Quiet Victory

28 07 2008

Over the past few months I’ve revived an interest in cycling – a hobby which had lain in the dust since my teenage years. The Newry/South Armagh cycle last month proved a good impetus to get on my bike again, and I’ve been sticking at it since. I’ve rediscovered the pure enjoyment of riding alone through beautiful countryside and the fulfillment of physical challenge. How long this new interest will last, I don’t know – but it is proving a great way of blowing off the cobwebs amidst the smog of Thesisville.

My renewed interest in two-wheeled life has coincided nicely with the Tour de France, although in not having digital TV I’ve been relying on Teletext and the BBC News Website. Yesterday Spaniard Carlos Sastre won the event, grasping victory through some scorching mountain stages, and a superb time trial on Saturday. In a sport which has been plagued by scandals over doping, and big egos, it is refreshing to read his sentiments in the wake of winning one of the most gruelling tournaments on earth – a 2000 mile ride across physically ruinous terrain. In the run up to the event I read an assessment of Sastre which said ‘he could well end up working as a top domestique for the Schlecks’, minimizing his chances of victory entirely.

In a world which is absorbed with the narcissistic cult of celebrity and social advancement it is wonderful to read about a sportsman who is understated, and who wants achievement and media attention to be focused solely on his sporting victories. His words on BBC news today were touching in their self-effacing honesty:

“I like to come to the fore on the bike and not in front of the cameras…but my life is not going to be turned upside down because I have won the world’s biggest race. I have always wanted to protect my family as much as possible. I have never liked to expose them. This victory is the most amazing page of my life but I will exchange no victory in the world for the tranquillity of my family.”

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