A-Z Day 18
Joe Friel recently tweeted:
“Competition” means to strive “together”, not “against.” Competitors assist in your pursuit of excellence.
— Joe Friel (@jfriel) September 12, 2012
In The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton told a compelling story that went like this:
He was in a race, and had a nasty crash. He was bleeding, and pretty banged up. But he jumped back on his bike and started to pedal furiously to get back into the chase. He hadn’t taken any time to really see how bad his injuries were, he was just pedaling. And that’s when a friend put a hand on his shoulder and said “Tyler, it’s just bike racing.”
I like the story because every one of us has had those kind of moments. We’ve all been, at one time or another, too wrapped up in the race, too concerned about our placement in the field, and too focused on that sub-nine, top 10, or podium finish. Each of us has, however briefly, forgotten that “it’s just bike racing.” And when that happens, we forget our humanity. We become someone different than who we really are.
If we aren’t careful, we start thinking that this amazing sport, this sport that we all love and pursue with dogged passion, is all about us—our results, our goals, our hard work.
Nothing about bike racing has anything to do with any of us individually. Nobody really cares about our race-day goals, or all the hours we’ve spent training that will be wasted if that lapped rider doesn’t quickly get out of our way. Our results are meaningless. The little number next to our names after the race doesn’t have any actual value. It’s just a number.
Before any of us makes an ass of ourselves at our next event, we ought to remember that it’s just bike racing. We should remember that everyone out on the trail is there for their own reasons. Some riders want to go fast. Others just want to finish. But when the race is over, and the day is done, where any of us end up on the cork-board is irrelevant.
Our sport already has enough people who believe that they are the center of the universe. We don’t need more.
Adam Myerson, in an excellent interview, recently said: “Bike racing meant something to me and that’s why I never attempted to cheat to do it because the minute I did that I would have ruined this dream that I was pursuing.”
There is a difference between doping, and being an ass. But not much.
Bike racing means something different to each of us. But despite those differences, we all agree that racing bikes is worth our time and energy. We train. We spend money. We travel. We trade weekends that could be spent doing whatever normal people do, for a chance to pedal in circles as fast we can. Most of us never win anything. Most of us, in fact, are utterly anonymous; just pack fodder. And that includes the age-group winners.*
*If you are winning age-group races, it’s time to move into the Open class.
Ultimately we race because it’s supposed to be fun.
When we start accusing others of intentionally cutting courses, and throw man-sized fits at finish lines to prove it, because finishing 8th place (in an age group!) is exponentially more important than finishing 11th, then we’ve gone too far. We’ve lost any modicum of perspective and reality. When we start trying to get other riders relegated, it might be time to relegate ourselves.
Thank a promoter, a volunteer, a sponsor.
Ride your bike, and smile. Otherwise, why bother?
After all, it’s just bike racing.