What are you in it for..

.. the Journey, the destination or the spirit of it all?

This is an attempt at trying to reconcile my thoughts about what happened today on the tour1. Alberto Contador, the defending champion, and Andy Schleck, last year’s runner-up, have been involved in a super tussle from the day the tour arrived at the Alps. In all the stages since then, Contador, known as the best climber in the peloton, has been unable to comprehensively beat Schleck and win back the leader’s yellow jersey.

Today, towards the end of yet another gruelling hot and fast day in the saddle, Andy attacked the peloton furiously and was already off to a super start with only Vinokourov, Contador’s team-mate, anywhere close to chasing him down. However, very early into the attack, he faced a mechanical issue as his chain came off and he had to stop to set it back again. It was then that Contador, sensing an opportunity, attacked furiously off the front of the group to maximise his advantage out of Andy’s misfortune.

Now, had this been almost any other sport, this would’ve been considered normal. But this is not. This is cycling. Above all, this is the Tour. So, even if stopping their small group to wait for Andy would be asking too much of Contador, how should his decision to attack Andy at that point be measured?

Yes, it would be completely acceptable if this was a Formula 1 race since that is as much about the reliability of cars as about the skill of drivers. The Tour, on the other hand is a race of cyclists’ skill, speed and stamina. Taking advantage of a mechanical malfunction in this race seemed just a bit too opportunist, and almost contrary to the spirit of the race.

Which brings me to the main thought. Various facets of our life are much like a race. And everyone races both against themselves as well as against others. In these races of life, what do you race for – the experience of the journey or the chequered flag at the destination? And do you care for the spirit embedded in those races or just define your own laws?

My answer has been the journey most of the time. And it’s done me no good. Another thing I’ve realised. People who go for the destinations/targets, usually end up better than the ones who go for enjoying the journey. This may also be because the metrics of being better/worse off are usually defined by the people who reached the destination first.

A follow-up question: Are your answers to the above questions about being a journey enjoy-er versus destination seeker the same when you race against yourself compared to when you race against others?

(1) If you don’t know what the tour is, this may not make much sense to you. The Tour, here, refers to Tour de France, the most important race on the cycling calendar. Check out more here and here.

What are you in it for..