Over the last couple of weeks I've been dipping into coverage of the Tour de France which ended today and have been staggered at the physical and mental strength on display from the riders. I admit my interest has been mainly in the British cyclists and I enjoyed watching Mark Cavendish win the final stage on the Champs de Élysées to secure the Green Jersey (awarded to the best sprinter). What has been extraordinary is the refusal of the competitors to give up even when they have experienced horrific injuries.
I watched in amazement as Bradley Wiggins fell off his bike and smashed his collar bone only to attempt to get back on, even though it was clear he needed an operation to put his should back together. A few hours later two leading cyclists were side swiped by a camera car; one crashed to the ground and the other was thrown onto a barbed wire fence. Both the injured riders got back on their bikes and carried on despite the fact that they required medical attention. The rider who went into the fence needed over thirty stitches in his legs and his support team attempted to patch him up while he tried to catch up the main group.
Another quality on display from the riders that really impressed me was the unselfish team work. Each team worked tirelessly together to make sure that they gave the best advantage to their key riders. In the case of Cavendish this meant that one of his team, who stood a great chance of winning the final stage with all the glory that went with it, slowed to join his team to ensure Cavendish secured the win. Each member of a team knew their role and focussed on performing for the benefit of the team no matter what the cost personally.
There was also generosity of spirit as opponents worked together to overcome the challenges of steep hill climbs, the vagaries of the weather and energy sapping conditions. On occasions when a competitor crashed, others would go out of their way to help them get back to position. At the end of one stage of the race Cavendish celebrated his win but looked genuinely upset when he heard that Wiggins, riding for a different team, had been eliminated from the race by his injury.
So maximum respect to some great sportsmen. No swearing at officials, no rolling on the floor at the merest hint of a touch from an opponent, no complaining about the hardships of one of the most gruelling races on the planet, but a dedication and determination to get the job done, whatever the personal cost.
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