Savoir Faire: Skill Mastery

Savoir Faire: In the Know 

45“French cyclists are…much richer in cycling skill. It is enlightening to see a couple of 50-something guys riding on old bikes with cottered cranks, Mafac centerpulls and tubular tires cruising along at 20-25 klicks side by side, with their handlebars maintaining a constant gap of 3 or 4 inches between them.” Sheldon “Francophile” Brown

Wet roads, tight peloton, typical

I spent a season racing in France for a team based in the province of La Drôme, a fruited plain bordered on the west by small mountains – Les Ardèches, and the foothills of Les Hautes-Alpes hedging us to the east. Notable cycling events, such as Paris-Nice and stages of Tour de France pass through the region, which is home to reputed clubs distinguished for developing certain French cycling stars.

Between big events, I frequently raced with men in the Categorie Regionale. Sometimes I had to drive to these men’s events using my host family’s tiny Fiat. Driving and racing were the same in France in terms of a Latin sense of geospatial awareness. An opening the size of a road atlas is an invitation for a sedan to pop in front of you on a French highway.

Likewise, racing on goat path roads in the rain with 200 men proved a similar experience in closeness. One time during a race, my toe cover bumped off my shoe and got lodged in my front derailleur locking my front cranks. They pack so tightly that guys racing next to me noticed that I was unable to pedal. These Frenchmen leaned on me pushing me for what seemed like 2k’s keeping me in the peloton while I dislodged the neoprene booty – and the peloton continued without so much as an, “Oh là là!” – another example of French intimacy and competency.

I knew I was a successful Euro when I could race and drive there without clenched white knuckles, and I came back to American roads – wide as prairies it seemed- maneuvering in the peloton like a current in a river.

Prayer for Competence and Skill Mastery
Observe people who are good at their work— skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone.” 46 Proverbs 22:29

We acknowledge that riding a bike with skill requires coordination and self-control. We are grateful that practice leads to perfection! We pray for competence, expert teachers, and savvy competitors. We pray for opportunities to exchange information, courage that leads to mastery, and to be able to drill, drill, drill!


Ponder What do I need to learn to be a better bike handler? How can I help someone else who needs to improve? Affirm I can be an expert at every skill in cycling. Watch and learn how the best do it.

45Cycling in France, Sheldon “Francophile” Brown on mailing list. Sadly, Sheldon Brown passed away while I was writing this book. I’m glad I’d quoted him – let this be a small tribute to his desire in generously conveying cycling knowledge and tremendous humanity.

46The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

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