I rarely write or speak about cycling, but I think it’s really worth some words. This sport, at least the road biking, with the main big tours like the Tour de France, the Giro (Italy Tour) and the Vuelta (Spain tour) combine a lot of various aspects of sport: it is both an individual AND a team sport, with more strategy than we might think, it requires a huge amount of ungrateful endurance training and it is one of the most painful sports I know, putting in some intense effort for hours, feeling the muscle pain in the legs, and the intensity pain in the stomach and heart. And in addition, it is a very dangerous sport with lots of falls, broken bones, torn skin and once in a while some deadly accidents. You need to be really motivated and committed to give it all despite the pain and to stay really focused when going down hills after intense efforts.
After this year Tour de France, in July, I wanted to share 2 things I have been present to:
Team Dedication over individual recognition:
This sport is a great illustration of what it means to give it all for a teammate. Even more than in a team sport like soccer, lacrosse or basketball, where the whole team gets the same result/score in the end, road cycling sometimes requires a cycler to give it all for his team leader who will get the main result in the end (victory, podium, points, etc…). A cycler will for instance lead the peloton at a high pace in the mountain to distance other teams, while the leader will stay “protected” behind the teammate (the one leading a group is putting in much more effort as he is in first place, mainly due to aerodynamics factors and the impact of the wind). It’s often that you will see a teammate literally give all he has until the tank is empty and he just can’t anymore and then leave the leading position to either another teammate, either the team leader, dropping at the back of the race to recover and end the race as he can. For him, no victory, no points, for recognition from the general public. His only goal is to pull as much as he can to put his leader in the best conditions, sacrificing all personal goals to his leader. Same things with sprint arrivals. Teammates will lead the group to a really high pace so as to “launch” their sprinter in the last hundreds of meters and then let him go for the sprint and the victory or podium. Whereas in a team sport the whole team will be recognized for winning, the teammates in cycling get far less recognition and the leader gets most of the light. I have a lot of respect for the dedication these teammates have and I think this could be used in any team as a great example of giving all for the team, beyond one’s personal goals, not letting the ego get in the way of the team’s objectives.
French win pretender Thibault Pinot showed and will have to show a great deal of resilience:
- After losing 1min40s (which is a very important loss) when he got trapped in a second part of the peloton that couldn’t keep up with the leading part (because of the impact of the wind) in the first of the three weeks, he bounced back and attacked in several stages in the mountain and came back very close to his opponents, showing clear signs of strength and of a possibility for him to win the Tour. He was able to turn his big frustration of his 1min40s loss into positive energy, into the fuel that enabled him to retake this time in the mountain. And it is not sure at all that shouldn’t he have lost this 1min40s, he would have attacked this much and demonstrated such strength. This is what Resilience looks like. And you too can bounce back every time you get a bad start or have a bad result.
- Then, 2 days before the end of the race (out of 3 weeks of racing), he had to give up because of an injury in his leg’s muscle, which he seems to have got by hurting his handlebar when trying to avoid people falling in front of him in a downhill. I found this heartbreaking, because he is French of course and no French has won for 34 years 😊. But even more because it feels so unfair. Last year he had lost the podium on the last day of the Giro (Italy Tour) because he fell really sick (sort of pneumonia). And this year, as he seemed to be in his best shape ever, this injury popped up 2 days before the end… He is still devastated and can’t accept it. Such strokes of bad lucks are unfortunately part of sport. You have to deal with it. It is painful, it takes time. And your ability to bounce back will determine what sort of athlete you are. Once you gave room for the frustration, the disappointment even the distress to express (better to let these feelings be rather than cover them up and pretend they are not there), you can bounce back and use this as an extra motivator to fuel you with even more determination and commitment. As Pinot said lately: “Only winning the Tour de France will help me forget, a podium won’t be enough”.