Having a cyclist in our family — my son Alex is out at a race as I write this — means that we are huge fans of the Tour de France. It’s a three day pain fest — emotionally, mentally, and physically. The French scenery is gorgeous, the pace is intense, and the mountain climbing is spectacular. The Tour is widely viewed as the toughest sporting event in the world — and with good reason. On most days, the riders cover more than 100 miles — and they do it over a 21-day period with just a few days off. Amazing!
To be a Tour rider, you have to be in peak condition physically and mentally tough. The stamina required is enormous — it’s definitely not for the fainthearted. What can the Tour teach us about writing? Plenty, in my book! Here are some thoughts:
Hang tough: Crashes, mechanical failures, fevers, fatigue — Tour riders are wrestling with them all. Last year’s winner, Alberto Contador crashed on the first day of the Tour and lost major time. One day you’re riding high, the next you’ve wiped out. The Tour is unforgiving and throws everything at riders. In the first nine days this year, 20 riders had to leave the Tour with injuries. In the face of all this drama, riders have to stay focused and determined. They have to tough it out, when they have a bad day and then shake it off the next day. As writers, we have to do the same.
Stay positive: One team started out with nine riders and is now down to six. Even so, one of the team leaders talked about the stages that can still be won and the strength his team still has. He knows just how tough the road ahead is and yet he’s still looking for possible wins. That’s the heart of a champion — and we need to bring the same positive intensity and upbeat attitude to our work every day.
Break away: On just about every day of the Tour, a small band of intrepid riders breaks away from the pack and tries to out ride everyone — even the big guns. Probably nine out of ten times the breaks are caught and swallowed by the main pack of riders. But every once in a while, a bold rider wins a stage and captures the yellow jersey. The message: break away from the pack and you might just win big!