With the grand tours of cycling coming up, it has been on my mind that at times there are times when you need to go “all in” at critical times, or during special events. Your build up to this would go something like:
1. A big base to build the right type of muscle.
2. A build period with specific exercises for strength, speed, recovery, and to maximise performance at a set given discipline.
3. A peak period to rest and sharpen up.
4. A race period where everything needs to come together.
Whilst there is a lot of science to help these guys in their processes, there is never a fool proof way to win every time, unless you are a freak of nature with the biggest engine out there, and you simply need to see certain numbers in training to know that nobody can achieve that (Lance Armstrong).
So, if you are a Christian v d Velde, or an Andy Schleck, you train your rear off, harder than you have ever trained. You limit your losses in the time trials and at some point during the mountain stages; you have to put your whole year on the line.
You go all in, full tilt, and you believe in yourself. You push as hard as you can for the longest time you possibly can and hopefully, just hopefully, its good enough to beat the best of the best of the best, who are riding, hopefully, a few minutes further back down the mountain.
There is something truly heroic about it. Something so pure that it’s kept the minds and hearts of people rooting for their heroes for the past century. Something about it is so noble that the winners of the hardest bike racers in the world are held up as nobility in their home countries, having streets named after them, being invited to meet and talk cycling with the president, and in the rarest of circumstances, changing how cancer is battled, not only in the Austin, Texas, but indeed, around the world.
So is it surprising then, with such fame, such wealth and such celebrity on the line, that there are cheats in the world of cycling? Imagine you had the prospect of being a factory worker in Belgium as a child, but you had the ability to ride a bike like the wind, and you could become pro, and earn, as a base salary, far more than you could ever have dreamt of. Imagine you had one of those amazing days where you finished totally out of your depth, and you got on a podium, tasted victory, and the fame, fortune and celebrity that the top guys enjoy.
What would you do to have that again?
If someone showed you R5 000 000.00 in cash, and gave you the first R250 000.00 for today, what would you do to get to the R5 000 000.00 if it only took a consistent 5% more from you. What if they promised it would be R5 000 000.00 every year if you could do it on a regular basis, not always win, but consistently be in the top 5. What if it meant you could buy a house for your father, who is still working in a factory? What if it meant you could drive a Porsche? A car you always dreamt about. What if it meant you could give your mother the gifts she may always have longed for, or your kids a proper education.
What risks would you take to get those things?
People in business, they take risks all the time, and when they get caught for fraud, its often considered a part of the parcel to get to wealth and if you get caught – so be it, well done for trying and better luck next time.
I don’t admire the life of a pro cyclist. To be near the top is a perilous place to be. To be able to smell it, and know that it’s easier to cheat, than to do the hard work, to get all the benefits of those who may have done their hours, and might have a more tactical brain. I don’t want that.
My hat goes off to anyone who gives the pro life, in any sport, a serious go. Especially those who might fall just short of the big time, who are faced with these questions.
I salute you.