Superman and I have been watching Le Tour de France for the thirteen years since we cycled from Paris to Sicily in 2007. Never in a million years did I imagine I would be watching cycling, let alone daily for three weeks straight every July! But I do and each year I learn something about life from this amazing race.
Life Lessons from Le Tour de France
For me, this year’s lesson is about how to live a successful life.
And tell me who isn’t interested in that?
For those of you who don’t watch Le Tour de France, here’s how it works in a nutshell:
- Three weeks of daily racing.
- Le Tour de France is both a team event and an individual event at the same time.
- There are different roles in each team:
- General Classification (GC) – Usually one per team trying to win the whole thing and the Maillot Jaune (Yellow Jersey) by being the quickest around the whole course over three weeks.
- Sprinters – One per team trying to win the most points from the sprints and the Maillot Vert (Green Jersey).
- Mountain Climbers – A few per team trying to be ‘The King of the Mountain’; to win the most points from consistently being one of the first riders over the mountain tops. Maillot a Pois Rouges (Polka Dot Jersey).
- Best Young Rider – Usually one per team trying to make the quickest time around the course of all riders under the age of 25yrs. Maillot Blanc (White Jersey).
- Domestiques – Riders whose duty it is to work hard for their GC rider to the point of exhaustion and individual non-competitiveness. Working hard looks like constantly riding at the front of the peloton and ‘pulling’ along their leader, team and consequently, the rest of the pack.
As you can imagine, lots of lessons emerge from this kind of competitive endurance race.
Because these guys train daily for years, going without the chocolate cake or patisserie I so LOVE to eat for breakfast, they teach me about discipline.
Because it is both a team and an individual event, these guys teach me there is honour in service. Domestiques sacrifice themselves for their team leader’s overall victory and team leaders give their precious energy in turn helping their sprinters win stages.
Because roles within the team and peloton are so specific, some riders may spend their entire career, training, working and starving, never to win a stage. This teaches me that reward, gratification and external feedback are not the ‘why’ we do what we do. This teaches me to be patient with my results and honest about my efforts and expectations.
One of these guys eventually, surprisingly or unexpectedly wins a stage. This teaches me that winning is good and whole and honest and a wondrous and emotional reward for hard work and persistence. Their speeches always teach me that winning and success is a team effort. Not just by those wearing the same jersey on the road, but by those working behind the scenes to feed and water the jerseys on the road. And of course by the parents, partners and children supporting them at home.
Because what it takes to win each different jersey requires very specific body types and athletic abilities, these guys teach me to accept my body and its abilities.
On a mountainous stage, it is the best sprinters of the race who form the group lagging at the back of the race – called the Groupetto. Because they are much more muscled, the sprinters are way heavier and so it is much harder to drag their carcasses over the big hills than it is for the skinny GC contenders. This teaches me to accept I am naturally great at some things and not so great at others and that’s ok.
This year, I received the greatest lesson from Le Tour de France ever:
How to live a successful life.
This year, in this Covid19 Tour, a 21 year old Slovenian named Tadej Pogacar won the whole thing AND three jerseys.
In a Tour where France was recording thousands of new Covid19 cases per day, masked and non-masked fans still lined the routes despite being requested not to and Race Director, Christian Prudhomme, tested positive at the end of the first week. Stage winners accepted their honours in masks, trying desperately to suck oxygen in after big stages. At the onset, Superman and I were very sceptical they’d even make a week, let alone all the way to Paris in three weeks time.
So when this skinny young kid came home like a freight train on the last day of racing and snatched the Maillot Jaune from the shoulders of race favourite and fellow Slovenian, Primoz Roglic – the man everyone had settled into assuming would win – he taught me how to live a successful life.
In his post stage interview, the Tour de France debutante Pogacar explained:
I don’t know what to say, I don’t know when I will understand this but I’m really proud of the team, they did such a big effort and to get the jersey on the final day, it was just a dream.
We were dreaming that from the start, we’ve achieved that…how amazing.
It was not just me, we did the recon, I knew every corner, every pothole, where to accelerate on the road, congrats to all the team, today I just pushed finally in the end and I made it.
I was listening to my radio on the flat part, but on the climb I didn’t hear my radio because the fans were too loud. I didn’t get time gaps or anything, I just went full gas to the top.
Roglič looked really good all Tour, I didn’t believe myself until the finish line and then just in the finish I saw that I’d won.
My dream was just to be on the Tour de France, now I’m here and I just won the last stage and…unbelievable.
I just went full gas to the top.
When’s the last time you went full gas?
- Worrying how you look doing it?
- Making sure everyone likes you and accepts you along the way?
- Calculating and manipulating?
- Mentally stepping through to your imagined end result first?
- Managing and limiting your risk? – Risk of what? Actually living?
- Leaving the safety of your assumptions and status quo?
- Being paralysed by your fear of failure?
This kid shocked everybody.
Because he could not hear where he was placed, he could not calculate and manipulate and so just gave it everything.
In fact he’d been telling us his full gas strategy all Tour – basically that he was going to give it all to win or die trying.
If you are like me and lots of other humans I know, we don’t do what Tadej Pogacar did.
We don’t live our lives like that.
We don’t disregard the past, the stats, the history, the expectations and others’ approval and just go full gas all the way to the top and win.
Instead, we choose to let the past, the stats, the history, the expectations and others’ approval win.
And then we make reasons and excuses for why we didn’t get what we want.
Let’s all take a leaf out of Tadej’s book and choose to embody his all or nothing attitude to winning at the game of life.
After all, this life is the only one we have.
May as well go full gas to the top right?
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