14″At the level of…Thévenet, the sport is exclusively about honor. And no matter how Kuiper had advanced his chances of winning the Tour by hanging on Thévenet’s wheel, he had destroyed every chance of winning the Tour grandly. Thévenet won it grandly.” Tim Krabbé, Cyclist, Author
Even while aggressively going for a win, choosing how to do it distinguishes the grand from the good: the higher up in cycling civilization, the more distinguishing its mores of honor. Gentleness means not forcing one’s way in life – showing respect for self and others.
I was more satisfied with placings where I did my share rather than wins being a wheelsucker. It’s important as a wily hunter to wait and know when to work, and equally important to practice etiquette efficiently. The more someone cursed me or cut me off, the calmer and more tactical I became. Instead of intimidating me, I saw it as scare tactics from a threatened competitor. Not that I didn’t lose temper and mouth off occasionally, but I remember these incidents with regret. The injured parties have long since forgiven me, but others who observed frame these incidents centrally in their impressions of me.
Bad manners pour precious energy out of your mouth and mind instead of into your legs and heart, dividing focus between conscience and courage. You and I are so much more than isolated incidents of ugly etiquette. The world is shrinking and a bad reputation becomes a rap sheet in our subculture. No one wants an angry, belligerent teammate or a nagging, critical coach for instance.
Racing’s environ is designed to break us down to yield a champion. 15Prisoners of war know that repeated bouts of torture intended to humiliate are tolerable if a structured set of adhered values center on basic self-respect. Regardless of result, to come out of a performance with head held high, strike balance between bold confidence and gentle manners.
Prayer for Gentleness/Competitive Etiquette
“Not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” 16Galatians 5:23
We are intrigued by cycling’s honor code and its intricate tactics. We confess patience and hard work are sometimes replaced with self-promotion. Help us be competitors who want to win when the best are at their best and when we know the rules and the privileges of the road.
Ponder Do I know the code of honor? Affirm I am swift and sweet practicing cycling’s best etiquette. Watch words, take the wind at times, give and get respect.
14The Rider by Tim Krabbe, published by Bloomsbury USA, NY, English translation copyright © Sam Garrett 2002. This book is a fantastic race report written by a thoughtful and perceptive amateur racer during one of cycling’s golden eras. The tactical descriptions are astute and no wonder, the writer was a grand chess master as well as successful author. It is not a professional cyclist’s perspective, but it is a refreshing read.
15A Vietnam Experience: 10 Years of Reflection by Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale published by Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace copyright © 1984 by Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford University. Stockdale was a prisoner of war for 10 years. He was badly injured in the crash that led to his capture and endured not only sets of crushed bones untreated, but repeated torture. He and his ten men were released with self-respect intact; they were all readily reintegrated into military positions.
16The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson