What is pelotonitis?
Pelotonitis is a physiological and/or psychiatric condition that is most prevalent in the summer months, its spread facilitated by warm weather and increased daylight, peaking for the duration of the Tour de France. The number of reported cases reached almost epidemic proportions in Yorkshire in 2014, to the extent that the Department of Health were prepared to implement strict isolation measures, last seen in the Foot and Mouth epidemic, although widespread slaughter of cyclists on humane or economic grounds was never considered.
Who is at risk?
Pelotonitis can affect cyclists of any age or gender but is most likely to occur in middle-aged males. It is important to remember that merely going for long bike rides is not the same as suffering from pelotonitis – the condition is distinguished by the way that sufferers are convinced that they are/ were/ will be members of the professional cycling peloton. Doctors are divided as to which manifestation is the worst – those who believe they may, at some stage, become pro-cyclists may suffer from the symptoms for years, often undiagnosed, but may be able to lead otherwise normal lives. The cyclists who believe that they are professionals will present more acute symptoms, sometimes to the extent where reality has become supplanted by the belief that they are competing in the Tour de France.
What are the symptoms of Pelotonitis?
Sufferers may exhibit any one or more of numerous symptoms. Physically, they will be trying to look like professional cyclists. The sun-tan gained on numerous long rides will not be allowed to spread to parts of the body that are normally covered by cycling kit; on holiday (though most sufferers will only go on cycling holidays) they will either sunbathe in socks, knee-length shorts and track mitts, to maintain those sharply-defined tanlines, or they will briefly expose the untanned areas and look like they are wearing white Victorian bathing costumes. Both approaches are equally ludicrous.
Some of those suffering from pelotonitis may develop an obsession with their weight that is normally only seen in jockeys and ballerinas. They will become convinced that an extra 250g will ruin their power to weight ratio and destroy their hill-climbing ability. Bizarrely, studies have indicated that this tendency becomes more pronounced in those areas of the country (E.Anglia) where there are no hills to climb. Others will be in denial; they will squeeze their seventeen-stone frames into the tightest of replica team kits or, in one personally witnessed case, a King of the Mountains jersey, the wearer of which was so overweight that the red polka dots had been stretched into torpedo-like ovals. They will convince themselves that they look like Chris Froome in the 3rd week of a Grand Tour. Such behaviour makes for an almost instantaneous diagnosis of pelotonitis, with or without the presentation of any other symptoms. If they have shaved their legs as well the long-term prognosis is not favourable.
The sufferer of pelotonitis will be convinced that while he is on a bike ride around the suburbs he is actually Coppi or Merckx, riding clear on the Tourmalet on a solo break of epic proportions (he will never believe that he is suffering, minutes adrift of the autobus and waiting to be collected by the broom wagon). Innocent bystanders may get drawn into this delusion. Pillion passengers on passing motorbikes have been shouted at for failing to hold up a whiteboard displaying the rider’s advantage over the chasing peloton. Riders who have suffered punctures have been known to stand by the roadside, attempting to flag down the first passing yellow car, in the mistaken belief that it is actually Mavic neutral services. Old ladies waiting at bus stops have had their handbags snatched by passing cyclists who believed that they were actually team helpers handing out musettes at the feed zone. The rider may risk death or serious injury by going the wrong, but quicker, way around a roundabout and he will spend a fortune on replacing the bidons, arm-warmers and waterproof jackets that he has thrown aside, to say nothing of the money wasted on bottles of champagne that he presents to himself on getting home, only to spray them around the garden
How can Pelotonitis be Treated?
Pelotonitis, although easy to diagnose, can be very difficult to treat. As with many psychological disorders, the sufferer must want to change and, as this will mean saying goodbye to his fantasy, jet-setting life, with the adulation of the crowds and the snogs from podium girls, to return to the more mundane world of a job in accounts or IT and weekends of DIY shop visits and lunch with the in-laws, skilled help may be required. Some sufferers have been cured by being persuaded to become interested in more boring sports such as snooker or golf, the hours spent watching these mindless pursuits being gradually increased until there is no time available to ride the bike. One sufferer was cured when his wife staged an “intervention” in the form of a raid by dummy WADA/UCI officials, claiming doping infringements, which resulted in a 2 year ban, by which time the cyclist had sold his bikes, bought a sports car and had a proper, non-Lycra related mid-life crisis that involved a young girl who worked on the checkout at his local B&Q, her versatility and voluptuousness matched only by her vacuity. Chapeau!