Archive for the Championship Qualities Category


Posted in Championship Qualities on June 1, 2010 by bethleasure

Songs of Victory

18“Me, a monstre sacré?[holy terror] If I had to describe myself, I would use the word champion.” Jeannie Longo, One of the Heroes

The winning-est cyclist of all time


Holy and champion is appropriate in the same sentence. The Bible says that victory comes from God. Read that again. Victory does not come from our effort alone. This is a hard doctrine unless you have the heart of a lion. Lions know when to attack and when not. They understand the hierarchy of the jungle. There can be only one.

This is a hard doctrine. This means that even a cheater who wins is allowed to win ultimately by God. The drug may have helped but it was God’s ultimate decision. God did not cause the victory but allowed it. Even a cheater has to win the race without crashing, puncturing, bonking, and by riding smart with all the other elements in place. God could intervene but may not, and the victory is permitted. Why? Perhaps to show God’s goodness even to the undeserving. Perhaps to bless even the soul of a cheater. Perhaps to force systemic changes and do a better job of doping control or a culture that encourages it. Perhaps to humble even clean competitors. This is a hard doctrine, and its truth cuts like a claw.

Good guys do not always win; bad guys sometimes do. This is a concept of grace which is not human. It’s a divine concept. The sooner you grasp this hard doctrine and pray for God’s help to win, the more you will be shown and given in order to win. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. This is the goodness of God.

There is a reckoning but we may not see it right away. There is a paradox in victory that includes both God’s help AND man’s effort. This is a crisis of faith that is exposed clearly in competition. The shepherd boy David who became a king was both a loser AND a victor. His song of victory mentions his weakness AND God’s strength in achieving victory:


You have given me your shield of victory; Your help has made me great…I did not stop until they were conquered…You gave me victory…You give great victories.” 192 Samuel 22

Prayer for God’s Help

We confess our discomfort with the idea of dependence in a supreme being that we must believe is good. We pray for faith for this premise so that we can see God at work and trust God to bring victories.


Ponder Do I feel eased or frustrated that winning isn’t just up to me? Affirm I believe God is good and wants me to be victorious. Watch for supernatural cooperation when you ask for God’s help.

18“The Unretiring Jeannie Longo,” by Samuel Abt published June 6, 1992 by International Herald Tribune. My support and admiration of Jeannie Longo is unrelenting. She and her husband-coach, Patrice Ciprelli, were generous, informative, and friendly to me during and at races in France and America.

19The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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