With the 2011 Tour de France now behind us…. What a month it was. I was very lucky not to have to stay up until all hours of the night, but to watch it in between training sessions and work, mid afternoon, as I am currently in Spain. This years Tour de France, had everything – big crashes (which is terrible to see), huge mountain stages, attacks, intermediate sprints (which changed many of the stages), the ‘best’ cyclist winning the green and poker dot jersey and yes, the ‘right’ person winning the YELLOW! Read that how you like after the last few years!
Cadel. So many people have their opinions of him – not all of which have been positive in the past, or according to an uniformed ‘fashion editor’, still are not all positive. I wonder though how anyone can look at him, his rise to the top, his fight and resilience, his 2011 Tour and how he carries himself, without having complete admiration. Whether you think he is the most exciting cyclist or not, the guy deserves every accolade he gets. He rode an AMAZING tour. Day after day after day. Sure he had outstanding help from his team, who unlike other years, all managed to stay upright and were always in the right spot, but in the end it was up to him. He was the one who had to chase Contador and Schleck up the Alpe de Huez and the Galibier, when no one else would help. He was the one who after a bike problem caught the main group with a huge effort through the Alpe’s and he was the one who rode one of the most amazing time trials that I have EVER seen, to put himself into the yellow jersey and essentially win the 2011 Tour de France. He won it, he did not get it by default. Which should shut all of those Cadel ‘knockers’ up.
It was very interesting listening to an interview following his time trial. One journo asked something like “give us a run down of your career following switching over to road riding from mountain in early 2000.” I thought this was a pretty broad question, but Cadel’s answer was one that got me thinking. Basically he went through the years, which went something like; I could make the team for the tour in the first 2 years, then he was in the pink jersey in the Tour of Italy until one of the final stages and just missed out, he had several 2nd’s, just missed the podium, crashed when in good positions, injury etc etc – and missed the Tour de France victory following just a couple of bad ‘moments’, which is all it takes to lose a Grand Tour. So he had years and years of adversity, of people knocking him, of disappointment. All the while he was training his absolute backside off, to the level only a professional cyclist could even comprehend.
Cadel continued to persist, he was always ‘there’ – where and when he needed to be to take opportunity, to have the resilience when people were knocking him, which was typically during times of professional adversity, to have the obvious self belief that it takes to win a yellow jersey, which eventually he did. After 8 or 9 years or trying and many more of dreaming.
What I took from this was that this example is something we can all learn from not just with sport, but life. Things do not always go your way and do not always turn out as planned. In fact the ‘plan’ is less likely to turn out as you hoped when you have high goals and expectations. But it is how you deal with the outcome which will determine whether you use that set back as a way to move forward or you let it move you backwards. When Cadel was climbing the gigantic Galibier and no one was helping him, it would’ve be easy for him to blame others at the end of the stage if he had lost a heap of time. However, he didn’t. Instead he took responsibility for himself and seemingly didn’t care that he had 5 guys hanging off of his back wheel. He lead from the front. Literally. And he won. He did not win the stage, but he won.
All of these little day to day steps that he took, learnt from and used to progress, not just from this years tour, but from the ones in past years, got him to the Champs Elysees first this year. What a sweet sweet victory it would have been for him. To have withstood all of the set backs and criticism to stand on top of the podium, with good ol’ Tina Arena belting out the national anthem, is something that he and no doubt much of Australia will never forget. Behind this win was years of; persistance, resilience, bloody hard work and consistency. Traits which are very typical to any form of high achievement or success.
Hat off to you Cadel. For winning yellow and for setting a example.