Archive for the Championship Presence Category

Championship Presence/Refinement

Posted in Championship Presence on June 13, 2009 by bethleasure

Polished Diamonds

50“Beauty: the bicycle is among the most efficient and elegant technologies ever devised…Propulsion with respect to effort is tremendous.”  Caspar Henderson, Refined Thinker & Cyclist



Big Mig: "I never felt superior to anyone."

Big Mig: "I never felt superior to anyone."

Propulsion with respect to effort serves as well in peloton relations as it does in aerodynamics. Cycling isn’t a sport for black-eyed hockey-checks, and likewise not a sport for pansies. Refinement doesn’t mean  the hard men of cycling need feminine mystique. A champion knows how to be hard and refined – like a polished diamond. Championship cycling is an elegant way of living.

From the earth, our dust-composed selves can be shaped into a crude clay pot for cooking beans or a porcelain vase for holding podium flowers. Grounded by esprit d’corps, cycling champions arise across socioeconomic lines from factory worker’s sons to stockbroker’s daughters. The road is a leveler of privileged and poor alike, and the community’s beauty is in its diversity brought together by unity of movement.

Those we herald as winners and who work as our representatives are also trained in etiquette, sportsmanship, sponsor and media relations, team work, volunteerism and community outreach. The pedaling exhibition causes public accountability. Hard fires of refinement are passed through on the way toward palmarès, and the peloton is intolerant of sustained rudeness. A sense of fair play manifests in gracious appreciation, gentleness even while racing aggressively, and public presentation.

A smile, grateful thanks, acknowledgment accumulates mileage with the masses. The peloton and the public have a long memory and limit bad behavior from its rolling membership. You simply cannot get a wheel if an ass to your peers, or find a sponsor worth having if unsavory. Sure we talk smack and sometimes curse at each other in the peloton and the press, but the closer one rides at la course en tête, the narrower the passageway. Be eager to pass on the love that got you on the front.

Prayer for Refinement
Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans?”  51Romans 9:17 

We confess it’s a hard truth to discover that some of us are vessels for cooking beans and others for holding flowers. We pray that whatever role we assume in cycling, we strive to filter impurity and disrespect.

Ponder Am I elegant in the heat of battle? Affirm I take the high road. Watch when well-doing seems painful; that higher road is steep.



50“The peach wins! Why I like my bike,” by Caspar Henderson 23-05-2002

 51The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Championship Presence/Influence

Posted in Championship Presence on June 12, 2009 by bethleasure

For Such a Time

47“When we had Lance Armstrong, we had a transcendent figure. He was way more than a cyclist, way more than a sports star. He was a rock star and a survivor. He was a once-in-a-generation type of personality.” Gavin Harvey, President of Versus, Cycling Television 


Track Star Chris Hoy

Track Star Chris Hoy

You need not win seven Tours de France to influence a generation and be a positive force. However, Lance’s success increased American cycling’s popularity, as well as aided a segment of patients, causes and charities in cancer’s realm.

Beyond popularity and inspiration, profound waves of change are often set off by quiet acts of courage that become public. 48Purim is a Judaic-Christian celebration that honors the decision of Esther, a commoner who became queen, to put her neck on the line to save her people. She didn’t rush into this sacrifice but agonized that her position of privilege was granted for such a time when her influence could be used to benefit an entire kingdom. People were blessed as a result, and the history of the world was altered. Her selection and decision as queen illustrates cooperation between God’s sovereignty and human choice. Supernatural opportunity met human ingenuity and ultimately, obedience. The cost for Esther was potentially her own life, and in choosing well she gained life and legacy for herself and countless others.

Perhaps the best success is ordained so that its influence can orchestrate life-giving activity. One of the greatest gifts of a champion in receiving power is also the greatest challenge to use it for the broadest good. As a champion, this responsibility is thrust upon you. The podium becomes like a lighthouse, like it or not.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:13-15


Prayer for Influence
“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!” 1 Chronicles 4:10

An unlucky loser is shunned by all, but everyone loves a winner.” 49Proverbs 14:20


We are glad that success is magnetic. We pray our times and tributes are used for greatest good – thinking of others, loving them and not just loving their adoration. Train us to be worthy of such high callings in cycling.               

Ponder Have I come into cycling for such a time that my presence can yield influence? Affirm I am ready for bigger territory. Watch and care for those within your sphere of influence.

47“Cycling’s hope: The sport has hit bottom. Sport is working hard to erase bad image created by drug-using riders,” by Mason Kelley contributor July 1, 2008

48This historical event is recorded in the book of Esther, part of the canon of Scripture located in the Old Testament.

 49The 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 Presence/Stealth

Posted in Championship Presence on June 11, 2009 by bethleasure

Cloak & Dagger

44“They’re proud of me in my little village in Switzerland. My wife’s family in Italy are proud of me and that’s enough for me. I don’t do this sport to be famous.” Cadel Evans, Australian Pro 


Evans & Chiara wanting a private moment

Cadel & Chiara wanting a private moment

Back in the village, the jerseys of distinction come off and you’re just a guy buying lunch at the bistro. At least the villagers allow you to be even if they admire your accomplishments. Yellow is replaced by a cloak, and different tools replace the dagger of digging deep on alpine climbs. Stealth or disappearing is part of presence, another championship paradox. Stealth is practiced by europros to avoid press and other commitments for downtime with family between races and junkets. Stealth is also part of race presence.

Disappearing still means being vigilant. Perhaps more than any other time, awareness is at its height when trying to be an unnoticeable player in the peloton. Underestimation by others unites with surprise to help stealth form a winning maneuver. There are times when low key doesn’t produce any reactions that require a response. One can stay in the zone but become less of the reason for the race rhythm. It’s a time when not wanting to be famous or play the hero pays off toward a race win.

Stealth may require a bit of acting or of not showing one’s hand or legs actually. It’s sort of the antithesis of aggressive riding, but it can be aggressive – it just does so in the least obvious way possible. For instance, a rider practicing stealth may allow other wheels to take him where he wants to go so he can show himself strong at an unexpected moment. A stealth move may also be attacking the break after a series of failed surges, or mini-tests to draw out and distract. Kipling says it best. Stealth is 45walking with kings but not losing the common touch:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”


Prayer for Stealth
“…not needing to force our way…able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” 46Galatians 5:22 

We pray for cleverness and class.

Ponder Is there mystery in my riding? Affirm I practice cycling’s espionage. Watch that your cloak gets as much use as your dagger, your cleverness as much as your confidence, your defenses as much as your offenses.


44Cadel Evans Press Conference video on Versus website posted April, 2008

45“If” by Rudyard Kipling, published in a collection of poems, Rewards and Fairies in 1909, is perhaps the quintessential poem of championship paradox. It’s not quoted in its entirety here due to space limitation.

46The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Championship Presence/Intensity

Posted in Championship Presence on June 10, 2009 by bethleasure

The Zone

 40“‘How’s it goin’, mate?’ White asks him. ‘Hard one, huh?’ ‘No, not at all,’ says Pate, munching an energy bar.”
Matt White and Danny Pate, DS and Rider exchange pleasantries during Tour

Matt looking after Danny

Matt looking after Danny

Team staff 41describe Danny Pate’s demeanor as both jokester and pessimist. Which is it? Both. Champions make intensity look intriguing. One of the first steps in gaining self-control comes in understanding one’s unique optimal intensity. The Zone isn’t the same for every champion: it may be a place too intense for some and too drifty for others. As our prayer for situational awareness requested, intensity needs to move among various types of flow and focus.

Championship presence snaps into focus to create or react to winning moments. Championship presence also acts as vigilant flow for restorative pauses in the peloton. Champions perform with purpose and single-mindedness that transcends focus. It encompasses flow- a broad even a bird’s eye view of competitive situations. Champions utilize a range of intensity. 42Over-intensity involves too much – feeling, failure-worry, and physicality. Under-intensity is equated with over-confidence or too relaxed if a race or competitor is underestimated.

Some competitive zone abilities of a champion include: laughing and joking to relax; remaining on task to endure; staying present and realistic to anticipate; redirecting thoughts back to possibility thinking to refocus between hard efforts; and remembering the mindset, emotions, and actions in the past that lead to strong performance to revitalize and inspire – accomplished while modulating effort of mind and body.

If an athlete is competing out of level, the focus can switch to personal bests, skills or some aspect of process that requires sharpness and reaching. Sports psychology recommends tools, such as pre-race rituals and directed imagery to practice intensity. Like weight training, it still has to be specifically applied for winning bike races.

Prayer for Intensity
“…And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them.” 43Hebrews 6:9

We are grateful that we each have a zone and ask to find our optimal intensity.

Ponder Where is my head during my best rides? Affirm I am intense AND in tune with how to direct my focus. Watch a consistent performance in the zone reduce error and increase chances for championships.

41“Danny is pleasantly full of jocularity,” was Allen Lim’s response when I asked if Danny was serious during Tour of Missouri where he dead-panned that he was “suffering” while barely pedaling and being fed from the team car. He won the next stage solo. “Never says he feels good,” was Jonathan Vaughters comment on a televised interview during 2008 Tour de France on Versus network. Pate podiumed in his first Tour de France after an extensive breakaway.

42“Gaining The Mental Edge Part II: Intensity,” by Joseph Lenac Jr., MA
Licensed Psychologist © Copyright 2007 Winning Edge Psychological Services, LLC

43The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Championship Presence/Self-Control

Posted in Championship Presence on June 9, 2009 by bethleasure

Balance Point

38“…not more aggressive or less motivated…very balanced…Because there is no reason to be demotivated, nor to be super-motivated. It’s a good thing to be balanced because each side of the scale, the negative and the positive, can cause you to make mistakes…excessive desire to do something, or less desire…”  Ivan Basso, Italian Pro

Basso's Desire

Basso's Desire

Basso describes a balance point between arousal and relaxation to set up a winning mentality. Like a dressage horse – a highly trained blue blood who prances through complex changes of gait in response to gentle pressure from a rider’s thigh or soft rein, champions have highly sensitized self-knowledge to maintain equilibrium.

Bike racing asks many questions to strike this balance point, such as: plan a season with a peak or shoot for consistency? Drink my whole bottle or sip in case I miss a feed? Correct a fit problem with a position change or address the kinetic dysfunction? This kind of action–reaction symmetry delivers championship outcomes. The balance point of championship presence thinks through cause and effect of one’s activity in the peloton: use of force or act of aggression? Loss of energy or emotional motivator? Intimidating language or instigation?

“Psyche-out” technique isn’t the same as championship presence. Self-control of one’s own thoughts and actions characterize the presence of a champion more than wasting energy trying to mess with the minds of others. Etiquette is important. Everybody can ride a bike but the elite race with refinement at the level of Grand Tour. Competitors see one another often: it doesn’t pay to waste energy trying to control others. Someone truly strong instead expends in controlling positive self-talk, practical strategic decisions, and tight preparation for every variable. This is sustainable AND surpasses winning. Champions are built from within on a foundation of talent and effort with solid support frameworks that are the qualities for an attractive exterior. Such castles are fit for kings, such armor made for warriors.

Prayer for Self-Control
“…let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 391Thessalonians 5:8 

We are grateful that moderation indicates mastery. We pray for temperance as an aspect of championship presence.

 Ponder Where am I outta control? Affirm I balance what I can control and release what I cannot. Watch your scales from tipping too far to one side and see this inner justice manifest as liberating presence.

38“Ivan Basso exclusive: Discovering the Basso era,” An interview with Ivan Basso – Page 1, January 29, 2007

39The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Championship Presence/Bike Poise

Posted in Championship Presence on June 8, 2009 by bethleasure

A Prince’s Robe

35“…the cyclist, like that of the skater, so far as conscious action is concerned, his course is determined by the poise and sway of his body.”    1894 description of balance for a two-wheeled cycle

Boulder Training Ride

Boulder Training Ride







I first saw 36him on a notorious Boulder group ride. He sat in the sweet spot toward the front enjoying a commanding view of all the action and effortlessly sailing into the slipstream of every important move. He wore a recognizable jersey. This ride is accustomed to visitations from the great as well as the just-moved-to-the-mountains-wanna-be donning every conceivable garment. So I wasn’t sure whether his kit was a reflection of his true affiliation.

One thing was vivid; he rode with poetic fluidity. I had a sense that he was destined for something notable in bike racing. He had that rare deportment of euro potential. My coaching heart skipped beats, my scouting-for-talent instinct aroused by a rider so elegant upon his bicycle. At the usual place, the ride split and he rode out of sight. I wondered why he was on this ride this time of year and if he were a pro who should be off wooing victory?

Days passed, and I saw him again: the same velo Valentino as suave as Zorro, changing speeds like an ocean wave, rounding bends like butter, climbing like a gazelle. What poise, what grace. Later I learn of his neopro status and the reason for his hard predicament as detainee among us.

Not everyone can glide like Elle Macpherson

Not everyone can glide like Elle Macpherson

Eventually he did go on to Europe, became an admirable team leader, and won significant races. My scouting intuition and prophecy proven, the greatest legacy he left me was the ideal of an almost elusive quality to all but a few so gifted: his command of the bicycle. Despite his hardship at the time, his bike demeanor was like a royal robe, its smooth and velvety splendor something you want to reach out and touch as its bearer glides near.

Prayer for Bike Poise
“…clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor…” 37Isaiah 52:1 

We are thankful for the balance, control, and proprioception accessible to us. We recognize we sometimes fight forces meant to be utilized in harmony. We pray our greatest potential be realized as kinetic poets – cycling with poise.

Ponder Can my balance be improved? Affirm I offer my strength in cooperation with gravity. Watch as spatial awareness meets technical skill for superbly directed equilibrium.

35Cycling, by William Coutts Keppel Albemarle, published 1894 by Longmans, Green and Co., London 

 36He will remain anonymous. The ride is one of Boulder’s hardest regular training rides. To finish the winter ride then join the big boys climbing up some canyon is a privilege reserved for a select few in their finest moment. Hallelujah for youthful fitness to have experienced it! On any given weekend in the off-season, its field is composed of recognizable figures in road cycling, triathlon, cyclo-cross, and mountain biking. But during race season, sightings of any contracted professional are sparse and therefore portend unfortunate sidelining circumstances.

37The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society