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Mauri Vansevenant and the rise of the heavy metal cyclist

In-depth
21 Apr 2021
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Irrepressible young Deceuninck-QuickStep man embodies what it is to be a heavy metal bike racer

Words: Joe Robinson Photo: Dececuninck-QuickStep

Mauri Vansevenant is a heavy metal cyclist. Not in a Daniel Oss way, though. That’s the ‘range of t-shirts with rhinestone guitars and bikes’ way. Oss is Glam Rock, Kiss, Steel Panther, rock fingers and tongues out.

Vansevenant is a proper heavy metal cyclist. The real unrelenting stuff from Scandanavia that’s made by bands with names like Gorgoroth or Carpathian Forest. The stuff that gets banned by governments.

But what is a heavy metal cyclist and why is this 21-year-old from Deceuninck-QuickStep one, you ask? Well, it’s in the way a cyclist rides their bike and the way they race.

Did you watch the men’s Amstel Gold Race last weekend? It was a prime example of Vansevenant’s heavy metal cycling.

With 50km to go, he suffered a mechanical and was dropped. He managed to return to the peloton but then he crashed and was dropped again. He got up, rode like the clappers and reached the bunch as it hit the Cauberg only to fall victim to another mechanical and get dropped again.

Like a bat out of hell, Vansevenant rode like a man possessed on that final lap of the Geulhemmerberg, the Bemelerberg and the Cauberg for what seemed like no reason. He was dropped, his day was done.

But Vansevenant is a heavy metal cyclist. He rides like a masochist, getting kicks out of his self-flaggellation in front of the television screens. Pounding his way past strewn groups of riders all over the road.

Heavy metal cycling is the way Vansevenant managed to catch his team leader Julian Alaphilippe in the last 10km and despite being close to exhaustion, shout in his face to jump on his wheel as he pulled what seemed like an endless line of riders closer to a trio upfront that already had the race in the bag.

At last year’s Fleche Wallonne while still a neo-pro, Vansevenant was solo off the front with 4km left to race. He crashed, flipping over his bars into a ditch of weeds and bramble bushes. Without ever releasing his hand from the drops, Vansevenant managed to remount and keep riding, only getting caught at the base of the Mur de Huy.

Heavy metal cycling is Vansevenant crashing into bramble bushes but getting straight back up, it's his disregard for conventional tactics, getting dropped time and time again but refusing to give up.

It’s also the way he rides his bike. In cycling we talk about souplesse, that buttery smooth pedal stroke that looks as if the rider is barely even making an effort as they inevitably drift away from the compeition. Like Bradley Wiggins and Anna van der Breggen.

This is its antithesis. It’s pounding, uncompromising, coarse. It’s like he has little respect for the machine below him. Like he is constantly pedalling in anger, furious at the fact he isn’t going fast enough. Hammering until either the bike breaks or he does.

It’s not that he rides without a rhythm – there is one, it’s just almost hard to watch. You feel dirty for enjoying it. Like listenening to the unrelenting double kick drum of a petrifying grindcore track. You don’t understand it but yet you want more.

It’s not EDM cycling, you understand that. The work of a Wout van Aert or a Lizzie Deignan. The consistent pulsating flow through the pedals that builds and builds until it drops yet remains fully in control.

And it’s not jazz cycling. Alaphilippe is a jazz cyclist. One minute, he is the utter definition of souplesse, tapping the pedals like a drum brush kissing a hi-hat in Herbie Hancock tune, the next all elbows and knees as his tongue wags like John Coltrane taking his saxophone on a tangent in a smoke-fille club.

It’s heavy metal cycling. It’s dirty, it’s confusing, it’s unapologetic, it’s irresistable and it’s why we love Mauri Vansevenant.