Le Tour de Chance
It’s often said that art imitates life (further, in an previous blog, we’ve also suggested the reverse). The same might be said in many ways for athletic competition. The Tour de France, we suggest, might be a prime example of this. As 2017 Tour is currently in progress, letting it serve as a case in point today is both timely and appropriate. Here goes…
Le Tour de France setting:
One of the things we look forward to every July is watching the Tour de France, the premier bicycle race that covers 1000+ miles in 21 “Stages” over a three-week period. In many ways, it’s a feast for the eyes as the race traverses the meadows, valleys, hills, and mountains of Europe (mostly France — but this year it includes glimpses of Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Spain).
The background scenery is magnificent — chateaus, castles, churches, and quaint villages and picturesque towns. Along the way, we’re exposed to a variety of historical “factoids”, geologic perspectives, and cultural insights. The roadside crowds are enthusiastic and quite global — fans waving the flags for the riders from their country. And, the locals express their joie for the passing tour in imaginative and creative ways (e.g. forming bicycle designs in pastures from hay bales with turning “wheels” of people walking in circles linked with cloth ribbons to “axles”).
In short, one perspective of Le Tour is that it is a kaleidoscopic expression of the richness of the very terrain of life — a multidimensional panorama of unfolding variety in space and time that is ever-changing. It allows us to ponder both past and present — and keeps on edge about the future — about what’s up (or down) the next hill or around the next bend.
Understanding Le Tour de France:
Another aspect of Le Tour that we greatly appreciate is the incredibly skilled team of commentators who narrate the broadcasts. They’re about the best cadre of sportscasters we’ve experienced in any athletic event — knowledgeable, well-spoken, and impressive in terms of the depth and breadth of the commentary, and quite jocular as they spar with each other as they share their views.
When the pedaling gets intense, they draw us into the race …. but during the duller times (each Stage is 4-5 hours long) they keep things interesting with side stories and fascinating insights and analyses. This is the stuff of “real life” — emotional moments interspersed with ennui, seeking a way to balance our feelings with thoughts and understanding of what’s happening.
The “Main Course” of Le Tour de France:
But the piece de resistance is, of course, the race itself. Le Tour begins with 22 teams of 9 riders each (i.e. 198 total riders). Although there is a prize for teams (based on the elapsed time for the first three riders for each team in each stage), the primary focus during this competition is on individual performances in several categories, namely the Yellow, Green, Polka-Dot, and White Jerseys (see Note below for more info).
One thing that makes Le Tour interesting is this: even though the focus is on individual awards the success of the winners is very much a function of teamwork. During any given stage, team members work together to position a member of their team to be in position to capture a winning position (or the most points, in the case of the Green and Polka-Dot jersey).
Various team members, for instance, act as “pace setters” — positioning their team within the Peleton (the term for the overall group of riders) and acting as a wind-break for other team members. Almost inevitably, the pacemakers become “sacrificial lambs”, dropping their leading position as their energies are exhausted. Then, a following teammate (one who has benefited by being in the “draft” of the leader), steps up as the replacement leader.
Other riders “protect” their teammates vying for time and/or points in the competitions, shielding them from accidents or competitive “attacks” by members of other teams. Those in a protecting role are also called on to swap their bikes in the event of damage to, or a mechanical defect. of the bicycle that the rider they are supporting encounters.
While most of the “action” is in the Peleton, races are usually marked by “break-aways”. Here a small group of riders accelerate away from the main group in an effort to disrupt the strategies of other teams. Although break-away groups are usually overtaken, occasionally a few riders build a lead substantial enough for them one of them to win the stage. But even the success of break-aways depends on cooperation between the riders in that small group.
The strategies and tactics are complex and dynamic. But at the general level, they reflect the co-creative and cooperative efforts of multiple riders (sometimes even among competing teams — to achieve a joint advantage over another team). This co-creative effort has an enduring feature — a race of 4-5 hours over 150-200 miles is often won by fractions of a second.
Furthermore, because ultimately Le Tour winners in each category are determined by cumulative results over 21 races, success is the result of consistent day-to-day endurance and strategy. As in life, the winners of Le Tour need to take things a day at a time, always holding the longer term in mind!
From Le Tour de France to Le Tour de Chance:
But even “the best laid plans” (including those in the midst of being flawlessly executed), are often disrupted by uncontrollable elements or by chance. So far in the 2017 Tour, weather has been one of those factors. In last Sunday’s Stage 9, for example, rain and wet roads caused four of the top leaders to crash, forcing each to “abandon” (withdraw) from Le Tour as a result of injuries sustained. In this case, two of the four crashed not of their own accord — but as a consequence of a crash by another rider.
So weather, accidents, illness, injuries, and even interference by spectators or mechanical failures can unexpectedly end Le Tour for some riders. One of this year’s contenders was “DQ’d” (Disqualified) because race officials ruled he had raced dangerously causing a competitor to have a Tour-ending crash .
As we approach the halfway point of this year’s event, 18 of the 198 starting riders are already gone from Le Tour. For these riders, chance has been an adversary. For the “survivors”, chance has supported them — at least so far.
While the event is named Le Tour de France, it is to a large extent a “Tour de Chance”. In this respect, it is very much an imitation of life. We do our best. We live it to the fullest, perhaps discovering that we’re at our best when we compete in co-creative, co-operative ways. And, while we always remain alert and adjust to surrounding conditions, we may be overcome (or blessed) by the the unexpected — the unforeseen challenges or boons that Chance brings to us as our “Tour” unfolds!
May The Wheels of Big Love Keep Turnin’ For You!
Olivia & Steve
Note: Explanation of race competition categories:
- The “GC” (or “General Classification”) — the Yellow Jersey for the rider with the lowest cumulative elapsed time),
- “Sprint” — the Green Jersey for most cumulative points in the sprint competitions within the stages,
- “King of the Mountain” — the Polka-Dot Jersey for most cumulative points in the rated mountain climbs within the stages, and
- “Best Young Rider” — the White Jersey, for the rider under 25 years of age with the lowest cumulative elapsed time.
It’s Your Turn!
What are the ways that your life (or something in it) either a Tour de France or/and a Tour de Chance? How do you keep yourself on track — either recalibrating or celebrating — the twists and turns of chance that you encounter?
If you’re willing, please share your responses in the comment section under this blogpost as it appears on the Big Love Community Facebook page.
Big Love News:
As we reconnect with what’s happening in San Diego, we’re moved by how much interest there seems to be in things spiritual. Our perception is that there has been a significant shift in consciousness and openness — particularly in the areas related to the topic of “Mindfulness” — in the last couple of years. What are you seeing and experiencing in this regard?
If there are topics you’d like us to address, please send us an email from our “Contact Us” web page.