Archive for May, 2009

Winning Every Time

Posted in Championship Qualities on May 30, 2009 by bethleasure

Audience of One
15“When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Eric Liddell, Olympic Champion


A short book worth reading

Winning is a vulnerable experience. It puts you in the spotlight for everyone to see – good and bad all at once. There is a weight to glory borne by all winners. It increases pressure upon you adding external opinion or approval upon internal desire. Great performers don’t have an absence of fear but instead cultivate absolute vulnerability. You can totally release the weight of performance by focusing on a new concept of winning.

Several elements come into play to release performance and lighten the weight of glory. Fear of exposure flees if you compete for an audience of One. By focusing on God’s purposes for you in cycling, you harness His pleasure as a force that guides, hones, sustains, and loves you through every peak and valley of the athletic journey. Losing the burden of approval of others also releases results-orientation so you can maintain presence in the process. Enjoying what each athletic experience brings sets you up to win. When expectations are geared toward comparing yourself against what you are capable of on the day, you can “win” each ride. The only One you let down if you fail is God and probably yourself. But if you’ve known you’ve left everything out on the road, you walk away from the race a winner every time. This frees you to do what champions do – focusing on the activity of the sport instead of the consequence of the competition.

Likewise, being on a stellar team or following a great leader doesn’t cover up shoddy work. Working at your best no matter who is watching always ensures a win. An omnipresent God sees what others don’t see and this raises your standard and leads to reward, irrespective of result.

Prayer for 16Total Release Performance
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive…from the Lord as a reward…there is no favoritism.” 17Colossians 3:23-25

We confess we think about everybody’s approval but what God wants and has created us to do. We ask for supernatural affirmation that we’re on the right road. We ask that our need for approval take a backseat to a desire to give ourselves completely to what God shows us is ours to do.

Ponder Do I set up a win for myself every time I ride? Affirm I know that finishing first starts in my head and that I will win even in training today. Watch the results rack up when you can totally release.

15Eric Liddell’s thoughts on the higher purposes of his sport brought him complete peace and powerful motivation to overcome great odds for Olympic glory. Eric’s feeling was that whatever glory he received by doing what he was created to do would reflect God’s glory – and because of this higher purpose, He could feel God’s pleasure when he competed. It’s sad to me that I know of no similar quote by a cyclist although I’ve known a few who’ve felt this way. Perhaps this book will call out a generation of cyclists like Liddell. For more on Liddell, there are a number of biographies, some published works by Eric himself, and the movie- Chariots of Fire written by Colin Welland and directed by Hugh Hudson, 1981.

16The concepts of this daily were first expressed in Total Release Performance by Wes Neal published by Cross Training Copyright © 1998 by Wes Neal. This is a small booklet that can be ordered online

17The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Championship Qualities: Discipline

Posted in Championship Qualities on May 29, 2009 by bethleasure

Goat Paths

11“It makes me mad that everybody thinks because of my size that natural climbing ability makes me win. They have no idea how hard I work at it.” Michael Carter, Winning Climber, 57kg wet?

One of my early athletic revelations was a gestalt moment realizing that winners worked harder than everybody else. My prior assumption was that champions were borne from talent or inclination or benediction. All that is true, but consistent victors are disciplined. So when I went climbing with Mike Carter and he put it in a monster gear, stood up and said he’d be back shortly and did this again and again and again up the hardest climbs in the foothills of Colorado’s front range, I thought he was Superman.

Whether it’s Mike Carter’s big ring uphill suffer fests or an Armstrong-like attention to equipment kilograms and millimeters or the beautiful variations in microwatts available to us through powermeter analyses, the best are winning because of a heightened sense of excellence and how to achieve it. They understand the 12long obedience in the same direction necessary for stellar results.

A winner takes the road less travelled

A winner takes the road less travelled

As cyclists, we know the best routes are found among narrow unused routes only fit for cattle and carriages. The same holds true for roads less traveled in lifestyle choices that hone, refine, and narrow one’s options necessary for single-minded dedication. As a coach, I often explain the importance of vigorous consistency to wide-eyed wanna-be’s who think the finishing banner crosses Easy Street. Advancement requires time, incredible effort, and inspiration. Discipline to stay focused on the details separates the goats from the group. Discipline to live out those details and incorporate them into every aspect of experience is part of thought and action that turns 13good into great.

Prayer for Discipline
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Luke 13:24

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. 14Matthew 7:13-14

We confess we look for easy bullet-point methods when striving for big goals. We ask for vigorous pursuit of the plan in all its comprehensive complexity and difficulty.      

Ponder Am I believing in shortcuts for success? Affirm I gain and sustain lasting greatness by starting with a culture of discipline that adheres to relentless standards of excellence. Watch a long time for momentum that leads to breakthrough while continually pushing on the pedals.

11Conversations with Michael Carter. Mike Carter is among our best pure American climbers. At his best, he was a Grand Tour level climber who battled with Claudio Chiapucci, Il Diabolo. Mike’s chances were limited as personal tragedy removed him from euro-level racing. Even while competing at the Tour de France, he was called back to America to cope with some problems at home. At the point of the incident related here, he did the hardest uphill workouts I’d ever seen.

12Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson published by Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 2nd Edition © 2000 by Eugene H. Peterson is an excellent resource for learning what qualities and timing are necessary to fulfill the journey toward better character.

13This concept is from Good to Great by Jim Collins published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc., NY Copyright © 2001 by Jim Collins. Discipline to mission, along with knowing and sticking to that mission, must include resources to pursue that mission.

14The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society and The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Championship Qualities: Our Heroes

Posted in Championship Qualities on May 28, 2009 by bethleasure

8″He has a head, two arms, two legs just as I…”
Bernard Hinault, One of the Heroes

Campionissimo suffered for his successes and failures

Campionissimo suffered for his successes and failures

Our heroes in the sport are those whose greatness is defined by accomplishments on the bike. These are the great ones whose epic rides still leave us breathless, inspired and intrigued. These are the influential persons whose words and deeds and attitudes influence an entire dominion of like-minded pursuivants. They eat bananas, so we eat bananas. They ride a certain frame, so we ride a certain frame. They speak out against drugs, we don’t do drugs. The responsibility really is as great as the influence brought by the accomplishments. It is cycling’s version of noblesse oblige, the privilege and responsibility of aristocracy to set a standard for the welfare of the kingdom. Like it or not, these heroes are in the jersey worn to symbolize an exemplary life.

And yet we are all judged by our individual choices. From this perspective the jersey must be worn by all of us and the privilege of slipping on the qualities of greatness experienced atop the podiums of our lives. These heroes are human beings: fallible and fallen who experienced failure. We must not idolize victors or even victory. We can take away 9their attributes: vulnerable veracity of Campionissimo, relentless dominance of The Cannibal, determined aggression of The Badger, longevity of Longo, gentle strength of Big Mig, and sustained drive of Armstrong.

Remember, greatness is a perpetual discipline that is stewarded but not possessed by us. Winners should not be idols. We are made to worship only Who transcends us and all we do.

Prayer for Cycling’s Champions
“You must not have any other god but me.You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” 10Exodus 20:3-5

We confess our adoration of exemplary creatures over their Exceptional Creator. We ask to develop heroic qualities. We pray for the restoration of our fallen heroes – those whose imperfections have disappointed – not to godlike status but to a proper place. We pray for our heroes – their lives, achievements and attributes long after the races are over.

Ponder Do I idolize when I should emulate or evaluate? Affirm I can admire without worshipping. Watch setting up those you adore from a hard fall off their pedestal and that your admiration doesn’t cross into feeling intimidated.


8Bernard Hinault quote from I do not know the original source. It would be interesting to know the context of this interview.

9Campionissimo – Fausto Coppi; The Cannibal- Eddy Merckx; The Badger- Bernard Hinault; Jeannie Longo has more wins than any other woman ever spanning decades of winning; Big Mig- Miguel Indurain; Lance Armstrong’s drive to a record 7 Tour de France wins- the biblical number of perfection or completion.

10Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189

It’s not about the Bike/Identity

Posted in Championship Qualities on May 27, 2009 by bethleasure

4“The man is greater than his victories and defeats, the man is worth more than the cyclist… In the champion beats the heart of a boy…a heart that needs normality and cannot be sacrificed to exploitation.”                   Bishop Antonio Lanfranchi’s eulogy of Marco Pantani in 2004

Another championship quality allows a winner to let go of performance identification apart from self. We are cyclists and as much as we love cycling and our bikes, we are human beings foremost. Our identity is separate and independent from our deeds on the bike.

We are champions first in the mind and soul. We are overcomers and we win within always. Winning has little to do with doing and more to do with being. I am a winner, therefore I win.

Coming in first doesn’t make you a winner. Some first place finishers often feel like counterfeits, and a syndrome of the super-famous is known as 5“imposterism.” Underneath the glitz, memories of humble beginnings and private defeats struggle against public persona.

The more wins, the more pressures to win both internally and externally. A winner is a winner no matter the placing. Cycling doesn’t allow absolute dominance. Many many losses intersparse victory. A consistent champion stays balanced between peaks so that valleys feel like part of the journey.

Cycling has its Ups and Downs

Cycling has its Ups and Downs

6Identifying yourself apart from your performance can turn a bad ride into a good day. I’m not talking about making excuses for poor performance, improper training or not facing reality. What is at issue is pouting and making others miserable because your racing is in the gutter. Win or lose you should be able to take positives from the scenario. It’s valid to process the emotions of a performance for a time – but holding on to some great victory or some great loss doesn’t serve self-esteem. What does serve is factual assessment plus utmost faith. Most participants of the sport will rarely finish first and winners will face new challenges, but all can build qualities of a champion to live life victoriously.


Prayer for Identity

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” 7Luke 9:25


We’re pleased to associate with cycling as an activity, lifestyle, career and passion! We pray that our identity is based on God’s love for us.

Ponder Do I take myself too seriously while seriously evaluating performance? Affirm I conquer and I fail AND I am a winner. Watch a bit of detachment pay dividends in your performance portfolio as well as your personality.


3It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins published by Berkley Books, New York Copyright © 2000, 2001 Lance Armstrong. This title echoes Lance Armstrong’s book that describes reasons outside of cycling for wanting to succeed.

4“Marco Pantani, don’t look back in anger,” by Podofdonny 2/13/2007

5“Penélope Cruz” by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott in W magazine, August 2008.

6Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman published by HJ Kramer Book, New World Library, New Revised Edition © 2000. Dan’s philosophy is a reference for Zen-like detachment from performance as a measure of happiness or self-worth. Its premise differs a bit from mine in that it seeks totally from within for that source of happiness whereas Christianity places an emphasis on God as that source who works in and through us. I believe the latter is more powerful – both from the source and in the force that we can generate as a result.

7The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Championship Quality: Self-Denial

Posted in Championship Qualities on May 26, 2009 by bethleasure

Few Enter In

Ivan Dominguez

Ivan Dominguez


When I go to race, I never say I’m going to win. It’s hard for me to say that kind of stuff…This is great for the team…” 1          Ivan Dominguez, Winning Pro 



Now in the heart of racing season, we become fixed on winning. Most lands host national championships in June and then the Tour de France, the gold standard of cycling – occupies July. So for weeks, these blog entries will celebrate what it takes to win.

Everybody wants to win but few want it bad enough to enter in to the crème de la crème of conditions that yield victory. To be a winner comes at great cost and few are willing to count it. The first major price of champion pursuits is self-denial. Self-denial in this context is a two-part concept: giving up what’s good in pursuit of what’s best in one’s self-interest; as well as a real sacrifice of self-interest for singleminded focus on the benefits to others. A winner must capture both aspects of this concept and switch between the two appropriately.

The first form of self-denial can be seen in everything from diet, to strategic self-control – not going with that particular breakaway in favor of waiting for the right mix for instance, to lifestyle choices that protect training and recovery time, to the proper use of physical prowess.

The other-centered form of self-denial occurs as both a team culture and as motivation. In a team situation, self-denial is a quality that every member of a stellar team must employ according to the race situation. As a motivational factor, superlative performances have come from what a good ride could mean for another. A perfect example of this was seen in Carlos Sastre’s work for Frank Schleck while in yellow in the 2008 Tour de France. Carlos’ early attack in the beginning up L’Alpe d’Huez to protect Frank – not expected to succeed – caught all competitors unawares and was a sacrifice which earned him yellow. In another example, a champion dominated a series so earnings could finance a family member from factory to entrepreneur. This rider earned a huge bonus never used personally – true champion self-denial!


Prayer for Self-Denial

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” 2Luke 9:23


We confess that a few minutes outside of self is our limit at times. We pray for opportunities to practice self-denial as a winning quality.

Ponder Can I discover situations where others benefit from what I do with my bike? Affirm I see my physical endowment as spiritual gifts requiring sacrifice and generosity. Watch out for the interests of others and hold yourself accountable to a higher and nobler standard.


1Breakaway April 21, 2008 DAILY EDITION Issue 12 Tour of Georgia enewsletter. Ivan Dominguez, Toyota United Pro Cycling Team and Stage 1 winner knows about self-denial. He changed home base from Cuba to America to realize his dream to race professionally.


2The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Posted in In Memoriam on May 21, 2009 by bethleasure

63“Life can change on a dime.” Scott Mares, Cyclo-Cross Sponsor and Race Promoter


Going backwards sometimes helps us move forward

Going backwards can sometimes help us move forward

It’s comforting to know that hard periods without seeming end or solution can change inexplicably and instantaneously. All the pondered doom and gloom that characterizes the realities of life at times ought to make hard bike riding seem joyful, light and pleasurable. It’s all perspective isn’t it? There are times to pause and process loss, and times to backpedal and remember success as fuel to re-ignite lost momentum.

Let’s apply switching from intense sorrow to the starting line of cycling performance. Even with life’s uncontrollable variables, it is possible to plan and adapt so momentum consistently drives toward success for victory at goal events. You know these seasons and these athletes who are seemingly untouched by bad luck, poor health, insufficient skill, lack of resources, deficits in emotional support, spiritual bankruptcy, or failing confidence. It’s true that tremendous planning and practical attention to detail helps. True there is a fateful force. Yet, there is also a decision not to be deterred.

Great racing has a systematic feel; some strategic situations are textbook cases implemented with prosperous precision. But great riding in races may also be a sloppy random flow where the success comes not by managing things but in precipitating and reacting to imperfection. Usually when a rider has a streak of bad luck or disappointing performances with a vague sense that the mind is part of the problem, my advice is to stop controlling and race as it is. Cognitive distortion leads some personalities to believe that all things have to be in proper order. We comfort ourselves by procedure and minimize risk. But you also have to remember those unexpected breakthroughs. Think back on that moment when you came up a level rather amazed and maybe you’ll relax and trust enough to allow it again.

Prayer for Remembrance

We are thankful for memories of surprising goodness. We confess we think we control all of our blessings. We pray that memories come to mind of past exploits – hard challenges overcome with seeming ease.

Ponder When were odds beaten and it amazed me? Affirm I remember that incredible ride where I finally could execute what I could imagine. Watch and replay those successes as you backpedal in time.

63Conversations with Scott Mares. Scott loves cyclo-cross. He has one of the smoothest dismount- barrier-remounts ever witnessed. What imagery for smooth transitions and seamless momentum despite obstacles!

Ride of Silence

Posted in In Memoriam on May 19, 2009 by bethleasure

Ride of Silence

57“I’ve exhausted myself with tears and questions… I find myself looking up. I think because the sky wanders into the biggest realm of the unknown and if I know Nicole is not here, feet on the ground, she’s got to be there. Sleepless and lost, looking up and the most phenomenal thing happened. It wasn’t a shooting star but more like a falling planet, white hot as the moon with a fiery tail and falling straight down to the earth for no less than 4 or 5 seconds until disappearing behind the trees. I looked at my roommate to see if I might have maybe been hallucinating in my pain, but he sat in the same amazement. She famously waved, smiled, and said hello. Nicole is sprinting in the sky. Heaven. I had to share the beauty…” Ryan Kelly processing the loss of pro cyclist, Nicole Reinhart


Nicole Reinhart; Gone but not Forgotten

Nicole Reinhart; Gone but not Forgotten


May is Bike Awareness Month. It includes Bike to Work Day and Ride of Silence. The 58Ride of Silence is an international event which commemorates those killed or injured while riding on public roadways.

It’s a somberly-paced ride that encourages participation from all strata of the cyclosphere – hybrid commuter to trials practitioner to professional racer. The ride lasts about an hour and is ridden by the eclectic group slowly in complete silence. Silence is the great gulf that divides the land of the living from those who’ve passed. This two-wheeled processional is hauntingly beautiful accompanied by its funeral dirge of humming spokes and squeaking brakes. No voices bring words as comforting as silent thoughts that contemplate the eternal bliss of a lost loved one.


These encouraging eulogies are meant for the living. There are no more answers from the dead, there are only questions by us forced to consider forces greater than ourselves in realizing our own mortality.

As I participate in this event, I choose to think of not just cyclists lost by tragic accidents but all those who’ve hastened across the final finish line before me. Our community has its aged who pedaled to a natural death. It has its remembered who fought disease as valiantly as the competition and finally succumbed after fulfilling some important purpose. It has its ravaged whose lives ended painfully. It is comforting to turn to my silent companions in the group and smile at their special place beside and beyond for this sacred hour’s ride.


Prayer re: Fallen Cyclists

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies…Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.” 59Psalm 19:1-4


We are thankful for the time we’ve had with those we loved or enjoyed in cycling. We ask forgiveness for all that was left unsaid. We pray for comfort as we grieve and for the families and friends of all beyond the finish line. Ponder Who can I honor with a silent ride? Affirm I am alive for a reason and appreciate what the departed gave. Watch while you can; hear the truth in the silence.

57″Ryan Kelly Part II,” Special Edition News for September18, 2000 Nicole Reinhart June 3, 1976-September 17, 2000


58Ride of Silence organized by Cumberland Valley Cycling Club, Hagerstown, Maryland on May 21, 2008 honored all fallen cyclists and especially acknowledged local resident Lloyd Clarke who was killed just months before on a training ride in Nevada. He is survived by wife and teenage daughter.

59The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society