up on multivits and pep pills and nutritive hydrating beverages. On their slick and shiny machines, they push themselves to the limits of sweaty exhaustion. They do this out of choice. They are not going anywhere in particular but are always in a hurry. In other words, their destination doesn’t matter, so long as they get there fast.
The second type of cyclist has a defined and specific destination, but rarely seems in a hurry to get there on his old, recycled machine. He selects a speed best suited to sustain minimum energy loss. The destination matters, and he will get there in as much time as it takes.