Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
Watching the Tour de France on television over the past 16 years has taught us a thing or two about teamwork. The race has enchanted my husband and I since our honeymoon in Paris in 2001. We didn’t see the race that trip or even know much about it until we tuned in on a little TV with a wobbly antenna in our hotel room just off the Champs-Elysees. The French announcer was getting more and more excited as Lance Armstrong glanced back at Jan Ullrich, then took off up the hill. We watched as the team reorganized with the sweeping French landscape at their wheels and we were hooked!
The sport of cycling has controversy, of course, and people on both sides of every heated debate, but it hasn’t dampened our love of the grand dame of tours. During the first few years of our journey we kept missing the riders by weeks and sometimes days. The timing just wasn’t right until this week.
When we had an editorial opportunity that would take us right to the heart of the race in Southern France, we jumped on it having no idea of the adventure before us. What we learned is that teamwork is not only critical to racing in the Tour but it is also essential to being a spectator.
The Essentials of Team Work
Shared Vision – If every member of our family didn’t want to make it to the Tour, we never would have arrived. We needed to drive through three countries, to an exact remote spot on a country road in the middle of nowhere. Then, we waited a good part of the day to see only a few moments of the race. The desire we shared as a family was the foundation of our success. While we each have dreams that are unique to us as individuals, we also have shared dreams that keep the team together and moving in the same direction.
What vision do you share with the people on your team?
Resourcefulness and Flexibility – While each team in the Tour de France has a shared vision, there is so much uncertainty the riders face each day. From the sheets of driving rain coming off the mountains, to crashes, disqualifications and power struggles, the teams are in a constant state of reinvention. Getting to each stage we attended required intense resourcefulness and flexibility and when one of us didn’t have it, others picked up the slack. At the root of our ability to be flexible was our faith in one another to execute and achieve the goal before us.
Who do you rely on to help you achieve your vision?
Knowledge – The Tour de France teams have a wealth of research, history and technology behind them. The riders are strategic, focused and professional. It takes precision to do what they do. While preparation was also important to our success, something even more profound emerged. Knowing who is on your team is as important to knowing who isn’t. We learned with each stage we witnessed, how valuable every player was in our experience. From the sunflower farmer who drew a map for us when our GPS signal gave out, to the lady who refused to let us turn around in her driveway, thank you! Every person on and off our team helped us build resilience and reliance on one another. We came to life with each switchback, each obstacle, and new dreams were born from the challenge.
Who is on your team? Who isn’t?
Passion – One of the things that is visceral as a spectator of the Tour is the passion the riders have for their sport. As we were driving up the Col du Tourmalet, I was cringing with fear as we snaked the peak dodging sheep, cattle, and cyclists, and that was in a car! Motivation and discipline are supported by passion. When passion starts to wane so does performance (Tweet this). We knew after our third stage as spectators, it was time to let the race pass us. We needed a rest day!
What are the signs that you need a break from your vision?
Today is our rest day in the Pyrenees. The peaks from Luz-Saint-Sauveur are shielding us from the cycling action and providing a calm that has given us time to absorb the magnificence of this moment and reflect on how far we have come together. What do you dream for your team?