Rouleur is the term used to describe a road cyclist considered an all-rounder. A grimpeur is the climber who favours the thin air of the mountains, while the puncheur savours a course punctuated with short, sharp climbs. A coureur relishes a race. The baroudeur compensates for average ability with courageous riding. All are willingly assisted by soigneurs, the team helpers.
The broleur is the cyclist who lives for the simple companionship of the road. The gallows humour, the competitive edge, the silent miles. The bonds forged through shared agony. And the beers and banter that follow.
A broleur gives up the last bite of a peanut Clif bar, takes one ibuprofen rather than two, uses the toilet down the hall in the team hotel. Broleurs can be relied upon to do their share at the front, wait for their brethren - and sistren - at the top of the hill (grinning), but always cross the line together.
In manibus ignem
The Broleur motto, roughly translated as "hands in the fire", was inspired by a great piece on Chris Froome in Esquire, The Hardest Road, written by Richard Moore. In it, Froome talks about the psychological side of cycling, as well as the physical.
“It’s about the body only up to a certain point. There comes a point when you’re both so far into the red and so far over your limit that it turns mental; it’s a mental game. It’s like you both have your hands in the fire and the first to pull out loses.”
It just seemed to perfectly sum up our perennial battles up Anerley Hill, as well as the inner demons we all fight at some point on every ride. Not to mention it feels a bit like something Maximus might use to rally his troops before battle in Gladiator.
It started back in 2011.
I was approaching forty. Too early for a full mid-life crisis. But not too early to believe my athletic peak had passed. I was struggling to scramble back up a greasy downhill slope of fitness.
Any illusions of being 'in shape' had been shattered by unflattering holiday photos and the cruel taunts of children (just mine, thankfully).
Annual mountain biking weekends with old mates had become bi-annual. Dodgy knees ruled out running. I couldn't face the harsh electric lights of the gym. The road called.
My wife agreed to buy me a bike for my christmas-cum-40th-birthday present. And even more generously, to let me out every Sunday morning - provided she never had to see me in lycra.
I needed someone who would share my new passion.
My younger brother and I were close, but we'd grown apart. It felt like we were separated by more than the six years and six miles between us. We rarely spoke or saw each other between family gatherings.
Cycling would be the thing that would bring us together.
For a Christmas present, I signed us up to the London Revolution the following May. Four months to train. Two days and 185 miles to bond. At this point, neither of us even had a bike.
Fast forward five years. We've ridden together pretty much every weekend. We usually start planning our Sunday ride from Tuesday. He ponders which of his many jerseys to wear, I think about coffee and cake. Stats are studied. Many texts are swapped.
What do people who don't cycle think about all day?
The highlights of our fledgling cycling years have been the trips abroad for sportives and granfondos. Belgium, France, Wales, Italy, even Yorkshire. Each presenting an opportunity to kindle our bromance and play at being pros.
It's these glorious weekends that we are attempting to chronicle on these here pages.
Thanks must go to our wonderfully gracious and tolerant wives. To our fantastic children who so rarely see their Dad on a Sunday morning. And to our extended families for their unstinting support from afar. You make us feel like heroes.