This past weekend I took the little man to Loveland to watch the start of a stage at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. It was the beginning of Stage 2 of the women’s race and Stage 6 of the men’s race. If you don’t know the Pro Cycling Challenge, it’s an annual race that winds through Colorado for multiple days, routing teams of elite riders over grueling mountain passes, across long miles of blacktop, and through exhausting time trials and all-out sprints. It features some of the best cyclists in the world, including Olympic medalists and national champions – all of whom, incidentally, possess leg muscles I never knew existed before seeing them in person.
But I digress…
Before last weekend, I had never seen the start or a professional bike race. Like most people, I presume, I had mostly seen the finishes. The glamorous sprints to that infamous white line painted on the road. In person and on television, I had also witnessed my fair share of climbs, sprints, and all-out efforts where riders are pushing themselves to their absolute limits. And always where people are cheering and noise makers are ringing and clanging and whistling in an ear-piercing cacophony. And yet I had never seen a single start.
So why did I choose to go see the start of a stage in Loveland? Honestly, I picked it because I thought it would be easier to navigate with an almost-six-year-old. We could get there early, I told myself. The parking would be easier. It wouldn’t be so hot. There would be less standing around and waiting. And far fewer people to jostle for position with.
And so off we went.
The start definitely felt different from those other parts of a bike race. The morning was cool and calm. Almost eerily so. We watched the team busses roll into the parking lot. We talked to a motorcycle photographer. We met one of the team coaches. We waved to the riders. We watched them warm up.
They were moments of pure preparation paired with pure accessibility. That’s an experience I’ve never had before, the ability to be so close before a big finale. You could practically see the weeks and months – the years! – of training pouring from those men and women. Their dedication and athleticism was inspiring on a level that’s hard to describe. Total and absolute commitment to the sport of cycling. And this time I got to see it in the quiet moments, before the crowds showed up. Before the fanfare. Before the applause.
Starting is never as celebrated as finishing. But perhaps it should be.
After all, starting is something that despite ideas and big plans and oscillating waves of motivation, a lot of us never get around to. But when we do, I think we should praise it. Because the first phase is the crucial one. Without it, there would be no win, no sprint, no climb to the top. Maybe winning isn’t everything. Maybe starting is. Starting over and over again. Until you get to the finish line of your own making.