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« Creating Havoc | Main | Cleaning water bottles made easy »

Smoking and Cycling

I have never smoked although growing up in the 1940s and 1950s it was an era when it seemed everyone smoked including many cyclists.

It was always strange to me to witness a finishing sprint in a race and then see many of the riders collapse exhausted at the side of the road and immediately light up a cigarette, usually followed by a bout of coughing.

The picture below I sure you have seen many times; it is from the early days of the Tour de France and shows the riders taking a cigarette break.

Below is a pretty cleaver modern day re-enactment of the above famous picture. Note the guy in the second row, center crouching down, and the rider further back holding up his water bottle.

In 1978 I was lucky enough to see Eddie Merckx race in London towards the end of his career. I was surprised to see him light up a cigarette at the finish line of the event. In later years I saw Merckx several times at various trade shows throughout the 1980s and witnessed him smoking several times.

This is how Eddie looks today.

Just kidding, that is not Eddie Merckx.

I couldn’t find any pictures of Eddie Merckx smoking, but here’s a shot (Below.) of Italian pro cyclist Mario Cipollini taking a drag while riding. Cipollini’s career highlights include World Road Championship and the Milan-San Remo in 2002.


Of course the whole key is, you have to start young.

The rest is just training.



Reader Comments (10)

Never smoked either but WWII got both my parents to start that habit. The power of marketing an image is made so obvious in the Chesterfield ad. Bringing to extremes into a coherent image is still alive, car ads always show how empty and free public roads are for faster vehicles.

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

It still strikes me as odd to see a cyclist smoke, e.g. just biking from point A to point B. Of course, cyclists are human...and it doesn't stop them from talking on cell phones and whatnot.

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian (Seattle)

My (Czechoslovakian) collegiate rowing coach used to joke about a friend who would would stub out his cigarettes on the dock before a race. Evidently, the guy was the national champion, if I remember correctly. So, who knows...

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

Eddy was instructed to have a smoke especially after a race ... to relax! Bartali & Coppi probably did it for the same reason. Then they all got addicted!

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

P.S. It seems Merckx wasn't shy about acting as a spokesman for a cigarette company.

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrent

That Mario photo is startling, coming in an age of athletic science and training.

The cyclist in the Chesterfield Kings ad looks a lot like Sean Connery!

And, of course, the movies did more than anything else to market the puff. If you look at the old flicks on Turner Classic, everyone is lighting up, in every possible situation. Americans all wanted to be like Bogie.

January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRider

I never smoked and I really hate it when people smoke around me. I gag at the mere inhalation of the thing. My cousins are bikers and they too smoke a lot. I just don't see the point why they do biking religiously to stay fit but puff their lives away with a cigarette stick.

I really hate the parents of that kid pictured above. How can they let him do that???

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbeachbody

Wills Woodbines, Players? Seems my Dad who was a chain smoker,( died at age 81yrs though!) Smoked em all, 2nd hand smoke I must have had a lot of that.Hated the smell and the ash trays! The one thing I dislike about going to Brum now, is ALL my releatives smoke like chimneys! try going in a car from the Airport to my Sis Joan house in her car, Open the bloody windows PLEASE! NEVER touched one all my life, I DO remember blokes I rode with in the club did smoke. But then apart from smoking what about all the fried and greasy foods we ate? Full cooked Brit brecky? fried bread, chips,fried fish! WoW! Im still alive!

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

The old TdF pic: Those eager beavers are not waiting to inhale ordinary tobacco, not if the history of LeTour is anything to go by!

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohann Rissik

Latest blog post is about same topic...
in which I link to this page.

Don't much care what happens to smokers, but have had it with them bankrupting Social Security, costing me money, creating widespread poverty, and destroying the planet.

April 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLabann

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