I had sat down to work together a write-up about the Tour de France, and the various and farcical controversies that flittered through the peloton during this year’s edition of the Grand Tour. The Armstrong demise amid the ongoing Landis accusations—who now claims Armstrong to be the Santa Claus of cycling*—the crashes and cobbles, head-butts and protests, and ill-timed dropped chains. Who’d had thought that the first American finisher in Paris would be Chris Horner? And is anyone exactly surprised that Lance Armstrong threw a hors categorie sized fit when the entire world did not immediately acquiesce to his unannounced plans to “raise awareness” about Livestrong? As if the yellow bands on the Radio Shack kits, and the thousands of astroturfing youth hawking wristbands and t-shirts, and the Nike chalk-bot were not adequate awareness? In accordance with everything else about the LA Express, it’s always all about him. Even the parade stage into Paris could not escape his me-mongering.
*When hearing that Landis claimed that there was “no Santa Claus” Andy Schleck was reported to have said “My stomach is full of confusion. Frank always told me Santa was real.”
Alas, I digress.
We all have our different reasons for riding a bike. Some more utilitarian than others. Some of us like the fitness it can provide. Or the racing. Or the unbridled freedom of exploration and adventure. The reason, however, is largely irrelevant to the actual pedaling and rolling. It’s simply enough that we ride. And those of us who do ride know exactly what I am talking about. A mountain bike, or a cruiser, or a $7,000 road bike take us to a spot—physically, or otherwise—that nothing else can provide. And being there becomes a therapeutic exercise in self discovery. I think that I can claim that anything that has ever challenged me in life, has partially been overcome by relying on the ability to endure prolonged physical pain and mental doubt while pedaling up a large mountain.
And in that sense, Lance Armstrong was right all along: It’s not about the bike.
It’s about purging oneself of excess and waste and confusion. Of doubt and fear. It’s crossing the finish line of an event that you had no business entering—with a pounding fist and a stupid grin. I think there was a time for Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis, and many others, when riding professionally was still like that—still fun and exciting and honorable. And there are others, like Burke Swindlehurst, who still ride with that childlike passion and honesty. But money and fame and the pressure of winning changed everything for Lance and Floyd. Landis cheated. And then lied. And now? Who can say if he is still lying? As for Lance, clean or not, he became belligerent and spoiled. Sour. And crash prone.
Recently, while riding the amazing singletrack that surrounds me, I realized that regardless of allegations and investigations and celebrity-style tantrums, that there is simply nothing that will stop me from riding my bike. From pushing beyond my limits. And from finding meaning and joy and hope while pedaling up and down the mountains that cast long shadows over my life each and every day. ProTour drama is entertaining and amusing. But that is not cycling. You are cycling. I am cycling. And the millions of others that ride, only because we ride.
And that is enough.