For the better part of my sporting life I considered cycling to be a selfish sport. A sport of solo racers attempting to claw their way to the finish at all costs. How is it possible to be selfless? There are only three spots on the podium – two of them are there for funsies – while a lycra laden field of hundreds awaits to eat the lunch right out of your musette.
There are moments when your entire viewpoint of sporting shifts. As if a trigger has been flipped and you’ve suddenly entered the zone of interested person. Memorable moments include:
- The value of great defense in Puyol’s stellar 2010 World Cup performance for the Spanish national team
- Strategy in mixed martial arts and the rise of Lyoto Machida
- #Linsanity on the importance of an intelligent point guard and dare I say selfless play (lookout Kobe)
I’ve felt this sensation about all the sports covered here and I’ve felt this once upon a time about cycling as well.
I’m not ashamed to say cycling entered my awareness during the era of Lance Armstrong. An intriguing story and the fact that he is the winningest American in pro-cycling would definitely pique the interest of anyone. However, it wasn’t until I was introduced to George Hincapies role in Lance’s success that the switch was flipped.
A domestique is a road bicycle racer who works for the benefit of his team and leader. The French domestique translates as “servant”.
Hincapie was a domestique. Without him, the legend of Lance would be a mere bedtime tale. If this were basketball, people would praise Hincapie for his hustle. The cognitive dissonance of someone so selfless paired with someone so selfish shattered my conception of the sport. It became clear that cycling is in fact a team effort albeit only one man can stand on the podium.
Of late, that man is usually Mark Cavendish: also known as the fastest man on two wheels. The caveats are that he must be in a contestable position 200 meters from the finish line in order to rise to the occasion. So to frame it a bit differently, he is the fastest sprinter on Earth when in the presence of great domestiques.
He’s won stages in the grand tours and currently wears the World Champion Stripes. This is Cavendish’s 2012 bicycle riding for Team Sky.