Luca Paolini, bad-ass.
Man invented the phrase bad-ass to describe a professional cyclist like Luca Paoilini.
Bad-ass rolls a number of man-traits into one catchy hyphenated descriptor. Let us count the ways: toughness, imperviousness to pain, a risk taker, a singular focus on the task at hand, a certain inimitable style, a don’t-give-a-shit-what-anybody-thinks attitude, an unintentional flair in the execution, a cool that radiates without desperate need for media attention. Did we mention the beard?
In the last few weeks, Luca Paolini has given us all a dramatic display of bad-ass-ness, showing us the true richness and style behind the terminology.
First, in Milan-San Remo, Paolini rode the front for what seemed like most of forever when the race was exploding. The Italian drove the chase from the bottom of the Poggio to the top, showing no sign of weakness.
His team captain Alexander Kristoff tucked right behind his wheel the whole way up. It was the definition of selfless, super-domestic sacrifice, bad-ass in the service of the big goal. While he didn’t win, you could argue Paolini stole the show with his impressive, drain-the-tank-to-empty workhorse effort. Would the second-place Kristoff have made the podium without Paolini stamping his bad-ass authority all over the peloton? I think we all know the answer to that race scenario.
Then in Gent-Wevelgem, Paolini switched roles, from worker to boss-man, stepping up his game and stunning all the superstars and front runners. It was a virtuoso Bass-Ass Display.
Peter Sagan, pay attention here. Go back and watch what Paolini did to you and Geraint Thomas and Mr. Stybar. Paolini used guile, experience, cajones, tactics, surprise, stone cold killer instincts. The move shouted bad-ass so loud that nobody reacted until it was too late. Even Thomas, who has jacked his own Bad-Ass rating to new heights this season, was unable to close the gap.
Who was not pulling for Luca Paolini to win Gent Wevelgem? He Who Is Bad-Ass will only get stronger when high winds and torrential rains throw riders off their bikes and into the ditches. When the Apocalypse arrives, the hard-men pedal faster. Bad-ass don’t give a shit about the weather.
When Luca Paolini retires, we will look back at his palmares and say not bad, my friend. But mostly we’ll remember him not for the races he won but who he was. He was one bad-ass dude.