Here’s the thing about racing. It all happens at the end: when the first person crosses the line for the last time you’ve got yourself a winner. Racing isn’t decided by the electoral college, this shit is a popular vote man, direct democracy. Of course we acknowledge the GC and the jersey classifications, we don’t want to take anything away from these aggregate trophies, but when it comes down to it, the visceral, the immediate, the blow your hair back, nerves electric, awe of humanity shit is all about the on the immediacy of the stage finish.
Starting out, it seemed like today’s stage was going to be a little bit of a bust. Driving off the top of Gibraltar was like coming down from a high, we had witnessed the herculean efforts or the riders, the beauty of the climb, the thrall of the crowds. It was an Ayahuasca in the eyes, all the stops pulled, throttles on full experience. As we descended from the top the mountain, so did we come back down to reality. Tomorrow couldn’t possibly live up to this, the bar has been set too high.
I can’t in good conscience argue that today’s stage was equal to the race up Gibraltar. However, that doesn’t mean that when I watched the finish, when I watched Sagan and crew snake up the back straight like a Skittles-colored cobra, when I saw the effort, the fatigue, the anguish, and finally the cool grace of that Slovakian land missile casually acknowledging his victory with a subdued shrug, I was riveted with the electric immediacy that comes with racing. It speaks to something primitive and atavistic within each of us, something that, try as we might, cannot be.
Competition is as much a part of humanity as is the thumb and vocalization.”- MFS
We all want to be winners, and such is the power of our drive to win, such is our addiction to the elation of victory that we’ve trained into our nature a construct of collective consciousness that allows us to feed off the victories of others. In a sense we’ve ensnared our empathy, bent it to our will. This transference works best, is most fully realized, at the denouement, the finale. And here we have Sagan, here we have the peloton. Fuck the lackluster setting, the invisible stage, the absent crowds, because none of that matters, it’s window dressing. These are the best in the world doing what they do, and being there, leaning against a concrete barrier watching it all play out, I was struck with the same sense of awe and admiration that is fundamental to my fascination of with the human condition, our drive, our will.
This is an outpouring, an admission, an acknowledgement. This is an acknowledgement of competition, of drive, of the animal. It’s simply beautiful.