I have been noticeably quiet when it comes to Tour de France 2011. I have watched every day with excitement, read up on statistics and perused various blogs and photographs. Even so, I am in no way knowledgeable enough about the actual race or the sport to devote an entire blog to it. So why am I even mentioning it now?
Mainly because I wish I had more knowledge to impart to the general public. You would think with all the discussions I have had with fellow cyclists (some competitive, some not), all the books and research I have done.. I would be able to spew information. It is beyond my comfort zone, however. I fear that may be a limiting factor to me as a writer. I am the type of person who must try something first before I can write about it with any sort of confidence. Sure, I have cycled now for many years – only really pushing myself the last two years, but still, from the moment I could bike I have been off exploring.
I haven’t raced though – I have barely even gone cycling with other people. I’ll take the occasional jaunt with friends, but for the most part I do my miles alone. That doesn’t mean I find it a lonely sport – I spend nearly the entire time working on my cadence and mentally pushing myself to tackle a hill. I count when I need motivation – so I will start at the bottom of a hill and begin counting my strokes, pushing myself not to slow down. I’ll tell myself on a particularly difficult hill that I can take a break after I get to 50 (but sometimes I will cheat as I am counting, just to get myself to the top… 39, 40, 40, 40, 41, 42, 43, 43, 43, etc.) or some other number that seems reasonable. I am actively searching for more people to cycle with – not just to write about it, but because I do enjoy the camaraderie and incentive that a group can give you.
When it comes to the Tour de France – the sheer endurance these men have and the amount of suffering I know they must go through as they progress through the stages blows me away. I admire their mental fortitude, the complete devotion they have towards cycling, and their physical abilities. So many of the professional cyclists are cocky and self-assured, but after watching the Tour de France I do believe they have every right. We can judge them for their attitude, but when you can spend days at a time pushing yourself mentally and physically; when you have thousands of people cheering and watching your every move (not to mention their physiques, which are perfect, even when covered with barbed wire marks) – I do believe even I would get pretty full of myself. Humility will come with time, but I don’t think it is for the fans to crush the riders high they are now on.
I find it difficult not to admire anyone who dedicates themselves so fully to a sport. There is a reason they are called élite, and quite deserving of the title. There are times in my life where I wish I could give myself in the same way to a sport or an activity. It falls to the wayside though as my life catches up with me and runs over my dreams. This is not to say I don’t lead a good life – I try to get on my bike nearly every day now, I dance several times a week, and I have great family and friends to share my life with. I’m not really an armchair sports person either, but do like to keep an eye on those things that interest me.
If you didn’t watch the Tour de France this year, I can understand. Maybe it didn’t interest you, maybe you didn’t know where to find it. Maybe you think that a man on a bike has nothing to offer you. Or just maybe you detest all things French. I urge you, even if it just for me, to watch some of the highlights from this years race. Put yourself in the bike seat and imagine not only the burn and fire in your legs as you go up a mountain, but the speed of coming down them (and if you have never experienced going down a hill on a bike while clipped in… it is an experience). The corners they take not only on a bike, but with riders on either side. The cars and the fans they have to deal with. Just writing about it makes me excited all over again. Feel free to fire off questions, if you come up with some – what I can’t answer with authority, I can help find the answer with enthusiasm!