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.
Mellow VeloJuly 26, 2010
Excellent. Just excellent. The moment I finished reading this, NPR ran their story about the TdF and speculated that Andy might have done better with Frank around to help. Admittedly, I didn’t care much. I felt much more satisfaction thinking of my ride yesterday and watching someone pass on the street in work clothes on a cross bike.
KeithJuly 26, 2010
Finally, something more to the point and not a load of drivel about the ‘others’ who’s mistakes or alleged mistakes have little to no impact on our lives except as conversation starters or enders!
Supposition and blame has taken the place of patience and forgiveness in this world and it’s past annoying. Why can’t we all just go out and ride and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, or not doing?
Cycling is about going higher, improvement, self-awareness, peace, not about “he didn’t wait for me,” or “he cheated”, or “her genetics are just better that’s why she’s faster!” Whether someone is breaking the rules on ‘the Tour’ or at the Mt. Ogden 50K it’s irrelevant to who you are and want to become. There are plenty of individuals out there saying one thing and doing another. We shouldn’t be engaged in any activity simply because a someone we admire is doing it. We should do it for our own reasons and invite others to do the same. I hope that we never find ourselves at a point where all people want to talk about are our mistakes or their suspicions about us. What miserable place to be when we are no longer trying to help others, but would rather tear them down.
The world is heavy enough that I certainly need a break as often as possible. That’s why I ride. Just to get out, away and forget about all the garbage that’s being generated by those who’d rather wade in the filthy than breathe the clean air of the mountains.
JasonJuly 26, 2010
Another great one Adam.
Jeff HighamJuly 26, 2010
Adam and Keith nailed it. I’ll add that it doesn’t really matter much (to me anyway) the destination, terrain, or duration. Just spinning the wheels is therapy and I always feel better afterwards. Add good friends and some friendly competition to the mix and it is all the better. As Keith said to me in the car last week, cycling is one of the few true “life sports”. There aren’t too many one can do well into their 70s and 80s.
BrandonJuly 26, 2010
great post man………
GregJuly 26, 2010
Great Grizzly, just excellent! You hit the nail on the head. WE are cycling. Not a handful of rich fools that are way too full of themselves. We the pedaling millions ARE THE SPORT.
Leslie GereinJuly 29, 2010
Ride More. Talk Less. Thanks, I second your thoughts on this years Tour. But it sure does make for great entertainment! After all, it is “The Show.”