Consider Andy Hampsten. 1988, the Gavia. Blizzard conditions assault the Giro Peloton, causing most to quit, but a few brave souls to continue on. Hampsten becomes a legend, and it’s not even on YouTube.
How many hits do you think that would have? A DSLR perfectly capturing the emotion that he’s feeling – all of his pain and suffering. You’re sitting in a coffee shop in some small, Midwestern town watching this. If you spill coffee on your lap, that might be the only excitement you’ll see that day. Andy’s face looks towards the camera and you see a glint of a smile – a reminder that he is one of us. A Man, not a God. The screen fades to black and a Rapha logo and website appear. You head back for your cubicle.
But no. There were no cameras; there was barely any radio relay. Most of America’s cycling population had no idea this was happening. His legend would be crafted by the few that saw him before and after. Perhaps a story or two from the follow car. ‘Did you see his feet? Solid ice. And he just kept going!’ I imagine the Giro radio operators sitting by their machines, waiting for the silence to break. To see if the American made it.
The age of Hampsten is over. Legends are now crafted not by the lack of information, but by the quality. A good soundtrack, a great use of depth of field and wise words and there you are. You can even read the rider’s blogs to know exactly what they were feeling as they made that last summit. Does this lessen the meaning of what we do? Does a perfectly captured experience detract from the experience itself?
But man, a DSLR is sure hard to lug around in the back of your jersey pocket.