Desire has a way of informing our senses, giving us taste even before a thing is served. Our longing has a way of making us focus, making each detail of preparation a ceremony.
We wait. We look for opportunity. We wait.
And while any meal can sustain us, true hunger is a craving that cannot be sated by just any snack. It is why second place on a stage does not appear on the podium—there is no substitute for the win, which is like saffron—elusive and expensive.
The theatrics of Mark Cavendish’s victory salutes following his first win in the 2009 Tour de France told us nothing of the satisfaction that comes with a win on the world’s biggest stage. They were calculated to stroke sponsors that support him and his team. There’s nothing wrong with showing your appreciation for a sponsor, but what we expect in a victory salute is a statement. The winner’s salute should be an expression of unbridled emotion—the very antithesis of calculation.
Where does a win fit in the experience of a great rider? For some, it can be a surprise. Others may find the experience a triumph, an exaltation. The finish line may bring relief or it may be the stamp of domination.
Five stages in, Mark Cavendish has taken his first win of the 2010 Tour de France. His expression says that it might as be the first win of the season, if not of his career. In showing us unvarnished emotion Cavendish has made a gift of his win. Sharing with us the monkey-off-his-back relief and the satisfaction of vanquishing not one but two prior stage winners.
We knew how much he wanted this. Watch the victor feast.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International