The garbage needs to go out. The bag from the kitchen is standard issue. The coffee grounds that go there every morning serve to mask the other scents maturing within. The diaper pail upstairs is another issue. Dealing with it requires endurance and fortitude. I never hoist the plastic within, smile with satisfaction at the olfactory feast that bursts forth and dance down the stairs with it, whistling a jaunty tune. It is a task I would gladly pass off on someone else, but then, that’s my life.
Road Racing World Champion Cadel Evans has a broken elbow. His job, whether he likes it or not, sometimes entails being spilled onto pavement at high speed wearing clothing closely approximating a rainbow-colored body sock. This falling on abrasive surfaces while wearing pajamas is unpleasant. A rider almost never hits the deck, pops up smiling and then goes on his merry way. Cadel didn’t enjoy breaking his elbow, I’d wager. It is something he would gladly have passed off on someone else, but then, that’s his life.
My life includes such joys as clearing the dirt and debris from the filter on the sump pump. That pump, with its busted switch, keeps my garage and basement from flooding in a heavy rain. My life requires me to ride a 12% grade to get home from work each evening. There is no soigneur to greet me just over the line. There is no massage awaiting me at the end of my day.
As a cycling fan and a rider, I am constantly measuring myself against the titans of the sport. How much faster would the World Champ climb that steep hill that leads to my house? How much more suffering can he endure than I can? How does his ability to persist inspire and inform my own ability to continue doing the things that I don’t want to do?
We all have our grand tours to ride. Mine doesn’t include the Col de la Madeleine. It doesn’t require riding 230kms with a broken elbow. It does, however, mean battling the demons within the diaper pail and clearing the sump pump of dead spiders and pine needles.
And when I think of the challenge of surmounting Alpen cols, I have to believe that what makes poor, luckless Cadel an occasional champion is his ability to continue to perform the tasks that his life requires of him. What pushes me up life’s GC is my ability to deal with the garbage and the sump pump, to keep my lawn mowed and continue showing up for long, grueling conference calls with unreasonable clients.
I will probably never find a physical equivalency with the riders of the pro peloton, but if I step back a bit and look at their lives, not as operatic dramas, but as simple lives with jobs to do and responsibilities to attend to, then I can see that I’m a lot like Cadel Evans.
Forgetting the fact that no one is going to pay me to race a bicycle, I don’t know that I would trade places with the World Champ. I might prefer the noisome stench of my youngest son’s soiled nappies to the difficulty of riding all day long with a broken bone. Regardless, this is my life. It is challenging. Some days I meet the challenge. Some days I’m off the back. Just like Cadel.
The one thing we have in common is that, every night when I get home, I get a kiss on the cheek from a pretty girl and the opportunity to try to do it all a little better the next day.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International