“When I finally retire from cycling, I might open a bookstore, if only because I know I’ll always have at least one loyal customer: myself.”
Jens is a veteran of 14 Tour de France seasons — and he’s one of my favorite cyclists. Over the grueling three-weeker, Jens is always impassioned and inspiring. He loves to ride and he enjoys putting the heat on other riders. He’s definitely a go-all-out kind of guy. He’s also an avid reader.
Who knew? I didn’t, until I was leafing through an issue of Alex’s Bicycling magazine and came across a story that Jens wrote about his on-the-road reading and the way in which cozying up with a good book helps him handle the grind of racing hundreds of miles a day. For Jens, losing himself in a book is the best way to manage the physical and mental demands of competing in the world’s toughest sports event.
As a child growing up in East Germany, he loved reading and he’s never “lost that passion.” He was a huge fan of Jack London and devoured White Fang and The Call of the Wild. Today, his reading ranges from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea to Gunter Grass’s Peeling the Onion.
What appealed so much to Jens about Jack London’s stories? There was always a central character “caught in a struggle to survive against all odds” — a situation that he finds mirrored in his own career as a competitive cyclist. Stories don’t just entertain him, they energize him.
Before each Tour de France, Jens always goes to his “favorite little book shops in Berlin” and buys three books — one for each week of the race. He believes that “being able to get lost” in books has helped him escape the pressure of racing and contributed to his having such a long career. Reading has helped him resist the temptation to be consumed by cycling — it reminds him that there’s more to life than wheels, gears, and roads.
I always love learning about how the power of books and storytelling has shaped the lives of devoted readers like Jens. The stories they tell are powerful reminders of just how important the work that we do is. We create characters that inspire and enliven people’s lives. We craft the tales that energize them and give them relief from the pressures and problems they face in their daily lives. We that remind them that there’s a bigger world to be savored and experienced than the one they’re immersed in. Write on!