Life lessons from the Tour de France

Delegated annually to back page sports news, eclipsed by the athleticism and prowess of those who golf, are the daily reports on the Tour de France.

Delegated annually to back page sports news, eclipsed by the athleticism and prowess of those who golf, are the daily reports on the Tour de France.

This annual bike race which finishes tomorrow, covers 3,400 km over three weeks in 20 stages with only two rest days. The peddlers burn up 124,000 calories along the way. Runners may think of it as 20 marathons in 20 days.

Though much of the course is relatively flat, there are agonizingly difficult mountain stages where riders push themselves up to places with exotic yet ominous names such as Mont Ventoux.

The Tour has its own terms such as the peloton, French for platoon, referring to the main cluster of riders, and four jerseys whose colour (yellow, red polka dot, green and white) declare the wearers to be daily leaders in certain race classifications.

But what makes the Tour a unique race is that the winning cyclist usually loses most of the stages. What matters is not the number of victories along the way but how you finish.

There are moments of excruciating adversity; racers reach 110 km/h on some descents and a tumble at such speed can spell disaster. Broken wrists, bruised ambitions and large areas of lost skin.

Such is the life of any pilgrim seeking to traverse life’s terrain both mundane and mountainous; past breathtaking scenery, around treacherous turns, being booed and cheered along the way. What matters is not the colour we wear or victories along the way but our overall performance when we were out of breath and kept pedaling anyway, when we got cut off and crashed and bounced back.

No one savours adversity despite testing the quality of our character, our ability to cope or the measure of our fortitude to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.

But as the Tour de France suggests, it’s the big picture that counts, the stuff you’re made of as you make your way. Isaiah said it centuries ago: “Think of the rock from which you came, the quarry from which you were cut out.”

What you overcome often determines your outcome. A reporter once asked American contralto Marian Anderson to name the greatest moment in her life.

Choices were numerous. Arturo Toscanini had said, “A voice like hers comes once in a century.” In 1958 she became a delegate to the United Nations. She had given private concerts at the White House and Buckingham Palace.

Which moment did she choose? None of these.

She told the reporter that the greatest moment in her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn’t have to take in washing anymore.

For Marian or her mom, no jersey could match such a moment.

Bob Ripley is senior minister at Metropolitan United Church in London, Ont.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Image from Facebook)
Central Alberta Soroptimists celebrate International Women’s Day

Soroptimist International of Central Alberta will host its first virtual International Women’s… Continue reading

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

Olds College logo
Olds College to host free, online agriculture celebration next month

Olds College will host a free live-streamed agriculture event next month. The… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services Logo
AHS upgrading online immunization booking tool

Alberta Health Services’ online booking tool for COVID-19 immunizations will be temporarily… Continue reading

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

The Dawe family home in the Michener Hill subdivision in Red Deer. This house was designed and built by Robert G. Dawe, a local engineer, in 1911 and has remained in the family ever since. (Contributed photo)
Michael Dawe: 65 years of Red Deer history

As a major milestone birthday looms, I thought that it might be… Continue reading

Dallas Stars' Mark Pysyk (13) and Tampa Bay Lightning's Ondrej Palat (18) compete for control of a loose puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Vasilevskiy 3rd straight shutout as Lightning top Stars 2-0

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) grabs a loose puck as Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot (8) and Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) battle for the rebound during first-period NHL hockey action Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

Hab down Sens 3-1 to snap 5-game winless streak; Ducharme earns 1st NHL coaching win

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2021, file photo, Creighton coach Greg McDermott watches the team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler in Indianapolis. McDermott apologized publicly Tuesday, March 2, for using insensitive language in his postgame locker room talk with players and staff following a loss over the weekend. In a tweet, McDermott said he used a “terribly inappropriate analogy in making a point about staying together as a team despite the loss.” (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
Creighton coach McDermott apologizes for ‘plantation’ remark

Creighton coach McDermott apologizes for ‘plantation’ remark

WHL’s B.C. Division clubs cleared to play in Kamloops and Kelowna bubble environments

WHL’s B.C. Division clubs cleared to play in Kamloops and Kelowna bubble environments

World Rugby recommends postponing 2021 women’s World Cup to next year

World Rugby recommends postponing 2021 women’s World Cup to next year

Sean Burke speaks at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, July 25, 2017. The Montreal Canadiens have made another change to their coaching staff, appointing Burke to take over as the director of goaltending. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Montreal Canadiens appoint Sean Burke as director of goaltending

Montreal Canadiens appoint Sean Burke as director of goaltending

The Toronto Arrows line up ahead of their Major League Rugby game in Toronto on April 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson
Toronto Arrows train under the bubble before heading south of the border

Toronto Arrows train under the bubble before heading south of the border

Most Read