Domestiques & Angels
Updated: May 29
"You raucous crowd! Now it is up to me, but you are with me-- I could never fail! As I turn the pedals on a punchy climb in Belgium (the "Muur van Geraardsbergen!"), it is you I hear and see around me. As you unfurl the cobbles before me, you will me to dig deeper--to persevere and triumph..."
Those of you who know me might be familiar with my passion for bike racing. However, you may not be as familiar with my current routines and how one, in particular, relates to my bike racing past. I often use metaphors and visualization to help focus and inspire me in my workouts. For example, one routine involves high intensity intervals with kettlebells. It's 5 sets of 50, or 10 sets of 25-- kettlebell swings, which is about the only move I can execute with kettlebells these days. Technique is critical to safety and stability, and with my balance severely compromised due to PLS, focus is vital; anything less than 100 percent, laser-like focus can end up in disaster...
This is where you come in. To understand how, you have to understand a couple of bike racing concepts. First, every team in a bike race has a designated leader, and all other members of the team work in support of the leader in a given race. In the 2019 Tour de France, for example, there were 176 riders on 22 teams-- 8 riders per team. "Domestiques" work in support of the team leader, protecting him from the wind, keeping him near the front of the big group ("peloton"), which isn't easy when 176 riders are fighting for position on roads that are sometimes 10 feet wide, and protecting him from the wind so he can take advantage of the draft from your slipstream. One rider's job might be to fetch water bottles for his leader, requiring the domestique to expend enormous amounts of energy to "yo-yo" to the back of the peloton to get full bottles, and then to the front to deliver them. Another's role might be to escort his leader to the base of the final climb, handing him off to another who can take over until he deposits his leader to the final pitch, where the leader alone can launch himself to glory. Back to our story...
...and my kettlebell workout. Before every set and before I lay a finger on the kettlebell, I review my technical queues as I visualize success and good technique, which translates to NO FALL/NO INJURY (yeh!).
But I do one more thing before I begin. I envision a scene; a scene where I cannot fail. Case in point: I envision bike racing in one of Belgium's most grueling one-day "classics," the Ronde von Vlaanderen, and my domestiques have really buried themselves for me throughout the course of the day. It is hard-- raining, maybe windy, cold, but I feel strong. We're racing over cobblestones. And after my last domestique has given his last ounce of energy, I am left to ride alone to the finish, with only my rivals beside me. Tense, confident and focused as we approach the finish, I pick the perfect moment to "jump," catching my rivals by surprise and accelerating to victory!
On another day, I might envision another scene like the one in the photo above, where I am leading a stage of "le Tour" as throngs of fans go wild with support! They elevate and fuel me to victory. I cannot possibly lose with their support and energy!
Here's the thing..."THEY" are YOU! YOU are my team. YOU are the raucous crowd on the mountain-top finish. YOU are the voices I hear, propelling me across the line to "victory," every day...
Many of you, I don't see often. Most of you, I see rarely or haven't seen in years or decades even. And there are some of you reading this, whom I have never met and perhaps never will. But I want you all of you to know that if you're giving me support, I feel it, and that you are helping me every day.
Thank you...thank you for making a difference.