Cycling Through the Odds
The cycling championship, characterized by its cheers from the onlookers, compliments from the commentators, and euphoria from the participants, was beyond overwhelming.
I was set on my superbike, my back bent in the proper position, one of my feet on a pedal, the other on the ground, and my gaze fixed vehemently ahead. As the contestants’ names were announced alongside their records, the noise mellowed me. I remembered:
It was a surprise! I woke up to a beautiful bicycle, a gift from my uncle. Finally, I could join the other guys, neighbors, and children on my street in a race across town. Speeding from streets to supermarkets, past the sheriff’s office, through the popular picnic resort, and stopping at the train station, knowing someday we would all leave this town.
A beautiful tradition emerged as we grew older. On weekends, we raced longer and faster. It was more of a competition for my friends, but for me, it was fun. I did not fall asleep until late into the night on Fridays, rose early, and enthusiastically on Saturday mornings, unchaining my bicycle to set out with my companions.
In the spirit of the race, we rode side-by-side. I enjoyed the feeling of the wind against my skin as I pierced it. I never grew tired of the fast-moving greenery. The rocks, mountains, and hills to our sides never ceased in their beauty. They always warmed my heart.
Cycling was and is the deal. Over the years, it’s helped relax my mind, given me the will to win, and improved my flexibility. Cheap bikes are much heavier than super-nice bikes, so riding to the tops of peaks along rocky roads and across valleys helped me burn a considerable number of calories, and remain very fit.
Cycling has also helped me remain mentally tough during bad days, and my very core will not allow me to give up or stop until the end. I’ve made lovely memories with many friends along the way, as well.
On the last day of the year, every young man and boy, whether local or extended family from abroad, took our bikes out for a race, or what we called ‘manly’ fun. We were very eager, so the sheriff usually drove behind us in case anyone injured themselves.
One time, I raced beautifully across town and arrived back home first, of course, since I was the master of the route. But, just barely.
Afterward, we gathered around for some conversation about all the sights and beauty we’d experienced, when the sheriff suddenly interrupted, smiling. Quoting the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, he said, “A craftsman who wishes to do his work well must first sharpen his tools.”
Then, the sheriff opened the boot of his car and brought out a superbike and looked my way! I screamed as I ran to thank him for the gift.
From there, cycling became very personal for me. According to my friends, I even started taking it too far, as I’d ride to neighboring towns every weekend. But with my new superbike, I saw a future for myself.
Once, I rode alongside the sheriff while he drove his car during a beautiful afternoon. After about half an hour, he parked and regaled me with stories from his glory days as a cyclist. He introduced me to the Strava app and left me with these unforgettable words, which resonate in my mind every time I ride: “Never form a friendship with a man who is not better than you. Be humble and learn from others.”
I didn’t require coaching when I rode. I carefully watched my diet and worked on my nutrition. I raced with the big shots from a neighboring town. I crashed several times and immediately got back on my bike and continued. It was always me against myself, and whether it was home workouts, rough roads, machines at a local gym, or cheap or super-bikes, I remained incredibly focused. My heart was entirely in it.
Eventually, the opportunity to participate in an interstate race arose, which I quickly accepted and gave it my all. Surprisingly, I placed first, and cried and hugged my town’s sheriff, who traveled all that way to attend, after I’d stopped.
Before, I was a no-name. After the event, I’d surfaced from nowhere and had to defend my medal.
I continued turning in solid race performances—always placing among the top three, despite the odds, from spring classics to the Tour de France. I was disqualified from two races, though, but I remained determined to win. It all came down to this World Championship race, which was about to begin.
The whistle blew unexpectedly, which got me off to a slow start, so I raced as fast as I could, looking for an edge at every opportunity. I pressed harder on the pedals, riding with the prize in my heart and the glory in my mind, maneuvering across as much of the field as I could.
I soon realized I was approaching the rider at the front of the pack, and it was such an adrenaline rush. I smiled visibly, staying tucked against my bike to minimize wind drag. I pedaled harder. My aero position gave me an advantage, and before I knew it, I was at the front.
With my gaze now fixed on the finish line, which was just around the corner, I pushed too hard, causing my hand to shake. The wind also struck me at just the right time, making me turn my handlebars and fall hard onto the asphalt.
The crowd’s cheers of “Go! Go!” were reduced to a deafening silence. I quickly crawled off the track as tears rolled down my cheeks, my legs vibrated, shivers ran through my body, and I screamed, “No!”
I arose and was about to pick up my bike when my legs failed me, and I once again fell to the ground. I tried again but to no avail. The medical team ran over, and with tears dripping from my chin, they grabbed my bruised body and placed it atop a stretcher.
Out of breath, the only words I could manage were, “I tried.” Still, the crowd cheered at my tenacity and resilience.