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Peer Pressure and Finishing the Ride

timv's picture

I liked this little piece that appeared on Cyclingnews a couple of days ago:

Gerolsteiner sprinter Robert Förster learned on Sunday that the hardest thing about a race is not the rivals or the course itself, but "the fight against yourself." And he won that fight yesterday, telling Radsportnews.com proudly, "We all survived! A great feeling."
After only 15 or 20 km, he was ready to throw in the towel and "get in the plane, go home." Directeur sportif Raimund Dietzen persuaded him to try it a little longer. As they started up the first Cat. 1 climb, it was teammate and roommate Marcel Strauss who helped him along, saying, "Just ride, Frösi, don't even think about it."
Eventually he caught up with teammates Markus Fothen and Heinrich Haussler, and the trio made plans to drop out at the feed zone. But before that, they joined the Petacchi group, and realized they weren't the only ones who wanted to take the easy way out. "It's just that, in this kind of a situation, no one wants to be the first to give up. If you drop out and the other 14 make the finish, then you can't look at yourself in the mirror. The others are torturing themselves just like you are. So you keep on going."

I've heard that the riders who suffer most on a mountain stage in the big tours are the sprinters. They have nothing to gain on the day and are just trying to survive, but still have to finish within an hour or so of the stage winner to avoid being booted from the tour. So they wind up hurting as much or more as the climbing specialists just to stay in the race.

(Incidentally, my admiration for Alessandro Petacchi comes in large part from seeing him in the 2003 Giro d'Italia, bandaged like a mummy after a tough crash and yet still winning stages, despite not being able to sleep due to the pain of the raw skin. And yet he was eliminated on time in the 18th stage in the points leader's jersey on the day after his sixth stage win, on a brutal mountain stage when it was actually sleeting and snowing for part of the way. He finished last on the stage but rode all the way to the finish.)

Back to the story about Frösi, reading that reminded me of some of the feelings I've had out on the road, skating or running or riding with a group, and things I've heard others say about how they managed to push themselves to the finish on days when they were just about ready to quit. Sometimes you just decide to go one more mile, and decide then whether to do another mile after that. Keep doing that and you'll get to the end.


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