“Never say never in the Tour de France, because Lady Fortune smiles on whomever she pleases.”
The Tour de France is huge in our house because my son Alex is a competitive cyclist and my husband David is a longtime biking enthusiast. The Tour lasts for three weeks and has 21 stages. Just finishing the race is a massive achievement because it’s considered the toughest sports event in the world — and no wonder! The race is all about suffering: Thousands of miles and mountainous climbs, hairpin curves, and relentless competition for the coveted Yellow Jersey.
Watching the Tour this time around, I was struck again (see “Hanging Tough”) about how much we writers can learn about managing our own ups and downs from watching athletes leave their hearts on the field or the road in tough athletic events. Here are a few Tour musings to ponder:
Anything can happen: This year, more than 25 athletes out of a field of 200+ were seriously injured and had to leave the Tour. No matter how hard you train and prepare, there’s no way to anticipate what Lady Fortune will throw at you. Even so, you need to work your heart out anyway. And if Lady Fortune ends up throwing you a curve ball, you have to find the guts to shake it off, bounce back, and move forward.
Easy days are dangerous: During the Tour, there are some flat stages that are relatively easy to ride. Yet it was on these days that some of the worst accidents happened. Sometimes, when you’re coasting along and everything appears to be going smoothly, you can be lulled into complacency and let your attention drift.
What goes up, comes down: And what goes down, comes up! Last year, the world champion sprinter Mark Cavendish seemed to be unbeatable. This year, a rising young star, Peter Sagan, is giving Mark a run for his money. In turns out though, that Mark was down for a while, but not out! In the last days of the Tour, he pulled off a brilliant victory.
Never say never: One rider took a huge tumble and injured his arm. But he climbed back on his bike and went on to win that day’s stage. And another rider, David Millar — one of the Tour’s “old dogs” at 35 — found the stamina and sprint legs to win the longest stage in this year’s race. For 140 tough miles, he held the whole pack of riders at bay and then coasted to victory. Sweet indeed! Write on.